Review: Deadpool, 2016

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Deadpool hits the nebulous sweet spot it needed to, somewhere in the realm of grim but delightful and subversive but formulaic, but in doing so wound up being ultimately kind of forgettable.

There is a lot to like about Deadpool. In fact there’s more to like than there is to complain about. The first thing that comes to mind is the opening, which is fantastic and immediately sets the tone and truthfully is the most memorable scene in the movie. And that’s in no small part due to a really smart choice the filmmakers made in trying to keep the budget small – the first act of the movie is centered around one very cool, but fairly tight action sequence that the movie keeps cutting back and forth to as Deadpool haphazardly explains how he got there. It’s a really clever trick that allowed them to shoot once action set-piece and pace it out over almost an hour of the movie, making it feel more action packed than it really is.

The rest of the film is breezy, funny, and joyously irreverent, taking every opportunity it can to skewer studio politics regarding comic book adaptations. They even reference the fact that they’re essentially auditioning this character to become part of Fox’s X-Men universe. They then go so far as to set the final battle on a downed Helicarrier, thus attempting to set themselves directly in the MCU and the Fox Marvel Universe simultaneously, all while making fun of both and effectively calling bullshit on the split between the two and the notion that they can’t be a shared universe simply because of the studio names attached. It’s kind of insane. And I haven’t even mentioned the very R-rated, very dark sense of humor that they somehow make work despite diving into some truly icky territory. All in all it’s quite stunning that they made Deadpool work as well as they did.

The action is pretty well shot, really brutal while still fun, and is a nice combination of martial arts and CGI tomfoolery. In fact the effects work in this is pretty impressive, again considering the scale and budget of this movie. Even though Ryan Reynolds is behind a mask the whole time and you could easily just CGI the whole character for most of it, they seem to use a practical guy in a suit whenever possible to help blur the lines between the physical stunt work and the CGI spin kicks. Additionally, they’re doing a lot of CGI work on the mask itself, allowing Deadpool to be expressive in the same way these characters are on the page. Even though it doesn’t make sense, the eyebrows of the mask move to help create various expressions. This gives a lot of personality to an otherwise unchanging face that is not the face of the star of your movie. I think this proves there is a reason to do yet another Spiderman solo movie – I want to see the fast talking, expressive Spidey that we still haven’t quite had on the big screen yet, and this is evidence that it could work.

Where this whole thing falls apart and becomes a forgettable movie for me is in its formulaic approach to being a Superhero movie. It’s sort of attempting a Shaun of the Dead thing where it wants to lampoon Superhero movies while also being a Superhero movie, and it honestly succeeds at doing so. Unfortunately there’s a new Superhero movie that follows this exact formula (sans the lampooning) on an almost monthly basis now. And it’s also not the first or even the second movie to attempt to do that Shaun of the Dead thing with the genre. So perhaps with time it will become a more admirable movie, when it’s awesome that it’s skewering a genre that needs it while also actually being one of the better versions of that genre. But while we’re in the dead heat of this superhero craze it just isn’t original enough to stand out and stick with me, nor does it hit the genre hard enough its satire to feel scathing and biting in a way that would be truly interesting. It’s just another Marvel movie when you boil it all down, and unfortunately I’m starting to want some more defined variation in that stable.

Deadpool scored: ★★★☆☆

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