Monday, March 21, 2016

Deadpool (2016)

You know, as someone who considers myself a pop culture maven, thoroughgoing in pursuits to truly cover all fields and encyclopedic after covering them, I actually have moderate, albeit less-than-excepted, experience in espying many of the contents that pop culture has to offer firsthand. I seem to live vicariously in the pop culture geography, knowing a lot, yet not having seen a lot. I know it is poison to admit these sorts of shortcomings, but I am all about following the best policy: honesty. I am a pop culture fanatic, but I do have much more to learn. I can attribute this to the pursuit of other endeavors, potential lack of proper resources/time, etc., but whatever the reason, there it is for you. I say this not to allay my reputation, but to provide some context when I say that I have not read the Deadpool comic.

I actually am not a comic book reader. I am not opposed to it. I just haven't gotten around to reading one. I am aware of his connection with the X-Men universe, but I am not a scholar of the Deadpool character. That's why when I first saw the original test footage circa 2012 when the Deadpool film was first being developed, I cringed, witnessing something with such infuriatingly, patent motives and a self-consciously, obnoxiously snarky style, complete with madcap, ham-handed execution. And this was a mere 4-minute clip. The strange part is...remnants of my original diatribe remain. And it works.

The film revolves around Wade Wilson, a mercenary in New York, who describes himself as "the Tooth Fairy that knocks your teeth out and steals your cash." He becomes romantically involved with a prostitute named Vanessa and life seems to be going well, until he becomes diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully (or so is thought), a recruiter approaches Wade, claiming that he has a serum that can cure his illness, as well as giving him special abilities. He departs from Vanessa in secrecy and heads off to the secret lab, where he meets Ajax, real name Francis. He injects Wade with the serum, but at the culmination of continuously tense interplay, his body becomes mutated and is left for dead. However, the serum has given him immortality and he lives through the catastrophe. He escaped the "Dead Pool," but he is still disgusted and embarrassed by his appearance, so he decides to put his fresh, mint abilities to use, become Deadpool, and force Ajax to fix his face.

The film is humor-oriented. The humor in this film is crass, excessively meta, obnoxiously self-referential, persistently transparent, profoundly offensive, and is executed without the slightest ioda of grace, tact, care, and attention. If Guardians of the Galaxy was crafted with a meticulous, sixth sense for comedy, Deadpool seems to have been assembled by throwing stuff haphazardly in a blender and hoping something of quality is produced. In other words, Guardians of the Galaxy is the giddy nerd. Deadpool is the lumbering, frat-boy bully. They do, however, share one quality: sheer hilarity.

Not only does this film add itself to the catalog of the funniest comic book films, it may go down as one of the funniest films of all time. The secret is that while the comedy lacks in precision, it is overflowing with brio. It's that sole component that makes it seem less like a halfhearted affair and more like a session of comic book geeks realizing what they have on their hands, deciding to get inebriated, and writing whatever they please, as they laugh their heads off, unconcerned with perceptions and concerned with having fun and amusing themselves. It all seems so happily and eagerly executed, underneath the jokes involving incest.

While first-time director Tim Miller and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are definitely the unlikely heroes, the spearhead of this energetic enterprise is  producer and leading man Ryan Reynolds, unleashing a side of him that hasn't really been seen. 2005's Waiting was the closest (and we all know how exciting and memorable that movie was), but a sizable amount of his work consists of nice-guy romantic comedy roles and basic, one-dimensional hero roles (*cough cough* Green Lantern?). I haven't seen much of his filmography, but I can bet any amount of money that this loud, brass, profane, gleefully cynical side of his persona has not been as fully realized, if at all, as it has been in this movie. It seems as if Reynolds is apologizing for keeping too close a watch on his testicles, so he compensates by going balls-to-the-wall. It's a fair trade, indeed. However, he does have some decent support behind him as well. Ed Skrein isn't given the meatiest role ever, but still delivers a fervently slimy, ferociously entertaining performance as Ajax. Morena Baccarin portrays Vanessa, taking this stereotypical, scant role and infuses it with the proper amounts of anguish, strength, vulnerability, and raw sexuality. It's one of the best eye candy superhero film performances in the history of cinema.

The irony is that a film that seems to be built on maladroit presentation and frenetic energy actually manages to deliver the remaining elements with actual dignity and coherence. The action sequences are astonishing, mostly due to how grisly the images can be. The movie is R-rated for a reason. However, they are extremely rousing, in particular a section at the end of the final battle that's so jaw-dropping and tense that I had an out-of-body experience. And, as expected, most of them maintain that kinetic, loony energy. It's the Tarantino of comic book films. As well, the use of the soundtrack supplies more comedic moments. While Guardians of the Galaxy's soundtrack was more 70s-based, Deadpool looks, primarily, to the 80s, particularly in a running joke about Deadpool's affinity for Wham! You will experience his wrath if you don't emphasize the exclamation point.

This film really could've gone either way. It had the potential of disaster and success written on it simultaneously. As is, it is one of the most entertaining Marvel adaptations, this side of Guardians of the Galaxy. While raunchy and clunky on the surface, it actually one-ups Guardians in a lot of ways. It's hard to say which one is better, but Deadpool has its own unique, winsome niche. It's incredible how the most overblown, ostentatious, and amateurish aspects of a film can be the most advantageous. It is the freak accident of cinema and a miraculous one at that.

On a side note, any sentient, moderately intelligent adult who chooses to bring a young child to this film, like the couple at AMC in Victoria Gardens, I must ask for your name, address, and phone number. A claim to Child Protective Services might be in the best interest for all parties involved.

RATING: Three-and-a-half stars out of four

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