Friday, February 26, 2016

'Deadpool' review

X Gon' Give it to Ya

For many fans, a big-screen version of Deadpool that wasn't awful seemed like a pipe dream for a very long time. The beloved character has only grown in popularity over the years in the comics world, but that success didn't seem to translate to the big screen. Director Gavid Hood and his team completely butchered the character in the widely despised X-Men: Origins- Wolverine, closing the mouth of the profane and witty assassin and completely betraying the heart and soul of Wade Wilson. Origins star Ryan Reynolds and the fans continued to press Fox for an R-rated version that stayed true to the character that Rob Liefield created, but Fox avoided it at all costs. Thankfully, someone (maybe Reynolds, maybe not Reynolds) leaked test footage of a violent Deadpool movie proposed to Fox and it unleashed a fan uproar. Fox had no choice and they finally gave Deadpool the green light.

And so far, Fox's decision has paid off. The first major R-rated superhero movie in years has made $516 million worldwide, with $250 million alone in the US. It had the 17th highest grossing weekend of all time and the highest grossing weekend ever for an R-rated film. It has made more money than any other X-Men film. By all accounts, Deadpool is an absolute juggernaut. But honestly, this really shouldn't be a surprise. Because in addition to the pent-up demand and the wonderful marketing campaign, Deadpool is a fantastic movie. Unconventional in its structure, Deadpool utilizes the classic superhero origin story to become what is probably the most meta comic book movie ever made- and that's a good thing. With a fantastic performance from Reynolds, a script that will have you laughing for days, and a bit of the ol' ultra-violence, Deadpool is the breath of fresh air that the comic book genre desperately needs.

Deadpool (Reynolds) is on a mission. He's after someone on his "naughty list" as he tells his cab driver, Dopinder (Karan Soni). Armed with an arsenal of knives and guns, Deadpool is on the hunt for the notorious Ajax (Ed Skrein), who he simply refers to as Francis. Ajax permanently scarred him and ruined his life and Deadpool is gonna take his revenge. But first, we gotta flash back to the beginning of this wild story.

Wade Wilson is a small-time mob enforcer and yet, a good person in general. He does the dirty work that nobody else really wants, but he's kind to kids and has a respect for women. His whole life changes when he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a prostitute who he immediately falls in love with. Wade and Vanessa fall into a whirlwind romance and it's clear that they both care about each other. Unfortunately, life gets in the way. Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given not much time to live. Angered and scared by this diagnosis, Wade takes drastic action and signs up for a program that he thinks will cure him. Instead, it's just a cruel trick by Ajax to brainwash him and turn him into a superslave. Wade isn't quite down with that. After escaping, Wade turns into the motormouth anti-hero Deadpool and with the help of Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), he goes on the hunt to take down Ajax and the evil organization that ruined his life.

Deadpool isn't necessarily a revolutionary take on the archetypal superhero origin story. The circumstances for Wade Wilson are a little different, but the basic tale is the same. So in that case, why are audiences flocking to Deadpool in such massive droves? I think it's a combination of factors. With the inundation of costumed hero films in the market today, my guess is that audiences were really interested in something that was tongue-in-cheek and incredibly self-aware. But more than that, Deadpool is a testament to the power of passion. It's clear from watching the movie that Reynolds, director Tim Miller and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are all passionate about the character of Deadpool. This movie doesn't feel like a soulless corporate product. It feels like a group of enthusiastic individuals got together with $58 million dollars and made a movie completely outside of the studio system. Audiences are responding to that idea and thus, we have the first megahit of 2016.

But the most impressive part of Deadpool is that the anarchy of the character and the energy of the filmmakers translates into a great film. It's a small-scale story and an intimate one, making for a change of pace from the humongous scale and widespread destruction that has dominated the superhero genre in recent years. And yet, more critical than that is the fact that Deadpool is fun. Tremendously smart and witty, Miller's film appeals on a basic level. In a world where superhero films are becoming more and more convoluted and crazy by the day, Deadpool appeals on a pure, instinctual level. It's loud, it's in your face, it's violent, and it's so easy to like. Because while this movie might be brutal and vulgar, it's not sadistic. I have a feeling that pretty much anyone could watch this movie and love it. It's a simply story and one that will be paying dividends for audiences for a long time.

Reynolds is the other reason that this movie works so well. The charismatic and appealing actor has toiled in the gutters of Hollywood for so many years with very little reward. His most successful movie was probably The Proposal, and his forays into the superhero genre (Green Lantern, Origins) were met with vehement hatred from fans. Even his well-received indie movies like Mississippi Grind and Buried weren't seen by anybody. So Deadpool works as a bit of a redemption story. After years of failure, Reynolds has finally found his iconic hero. Reynolds and Wade Wilson is a match made in heaven and he so thoroughly fits the character that it's impossible to see anybody else in the role. The supporting cast (led by Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin and TJ Miller) is great, but every scene in Deadpool is improved by the smirking sarcasm of Reynolds. It's a hilarious performance that will come to define his career in the coming years.

Now, humor in superhero films is nothing new. Marvel Studios has thrived on funny characters like Iron Man, Star-Lord and Ant-Man and in general, Marvel films feature a generous dose of comic relief. But Deadpool is of a completely different breed. In fact, I would argue that it's almost a pure comedy, goofy and profane and violently over-the-top. There are more penis and sex jokes in Deadpool than in every other superhero movie combined. But in addition to that, there's a lot of smart commentary about Hollywood and the superhero genre. Whenever a movie opens with the credits stating "20th Century Fox Presents......A Film by Some Asshole," you know that the irreverence will hit new heights. Deadpool attacks Green Lantern, the X-Men and just costumed heroes in general. Constantly winking and filled with fourth-wall breaking, the film's comedy is almost overwhelming at a point.

The action is also pretty wild. Although it's not nearly as violent as you might expect, Deadpool still takes things to a level that we've never seen before in a heroic action movie. Even with the occasionally juvenile tone, Deadpool doesn't skimp on the blood and guts. Heads roll, blood spills, brain matter splatters across the screen- this is the real deal. And yet, the violence never feels like it's overdone. Reading that you're probably thinking "What? How can decapitation and savage murders not be too much?" Well, Deadpool is no more vicious than Taken or the first Wolverine movie. It's a revenge narrative that is just a little more open about depicting the repercussions of the on-screen carnage. What results is a sort of happy medium- it's violent enough that the fans will be satisfied, but never so graphic that casual moviegoers would be turned off.

But despite the more primal aspects of the film, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick never lose sight of what's important- the story and the characters. At its essence, this is a tale of two people who fall in love and the terrible things that go wrong in their relationship- it's a romance movie, just with more violence. It's a superhero take on True Romance and it's so much fun to watch. The romance heightens the emotional connection and ups the stakes, connecting the audience to Wade and Vanessa and further investing everybody in the action. On top of that, every character in Reese and Wernick's script fills their preordained role (as decided by the perfect opening credits). Skrein's Ajax is a great British bad guy. T.J. Miller is terrific comic relief. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are excellent sidekicks. The story and characters in Deadpool may be simplistic, but sometimes, being uncomplicated is not a bad thing.

Deadpool is unique and fresh, but also very familiar and sweet. It takes the superhero origin story and twists and turns it into a stylish, cartoony and dazzling creation. In a fundamental way, that's the reason that it works so very well. It isn't good because it's R-rated or because there were a lot of sex jokes. Deadpool works because it turns the genre completely on its head in a movie fueled by the pure passion of the filmmmakers. It's a movie that strikes a perfect tone, and is energized by a soundtrack and an attitude that just can't be paralleled in any way. Hollywood will try to replicate this success, but it just ain't gonna happen- this is a one-of-a-kind film. Bolstered by the charm of Reynolds, the supporting cast, a phenomenal script and a deft directorial touch from Tim Miller, Deadpool is a new superhero classic. It's a movie that is so completely in love with itself that you can't help but love it too.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                            (8.5/10)

Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, Variety, EW, Telegraph, Joblo

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