It was five o’clock yesterday and I was outside a movie theatre. At 5:45 they were showing Batman v Superman and at 5:35 they were showing Deadpool. I hadn’t seen either one—my schedule lately has made it difficult to find time to see movies. But I was starting to get an itch to see Batman v Superman as a sort of victory run hate watch. The world has acknowledged it’s a failure artistically, that it has failed to please critics and audiences alike, and, really, it is also a commercial failure despite technically achieving just a tiny bit of profit. That mostly due to the first week before people knew any better and it was little more than the hype of two of the biggest superheroes of all time being on screen together. Then the next week it had its historic drop in ticket sales, one even worse than suffered by Man of Steel, showing people are starting to get wiser to DC/Warners’ shallow exploitation of its properties. Even Kevin Smith dissed it and he’s usually a soft touch—and his friend Ben Affleck is in the movie.
I wanted to see it so I could be part of the conversation, put my two cents in as to why it’s not just a bad film but why the tone deaf, profit-hungry forces behind it made it the bad film it is. I’ve said before a good critic really shouldn’t love writing bad reviews but every now and then I just can’t help being bad. And oh, how good it would feel to really lay into it. Zack Snyder. The boring douchebag I’ve heard drone on at Comic Con, the dickface who turned a rape scene in Alan Moore’s Watchmen into something like a beer commercial. Who turned Rorschach’s startlingly human moment when he was arrested into an airless Matrix fight scene. Who brought Frank Miller’s vision of a homophobic Sparta to life against a horde of anachronistic modern day racial and sexual minorities. Zack Snyder: one of the assholes who keeps getting the money despite repeated, consummate vapidity. It’s not only good to see some people fall, it’s deeply satisfying.
But a friend of mine, Selena, told me her boyfriend refused to give Zack Snyder his money. And I realised he was right. I should pirate the movie. So yesterday I saw Deadpool and gave my money to Fox and Marvel. Well, my gift card.
I’ve never read the Deadpool comics but I was familiar with the character from occasional mildly funny memes related to him posted on Facebook and Twitter over the years. I knew he was a Marvel character known for breaking the fourth wall, something I never seem to find as funny as other people do. It’s kind of a one note joke most of the time, the punchline seemingly being just the fact that Deadpool is in any way acknowledging the fact that he’s a fictional character. Maybe I got all of that out of my system back in the 90s with Animaniacs. Really, once the joke is told once, maybe twice, it’s over. But Deadpool isn’t a bad movie despite a surprisingly limp and formulaic plot, the kind of plot I would have expected the film to be lampooning rather than embracing.
I even didn’t mind Ryan Reynolds though I still think of him as the poor man’s Jason Lee. Or rather, the rich man’s Jason Lee, the version of Jason Lee who’s willing to appear in just about anything for money. And yeah, Jason Lee would’ve been better in the role but Reynolds is serviceable. He plays Wade Wilson, a former preternaturally skilled U.S. soldier who’s become a sort of paid bully. We see him meet a prostitute named Vanessa, played by Morena Baccarin, his love interest, his flirtations with her providing the most satisfying aspect of the film as their frank one-upsmanship of ironic filth is very refreshing. The real star of this film is the R rating, leading also to some well assembled action sequences filled with splattering bodies and decapitations. New avenues of potential for the superhero on film are explored for the first time. Well, the first time since Sin City. Let’s say the potential for a mainstream superhero film.
Baccarin is a great deal more charming than she ever was on Firefly where I always thought she was a little stiff. Though in the latter portion of the film she becomes a pretty run-of-the-mill damsel in distress. The opening credits lack names, instead substituting titles like “The Hot Chick” and the director is credited as an “Overpaid Tool”. Which, after my thoughts on Zack Snyder, was pretty amusing to see. But then the movie indulges in most of the things it would seem to be mocking. Vanessa is little more than a hot chick despite the engaging energy of her and Wade’s initial flirtation. A big problem with the film is that Wade’s main obstacle is his disfigured face. His reluctance at revealing to her that he’s alive because he’s supposedly ugly now is a cliche that was worn out twenty years ago. And mind you, he’s not that ugly.
Certainly not ugly enough for people to be looking at him in disgust when he walks around wearing a hoodie. Instead of providing an interesting character aspect, it just made me feel impatient, despite a few jokes related to it that were funny.
The villain, Francis (Ed Skrein), is insubstantial, however funny it is that Deadpool insists on calling him “Francis” instead of his chosen moniker of “Ajax”. It makes an ending that was probably intended to be slightly shocking and subversive seem as shallow as the climax in Man of Steel or Batman Begins. One gets the feeling, once again, that superheroes turn murderous in these movies largely because the filmmakers truly don’t understand why they shouldn’t.
But mainly Deadpool wasn’t bad. It has a nice Ferris Bueller reference I don’t think most people recognised.
On a side note, Hollywood’s inability to see teeth is getting really strange. What I mean is, no matter how much Wade is tortured in an underground facility designed to activate his mutant powers through physical stress, his teeth always look perfect. When he’s disfigured, his teeth are still pearly white. There’s a continuity problem at the end of the film where shots of Francis alternately have him with blood on his teeth and with his teeth clean and white, a continuity problem the filmmakers probably didn’t notice because perfect teeth are taken as a given. They don’t even think about it. That’s why all the slaves in 12 Years a Slave have perfect teeth. Obviously it’s not as big an issue in a fantasy movie like this but once you really start noticing it it becomes more and more distracting.