Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Deadpool

*Blam* Bad Deadpool! *Blam* (Uh!) GOOD Deadpool!
or
Taking the Hero Out of Super-Hero and Putting the Meta Into Meta-Human

From the generic credited Main Title, crafted like one of those Avengers-ending still-life's littered with in-jokes, Deadpool hits the ground kicking the tropes and biting the superhero genre that feeds it.

And thank God. The whole super-hero "thing" has started becoming stale and musty of late and Deadpool clears the cob-webs away...with a machine-pistol.

Maybe you don't remember Deadpool. In the comics, he was created by Marvel artist Rob ("I can't draw feet") Liefield to be as lethal as Wolverine and as chatty as Spider-Man. The one thing that made Deadpoolunique (qualifier, DC had an earlier character named "Ambush Bug" that does this, too) in the Marvel Universe is that Deadpool is aware that he is a fictional super-hero in a comic book. He was a mutant, a mercenary and he was a bit insane. He has appeared in movies before—as played by Ryan Reynolds in the weak Wolverine: Origins, where he looked like this: 
That's right, they sewed his mouth shut. Now, since Deadpool is known in the comics as "The Merc with the Mouth" why didn't he have one in W:O? Probably because the character is supposed to be insane and funny and that would have stolen the movie away from the star-character and ripped the franchise right out from under Hugh Jackman's feet. We could not have that, so DP got zippered. Bad Deadpool.
But, Ryan Reynolds wasn't happy. He was unhappy enough that he was determined to make a fully-throated Deadpool feature, and since Wolverine: Origins was no one's idea of a good movie, nothing really stood in his way.

Except, of course, for time and money. Reynolds worked with script-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (of Zombieland) to come up with a rollicking script, more in keeping with what he had in mind, truer to the fourth-wall-exploding, incorrigible Deadpool of the comics, all of which seemed beyond the imaginations of the studio execs at Fox, whose super-hero experience had more to do with the stolid X-men movies and the egregious Fantastic 4 film (and their man-handling of that project revealed that their view was so narrow-minded and cookie-cutter as to be self-destructive). Bad Fox.
The final impediment to the project—demand—was taken care of when leaked test footage of what the producing team had in mind was released to the internet, and the fan-boy whoops could be heard and taken seriously enough to invest in a feature. The result was your standard super-hero movie, with its insistence on a "By Hrothgar's Hammer, I shall be revenged!" plot and a loosening of the moral hand-cuffs (which most of these movies have experimented with, anyway) to make Deadpool a complete anti-hero. The difference is the tone, which feels more like an action movie starring Jim Carrey in full antic (which would be The Mask, actually, but sped up about 150%).
Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a slightly unhinged mercenary-for-hire with mad skills and no filters. He meets his potential damsel-in-distress, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin—who I've always suspected would have been Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman if that project had come to fruition) and they have an idyllic, if randy, year before Wade finds out he has terminal cancer ("Cancer's only in my liver, lungs, prostate, and brain. All things I can live without"). Vanessa wants to fight it, but Wade is just as determined that she doesn't have to suffer through it with him, so he skips out.

He probably should have stayed. In a desperate attempt to stay alive and go back to Vanessa, he is offered a devil's deal: given his mercenary instincts, he is approached by a clandestine organization that offers him a cure, but also, a bit of an improvement—turning him into a mutant. But, getting there amounts to inhuman torture and Wade emerges from the forced treatment with a pulped face and an undying rage—the "improvement" being the ability to heal from any wound, no matter how severe, —and the intent to kill anyone associated with his procedure, focusing on the mutant in charge of the operation, a sadistic brute named Frances (Ed Skrein).

Frances?  Frances!?
The term "berserker" is the best term for Deadpool. The movie's opening sequence has him in the middle of a curiously abandoned freeway (following a multi-vehicle smash-up that he initiated) attacking a gaggle of Frances' goons with only 12 bullets in his arsenal. He makes every bullet count, as he counts, mouthing sporadic one-liner non-sequitirs to taunt and distract the bad-guys, while amusing the audience (and himself). It is only the intervention of X-Men Colossus (CGI'd and voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (no, really, that's a real superhero name and she's played by Brianna Hildebrand) that stops him from decimating every single bad guy within several miles of empty city highway. They want to "reform" Deadpool by taking him back to Mutant Academy to meet with Professor "X" ("McAvoy or Stewart?" is Deadpool's reply).
From there, the movie pretty much runs the well-entrenched path of super-hero movies—revenge and redemption, which it does not take seriously at all. Nor should it. Something entrenched is in a rut. Comics (or should I say "graphic literature") are selling less than ever, at the same time that it seems to also want to be taken seriously and profoundly. This is reflected in movies made from comics sources, which started out wonderfully wicked in their debuts and then turn inert and careful by the sequel. You can take chances on the first one—and if it's successful, well, profits have to be taken seriously. Risks are fewer when it involves money.
And movies are duller. Deadpool is not dull, not for any stretch (well, except for the drawn-out mutation process scenes because the villains aren't entertaining...at all), and although the overall arc is much the same as any superhero movie, it's unrelenting goofiness at it's (and everything else's) expense feels like a tonic. In much the same way as Guardians of the Galaxy knew it was treading a lighter path and did a bit more stirring of ingredients in order to get the mix of grim n' gritty and comedy right, Deadpool throws in more nuts. And chops them. A lot.
As for "g n' g", Deadpool is very, very violent and is rated "R" for its splattering heads and severed limbs and constant "F"-bombing—it's certainly more violent that The Hateful 8. "So, Mr. Inconsistency, why hate on "our boy" QT and like this movie?" Because this has a sense of humor and The Hateful 8 doesn't. TH8 only thinks it has a sense of humor, but it's only actually a sense of outrageousness. They're not the same thing. Outrageousness can be funny if its satiric, but there's no satire in TH8. It doesn't want to make a point, it just wants to be outrageous, ("man"). Deadpool takes nothing seriously, but The Hateful 8 makes the mistake of thinking itself profound, like so much post modern pop culture does these days. Deadpool is clever. The Hateful 8 only thinks it is.

The fan-boys out there are ecstatic because they "finally" have an "R"-rated movie based on a comic book (quite forgetting American Splendor (which they never read), Watchmen, 300, Road to PerditionBlade, and the Sin City movies). Deadpool will also appeal to those with ADHD and generally short attention spans.*

I plead guilty, as well. I laughed. I laughed a lot. GOOD Deadpool.


 


* There's even a line about that: "Right now your date is saying 'My boy-friend told me this was a superhero movie, but this asshole just turned this bad guy into a kebab.' Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero movie."

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