Director: Tim Miller
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller and Morena Baccarin
Running Time 108 minutes
Release Date: February 12th
Every second day, it seems a new superhero franchise, crossover, spin-off, reboot, origin story or television series is announced. As the pile mounts, you could be forgiven for growing weary of the whole trend. There are only so many times that you can pretend to agree with someone who says, “But it’s good, because it’s meta. They poke fun at themselves like.”
No, meta, or a torrential downpour of Easter Eggs hidden within a film do not validate it as a masterstroke of brilliance. Just look at Watchmen. (Don’t watch it just look at it.) Zack Snyder was too busy showing the owl reading the Watchmen comic book, to waste time on developing the messy plot, so set was he in being labelled a Fincher-esque genius of detail.
This was a concern when walking into Deadpool, a spin-off feature in the X-Men franchise, which tells the tale of Wade Wilson and his transition into the foul mouthed, fourth-wall breaking anti-hero, whose pseudonym is the film’s title (and you can bet they reference that).
The film is the pinnacle of nerdiness. Its trailer received a standing ovation at Comic Con. Yes, I want you to process that one, and remember the trailer for Prometheus. This was heralded as the film that spoke to the geek, for the geek and was fluent in the language. It was no nark cop who disguised himself as a pothead by carrying a backpack. This was legitimate stuff, but this was also just the trailer.
The story in the meantime is a bit underwhelming by comparison, and skeletal, which is not to say the skeleton isn’t great. No, it’s a fine set of bones indeed, but unless there are muscles and vital organs to go along with it, then we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds, is a twisted comedian with superpowers, and he intends to use his rare strength to seek revenge on a man known as Francis. When we are introduced to this sick-witted mutant, he is in a taxi, riding out onto the LA freeway where he intends to serve justice, but not before doodling a self-portrait with some crayons. It is cute, and a nice contrast to the brutal siege he lays upon Francis’ men, which is butcher-board gruesome to say the least.
As this happens, Deadpool breaks the fourth-wall, gradually giving us the exact reason as to why he has just caused somebody to literally splatter against a road sign. A former mercenary turned blackmailer extraordinaire, the man known as Wade whiled away much of his post-war years in dives, and strip joints. However, upon meeting one exotic dancer, Vanessa, he fell in love, and the pair engaged in a lengthy monologue of sexual intercourse, before he wound up discovering he had terminal cancer in his lungs, brain and colon.
In desperation, Wade sought treatment from a mysterious man, whose organization specialized in giving veterans a rare cure that would not only save their lives, but grant them mutant powers. However, by accepting, Wade found himself subjected to incessant torture by a psychopathic sadist and doctor known as Francis. Pushed to within an inch of his life, the experiment left him horribly disfigured, and resembling a Margarita pizza without the cheese.
This humiliation however, also left him with super strength, an ultra-gallows sense of humour and immortality. So naturally, rather than thank Francis, in particular for that last one, he vowed to murder the guy, because his Margarita visage, he feared would scare Vanessa away.
What comes afterwards is a genuine mixed bag, laced with sexism, and two-dimensional supporting characters. His origin story is interesting, and amusing, but the present day story is as basic as a ruler is straight, bar a few chuckles at the expense of the studio, who were undoubtedly offended all the way to the bank. Deadpool is less a film, more a set-up for his reluctant inclusion in future X-Men installations. Honestly, that is the sole purpose of the writers inserting the character Colossus into this plot. He is present as a link, and little else.
As the story unfolds, becoming thinner with each turn, we are left asking the question why? Granted, we know how Deadpool became Deadpool. The “why” has evolved, and it wants to know about the present-day story-line. Is there any point in seeing this, other than to see a weak bridge between movies, or are we simply to gasp in awe at how this is the first superhero flick to break the fourth-wall? Harmony Korine’s criticism of Tarantino is apt here, when Korine stated he is “too concerned with other films [and] appropriating other films, like in a blender. [It’s] really funny at the time, [but] then there’s a void there. Some of the references are flat, just pop culture.”
This is why Deadpool crashes against the hurdle a few times more than can be excused. When you watch it, undoubtedly the constant tongue-in-cheek script will be amusing as it prods at the concept of the superhero franchise, but is that really worth paying to see for one hundred minutes? Strip away the gags and jibes aimed at the X-Men series, all you are left with is a flat plotline. Half baked, like a first brainstorming session, or a single page treatment hammered out over two cups of coffee by the first set of screenwriters to be replaced.
It is as if the studio were handed this A4 page outline and hired a new set of guys whose sole revision was to add a mountain of dick jokes and a few up-to-date expressions.
Everyone looked at each other, and thought, “Can we get away with this?”
The studio said “yes, it’s been in development hell for years, and people will applaud this before they even see the content.”
“What if people might look beyond the standalone jokes, and notice, there’s little else here?” the producer asked.
“You’re forgetting one thing there”, replied the studio boss. “They will have already bought their tickets by that stage.”
And everybody laughed, before finally announcing a sequel on the day of the film’s release.