Review: DEADPOOL Proves You Should Be Careful What You Wish For
Review contains light spoilers:
For years, hardcore Deadpool fans have been yearning for an R-rated live-action movie that does justice to the character. You asked for it, and now you got it — but while this film certainly gives the Merc with a Mouth plenty of opportunities to address the audience and make meta references, that unfortunately doesn't mean that the movie around it is great.
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a former Special Ops soldier with a snarky attitude who now spends his days "sticking up for the little guy," which, in this case, means scaring teenage stalkers away from young girls in exchange for cash. Soon he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a prostitute he falls in love with after the two banter how messed-up their childhoods were. But when Wilson is diagnosed with late-stage cancer, he accepts a stranger's offer to undergo special treatment that will cure him and give him super powers. That "treatment" turns out to be torture by a guy named Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his assistant Angel Dust (Gina Carano) as they attempt to catalyze any mutant genes lying dormant within Wilson's body, eventually succeeding and turning him into an immortal being who looks like a burn victim. But instead of becoming the supervillain-for-hire they hoped, Wilson dons a body suit, adopts the Deadpool moniker, and devotes his life to hunting down Ajax to get revenge. Along the way, he's aided by his sarcastic bartender friend Weasel (T.J. Miller), and two X-Men — Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) — who attempt to recruit him onto Professor Xavier's team.
With the plot synopsis out of the way, let's really start talking about this movie.
I'm a fan of superhero movies. I'm a fan of Ryan Reynolds. Combine the two, and I should probably really like this film, right? Well, it's hard for me to do that when the script is this desperate for laughs. From the opening credits onward, the film practically pleads with you to laugh at it. No names are featured in those credits — they just say things like "Produced By Asshats," "Written By The Real Heroes Here," starring "A Hot Chick" and featuring "A Gratuitous Cameo." There's also a close-up of a coffee cup with "Rob L." written on it (a shout-out to Rob Liefeld, the creator of Deadpool), and a People Magazine with Ryan Reynolds' Sexiest Man Alive cover. Get it? Because he's in this movie!
This film is packed with those kinds of jokes that aren't really jokes. I'm probably going to alienate a lot of you by saying this, but you know the kinds of people who shriek with laughter and practically jump out of their seats when they see the Stan Lee cameo in Marvel movies? Those people are going to love this film, because it's constantly elbowing the audience, raising its eyebrows, and asking, "You recognize this, right?" Example: at one point, Colossus tells Deadpool he's going to take him to meet Professor Xavier. Deadpool responds: "McAvoy or Stewart?" Cue the audience losing its sh*t. Look, I understand that the appeal of the character is that he's edgy and swears a lot and drops meta references all the time, but at a certain point, this becomes just like The Big Bang Theory. Simply referencing something doesn't automatically mean you're actually making a joke about it.
Did I laugh a handful of times? Sure, I won't deny that. When a movie throws two jokes a minute at you, eventually a few of them are going to land, and there were some I thought were genuinely funny. But for the most part, I found Deadpool to be a basic revenge story wrapped in a series of references, swearing, and ball jokes that would primarily appeal to a thirteen-year-old boy. Some people are going to absolutely love it, and that's totally fair. I wouldn't hold that against anyone. I'm just telling you that it's not really my thing. I didn't hate it overall — I just thought it was fine.
This is the feature directorial debut of Tim Miller, and you can occasionally feel his lack of experience. It's competent enough, but the movie often falls prey to shaky cam action scenes and quick cutting; this is a small-scale story, but Miller's direction gives it a sense of claustrophobia that I'm not convinced is intentional. He gets good performances out of Reynolds — who clearly relishes playing this character, delivering his one-liners with an almost Ace Ventura-like affection — and Baccarin, and the two of them appear to have genuine chemistry on screen. Even though their love story is a little underdeveloped, it was that aspect — not the blood-spattered action sequences — that I found most compelling.
But the villain's storyline is totally undercooked. We know absolutely nothing about Ajax as a character other than that he's a jerk to Wade Wilson and he doesn't feel pain, and we know even less about Angel Dust. This is in the trailer, so I don't feel like I'm giving anything away, but she eventually gets in a fight with Colossus, and it's just the two of them punching each other back and forth for like five minutes, intercut with other action. Their fight doesn't matter, because we don't know a single thing about this character, other than that she chews on matches for some reason. Keep an eye out for what happens to her at the end of the movie, too — you'll have to really pay close attention, because the film isn't at all concerned with giving you any real indication of whether she even lives or dies.
Why does Ajax do what he does? What does he want? What are his orders? Who is his boss? These are fundamental questions that are either glossed over in an unsatisfying way or not even addressed, which makes it really hard to engage with the film's story on anything more than a surface level. And try as it might to break from conventions, Deadpool still relies on the unnecessary crutch of having the third act climax take place on a giant vehicle that inevitably crashes to the ground in a wave of CGI nonsense.
If your only hope is that Deadpool is a vehicle to rebrand the character after X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it definitely succeeds on that front. Reynolds is undeniably a great fit for the part, and it sure seems like everyone there was having a lot of fun making a movie they probably never thought would actually see the light of day. But if you want the movie to have anything to offer besides quips and head shots, you're going to be sorely disappointed.