Here’s something different I don’t often discuss on this blog – films. Now, I love a good film as much as the next person but I am also very easily pleased when it comes to cinematic efforts. That is to say Thor is genuinely one of my favourite films, with rom com staples like Legally Blonde, The Proposal, and Leap Year vying for the runner-up spot after Marvel’s masterpiece. And my love of Thor is not all to do with the shit-stirrer that is Loki – not entirely, at least. What I am trying to explain, in a very long winded way is that, I am not a film buff. I have studied very little film theory (GCSE Media Studies doesn’t seem to count, and so it shouldn’t to be honest) and the only class I ever took on film was about adaptations of Victorian novels onto the big screen. I’m not a connoisseur of cinema is the main point I’m making here.
Which brings me onto the film I am choosing to uncharacteristically review here – Marvel’s latest offering Deadpool. This film is categorically not for everyone, it’s a polarising offering and I think I was perhaps the only one of my group of friends who actually really liked it. Because Deadpool chronicles an origin story like no other. It’s refreshing – it’s loud, it’s crude, it’s so meta and self-aware, it’s unapologetically violent (and laughs at that violence), and if you’re expecting the warm underlying message of Captain America, where even the littlest guy can be the biggest hero, then perhaps it’s best you steer clear of Deadpool.
Deadpool opens with an excellently shot and edited slow-mo car crash where the eponymous protagonist (never call him a hero) pauses the action to tell the audience in a voice-over how he has come to be here. What proceeds is then a hilarious opening set to the sound of ‘Angel of the Morning’ – I never thought I’d see Ryan Reynolds in a red morphsuit beating the proverbial shit out of some “bad guys” and I never thought I needed that in my life until Deadpool started. In the way it’s framed, it’s technically non-linear which is refreshing since it helps to avoid the simple “origin story” arc from beginning of film where an innocent guy ends up in a traumatic accident only to recover, discover he has superpowers, and then end up developing a sense of moral justice in order to protect his city from the Big Bad. Deadpool knows this is what is expected of it and it, at first, seems to play along with the narrative arc but, in its execution, it refuses to be so contrived.
The opening credits are a work of art in themselves, poking fun at the superhero film genre and Marvel in particular. It’s bolshy and bold and I respect the hell out of everyone involved in this film for having such a sense of humour. Also for including so many snarky references to X-Men and Hugh Jackman, given that Deadpool technically falls into the X-Men film franchise. Because, above all else, humour is what this film has – and it has it in buckets. Sure, it has disgustingly gratuitous violence too, but the humour seems self-aware enough that it knows it’s inappropriate for the situation at hand, it knows it will rub some people up the wrong way, but it doesn’t care. And that is I think the film’s biggest strength – it’s unapologetic in the way it screws with the idea of the tropes and expectations of the superhero film franchise that has become so profitable for the likes of Marvel and DC. And I have no doubt that Deadpool itself will be added to Marvel’s extremely successful roster of films.
I’m all too aware, however, that the all-too knowing humour is not for everyone – the fact that some people in the cinema roared with laughter and others just didn’t get it is a testament to that. And that’s not to say that any one faction is right, it’s just a cautionary tale. An easy litmus test to discover beforehand if you’ll find Deadpool funny is – can you find any small semblance of humour whatsoever in Deadpool shoving a lit cigarette into a Bad Guy’s mouth and then commenting snarkily “I never normally say this but don’t swallow”? If you can’t then the humour probably isn’t you thing and that’s no problem, it’s just a fair warning that some of that R-rating is for the jokes and innuendos as well as the swearing.
A word or two about the violence seems apt, even if I’m not the kind who can accurately analyse the fighting style or stunts used in the fight sequences. All I can say is it, for me, was reminiscent of the overblown, purposely unrealistic fighting seen in the likes of Kick-Ass and Kingsman, and it likewise shared the artistry of those films in its fight scenes. The fighting is a thing of beauty. It’s difficult to shoot fight scenes in any film because they need to be choreographed so carefully and shot so skilfully to make all the stunts seem real, but in Deadpool they really took it to the next level in its purposefulness – the opening scene with the flipped car and ‘Angel of the Morning’ set up this aesthetic from the get-go and I’m glad to see it wasn’t just a one-trick pony and they carried on this attitude to the fights into the rest of the film. It’s definitely a film to enjoy on the big screen at the cinema, for these moments alone. There is also a more traumatic violence involved in the process in which Wade becomes “Deadpool” and, without spoiling the entire film, these are the truly disturbing and uncomfortable moments of the entire spectacle for their quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) brutality. It’s sadistic and it’s sad because everyone in the audience knows it’s not going to end well – you know Wade isn’t going to become some cape-wearing, justice-touting superhero at the end of all this pain. Even despite this, there manages to be humour. I don’t know how, I don’t know if all of us just have sick senses of humour, but it worked. Somehow.
To the specific actors? I didn’t know Ryan Reynolds was that funny. I mean, sure, one of my favourite films I mentioned at the start of this post (The Proposal) features him opposite Sandra Bullock being very amusing. But there’s a big difference between the humour of a will-they-won’t-they rom com and the humour needed in Deadpool and I was both mightily impressed and pleasantly surprised to discover he has a wicked sense of humour – along with all of those involved in any way with the scripting of this film. Elsewhere, Morena Baccarin was an alternative but nonetheless likeable love interest in a film that was oh so aware of the typical “love interest” and dead against playing into that stereotype 100%. I’d last seen her play the conflicted wife of Sergeant Brody in Homeland so it’s safe to say Deadpool was a tad different but I thought she was excellent and matched well with Reynolds’ Wade. Ed Skrein as Ajax was… well… interesting. Disgusting and deplorable and everything needed from a “villain” – including a dumb un-villainous forename. As to the other actors – I enjoyed the knowing nod to the fact no one but two of Xavier’s X-Men were seen on-screen, and I liked that that joke was almost purposefully disparaging. Also I’m with Wade, Negasonic Teenage Warhead is quite the superhero name – where do I get me one of those?
Overall, maybe I’m just easy to please, but I thought Deadpool delivered everything it promised – it was loud and proud, crude and crass, and a hell of a lot of fun. Any film that opens with ‘Angel of the Morning’ and closes climatically to the notes of ‘Careless Whisper’ gets a thumbs-up from me.