So, I’m switching gears here, and going to look at the impact a film has had, both on the film industry, and on pop culture. Warning here: spoilers abound.
Deadpool (2016) – directed by Tim Miller
For a few years, I wondered why the MCU never bothered being more… adult. It seemed like every time Tony Stark was about to go on a violent, vulgar-filled tirade about SHIELD, he held back and gave something more diplomatic, and well, PG-13 friendly. After a few films, I stopped noticing this, something I refer to as cinematic Stockholm Syndrome, but I was shaken out of this by a combination of the dark subject matter of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon, who felt like the perfect character to rant angrily about his mistreatment and again, was held back for a PG-13 rating. Now, contrary to what Hollywood took from Deadpool, I’m not saying all comic book movies would be better with an R rating. Indeed, I’m actually pointing out specific examples of films where it may have worked, if handled properly, because it feels like the filmmakers had to take a few steps back from their original vision, and possibly compromise it, to make it work. That’s what I’m against: not a particular rating, but filmmakers being forced to compromise their vision, or tone things down for “marketability.”
R rated films were not used in comic book films for the same reason the Fast and Furious franchise keeps sticking with PG-13 ratings; money. PG-13 pulls in the grade school kids, along with younger children accompanied by parents, and that means dollar signs. Deadpool, however, showed that the older crowd will swamp theaters just as much, and that R-rated comic book films can be profitable; now you would think Marvel and DC would celebrate given the amount of overly dark material they need to either ignore or gloss over, meaning it’s useless in their film franchises, but it seems like the Fox-Marvel is the only one willing to gamble on it for now, which is understandable, and will help to forestall inundating the market with badly made, gory comic book films for the sake of making and releasing badly made, gory comic book films.
The one thing Deadpool did best of all was its use of satirical humor alongside honest humor, violence, and a lot of non-PC topics you should never bring up on a first date; its release date on Valentine’s Day weekend was perfect, by the way. Ryan Reynolds’ performance perfectly depicts the craziness that occurs in Deadpool’s head in the comics on-screen, along with a child-like resentment of authority, and the coarse mouth of a drunken sailor. The film is pretty much a Ryan Reynolds vehicle, but I don’t care; when you have an actor/producer who has worked so hard just to get the film made, and made properly, it would make sense that you tie your wagon to him; and although the awards circuit will probably ignore him, I feel he deserves a Golden Globe or something beyond a kids’ choice award, hang on, I don’t that’s going to work out; in any case, he deserves something.
I really love the joke that played out with critics, without them realizing they were actually making it. A lot of critics commented the story felt derivative and over-simplistic, unaware that that was the actual point of the story being derivative and over-simplistic; in essence, Deadpool was lampooning every origin story comic book films had been using, but did a small twist by presenting it non-linearly, and wound up trolling the critics who didn’t get it as an added bonus. Few films get people to play along with one of your jokes without them realizing it, and when it’s the critics, you win. There is also the added thing about Deadpool that the film could write off nearly any continuity error as saying “f*** it, it’s Deadpool, our fans will get a kick out of it”, which also deftly helps it get around most other forms of criticism too.
The meta-ness of the film is what really makes it work for me, especially how it drives the film’s humor. Beyond Deadpool’s endless fourth wall breaking, though, there are also the rips on Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds himself, and my personal favorite, the studio’s stinginess, especially when you realize that Fox pulled $7 million from the budget right before they were set to commence shooting; although I’m sure that the studio pot-shots were already in there, that fact makes the film that much funnier; and awesomer too, since I didn’t realize how little money Fox invested in the film until afterwards, and thought to myself, “damn, Miller and Reynolds really knew what they were doing.” I’m actually kind of glad about that, though, because it is a reminder that great filmmakers, and dare I say it, they are, can truly make great lemonade from fewer lemons than others can from a whole tree, i.e. Zach Synder, and his $200M+ Batman vs. Superman movie. Some of the best jokes, beyond the studio bashing, seemed organic, like the guys got together and just said random stuff that made them laugh; for example, the teenage obsession with cell phones… okay, not just teenage, but the general obsession with looking at people’s cell phones, complete with Deadpool’s “that’s all right, finish your tweet,” comment, perfectly tapped into frustrations some people feel every day; I can see Miller getting frustrated with people always being on their phones during production meetings, and throwing that one in for the hell of it.
Perhaps the film’s second greatest asset is that Ed Skrein walks the line between villain-villain, and nearly being a satire of himself. Comic book films, even Deadpool, are only as good as their villains, and once you realize that Ajax really doesn’t take himself that seriously, akin to Deadpool himself, he becomes a lot of fun to watch on screen, and is probably the best “love to hate” villain I’ve seen in a comic book film in a while; it was also nice to see Gina Carino, whose previous work in Haywire (highly recommend that one by the way) and Fast & Furious 6 was much more serious, make some jokes and play a more humorous ass-kicking woman.
I think the film’s real impact is that it was good; little more than that. For a film with high expectations to smash them, especially a blockbuster within an established franchise, it takes a lot of work, and Deadpool proves that with persistence and maximum effort, filmmakers can pull victory from the jaws of defeat, and create something epic and better than anyone could have imagined.
A few stray points:
- I thought that Stan Lee’s cameo was hilarious, but also his comment that he didn’t like being whisked out of the strip club so quickly
- The opening to the film should be shown in film schools as the perfect opening, in setting up the tone and satire that is to follow.
- The film’s pacing seems unusually fast, but I liked that about the film; it keeps with Deadpool’s ADHD personality that the film would not slow down too much
- I bet you never think of International Women’s Day the same way again; I know I won’t, haha
- “Stupid, stupid, worth it!” –Deadpool
- “You will come talk with Professor Xavier.” “McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing.” –Colossus dragging Deadpool
- “A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That’s like, sixteen walls!” –Deadpool
- “Oh no, finish your tweet. It’s not… that… just give us a second.” –Deadpool to Negasonic Teenage Warhead right before battle
- “Maximum effort!!” –Deadpool
- “Dead pool… Captain Deadpool, No just… just Deadpool.” “To you, Mr. Pool. Deadpool. That sounds like a f***ing franchise!” – Deadpool and Weasel toasting