Have you ever listened to a conscious hip-hop album, one that gave you lots to think about about all sorts of different topics, and then the studio forced the artist to include songs about stripclubs and how many chains they wear? It’s not that you object to it on any moral kind of level (though you might), but the placing of those two things together makes each side feel off-kilter. No one is looking for philosophy in their “money and hoes” anthems, and those looking for thoughtful moments find them a little less thoughtful.
Deadpool is not a thoughtful movie. It’s crass, vulgar, immature and all the better for it. But the same rules kind of apply. By the nature of the character’s fourth wall breaking and subversion of superhero stereotypes, it becomes all the more worse when it actively seems to follow stereotypes without any self awareness. As Deadpool goes along on a really traditional revenge plot, has to fight a really boring main villain (which the movie does at least acknowledge), and end with the typical third act explosion sequence, it makes you feel less engaged than movies that embrace those tropes wholeheartedly, and makes the whole endeavour feel less anarchic than it wants to be. It’s a Hollywood Blockbuster, sure, but films like The Lego Movie (and, for my money, Gremlins 2) show us that kind of subversive hypocrisy can be very entertaining. Even the marketing for Deadpool, one of the most varied and fun campaigns in quite some time, understood this, so much so that you almost wish the marketing team had written the movie.
Not to say that Deadpool is not itself very entertaining. From the really funny opening credits to the pop culture savvy end tag this is a movie that in its humour embraces the crass and insane tone that so many (including me) like from the original character. Much of that is down to Ryan Reynolds, who from the quips to the costume gives the most perfect comic book to onscreen transition since Chris Evans as Captain America. Along with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the writers of Zombieland), they come together to sell some really fun and (crudely) inventive gags which retain the spirit of the character; wacky to the edge of irksome.
To make sure he doesn’t outstay his welcome he is joined by Colossus, who acts as the avatar of traditional superhero values (and to show why that may not work in this case) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played in a great turn by newcomer Brianna Hildebrand), who plays the role of a teenager tired of Deadpool’s shit, a surprising inclusion for a movie ostensibly about Deadpool’s shit. But the most surprising element was just how much I enjoyed the romantic relationship between Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin. Most of that is down to the actor’s chemistry, and the fact that script remembers to give some Baccarin good lines and jokes herself. Because of this connection it sells the moments where the movie has no choice but to be serious (such as in his gross transformation, and the result of that grotesqueness).
First time director Tim Miller uses this base for some short spurts of creativity, such as in a montage where they go through each of the “holidays” (see how hard it is to write a review without giving away jokes?). Miller was previously a special effects supervisor, and although the special effects are not as great as films five times its budge he blends the special effects with the physical action rather than them be two separate entities, such as Deadpool looking through his own bullet holes or how Negasonic and Deadpool working together to get on top of a aircraft carrier. Though it is annoying that the best action sequence was the one that was “leaked”.
But the movie’s biggest fault in the story and direction is its flashback structure, which like Man of Steel breaks up the momentum of the movie, but unlike even that movie the two timelines never really work together anything other than chronologically. It seems only to be there to distract from a lack of character progression, and the fact that the movie only really has two set pieces, but if there was any character that didn’t need to follow the trappings of superhero origin story, it was Deadpool.
Deadpool is an entertaining movie, and really that was all it needed to be. It’s fun and juvenile nonsense with some great jokes and quips from a character built for such (forgot to shout TJ Miller, who also his share of laughs). But the character is also built for something much more anarchic than this studio building a new universe will allow it to. And without that character, this story on its own simply wouldn’t work.