January 15, 2017

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool is a film that several Hollywood studios have been attempting to make for about a decade and a half, and it has taken until 2016 for it to finally gets its chance to impress. For most of that time actor Ryan Reynolds has been attached to star as well, so before any kind of actual review begins I feel it's worth pausing to both applaud 20th Century Fox for finally giving the project a chance and to congratulate Reynolds for his stamina and persistence, if nothing else.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a terminally ill mercenary given a second chance at life through an experimental process to activate mutant genes in his body. Ruthlessly betrayed, he sets out on a quest for revenge against the villain who transformed him into a hideously scarred psychopath with Wolverine-like healing powers.

To be honest there is not much in the way of story to Deadpool. It essentially has a couple of extended action scenes that frame extended flashbacks. It is basically a loose skeleton upon which the film can hang a lot of rude gags, extreme violence, knowing pop culture references and comic book in-jokes. That does not just work as a description of Deadpool the film; it can also work as a description of the comic book franchise upon which it is based.

The comic book Deadpool has come a long way from his origins as a thinly-disguised parody of the DC Comics villain Deathstroke. Passing through the hands of numerous writers, he has become a hugely popular character for Marvel, typified by his constant talking, stupid jokes and regular breaking of the fourth wall. He is a character that is actually aware that he is in a comic book. To be honest he is also a character of which I am not a particularly big fan. I find his constant joking a case of over-egging a pudding: there's too much piled onto each issue for any of the jokes to really get room to breathe and work as well as they could. He winds up being more irritating than funny to me.

I found this to be the case with the movie Deadpool as well. His dialogue doesn't stop. There are too many jokes loaded scattershot into each scene. His personality grates more often than it entertains, and he soons outweighs his welcome. That sounds like a bad thing, but I actually think the opposite. That the movie version irritates in exactly the same way as the comic version strongly suggests that this is a comic book adaptation done right. Any keen fan of the character is going to have a whale of a time - as, I suspect, will any typically puerile 15 year-old. This is one of those cases of a film not really being for me, but it is clear that there is an audience for it and it is purpose-built for that audience. That's always great to see.

There are elements I liked a lot. Some of the jokes really do work very well, and the film receives an unexpected boost from the inclusion of X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. They work not only as the butts of numerous jokes but also as a nice and comfortable link between Deadpool and the broader X-Men films. It is slightly ridiculous that after eight other separate films in the X-Men franchise that it has taken Deadpool to actually give Colossus a proper day in the sun. He is great: funny, easily mocked but also immensely likeable. Negasonic Teenage Warhead works just as well, and I have to admit my reaction by the end of this film was not a clamour for Deadpool 2 but for a Colossus/NTW spin-off.

Ryan Reynolds is great in the film, doing what is easily the best work I've seen him do. There is a visible passion for the role and an enjoyment in playing it that does wind up being infectious. I still found the movie relatively irritating overall, and am unlikely to see it twice, but there is a lot of worth here and it certainly excels in doing what it's trying to do. Its target market clearly loves it - and I'm not in the least bit surprised.

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