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Sunday, 21 February 2016

Film Review: Deadpool (2016)

ou’re probably thinking, ‘this was a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kabab!’ Surprise! This is a different kind of superhero story”, boasts our masked antihero Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). Marvel’s latest comic book romp – the Tim Miller-directed eighth instalment in the ever-expanding X-Men series – is adamant it stands apart from its predecessors.

Deadpool is based on Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s comic book character, referred to in the comics as the “Merc with a Mouth” due to his tendency to make gags and break the fourth wall. The man behind the mask is Wade Wilson, a special forces operative turned wisecracking mercenary. He falls in love with escort Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin). A year later, after Wade proposes to Vanessa, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. A shady organisation offers him a cure that will also provide him with superhuman abilities. After undergoing the procedure, he is left with healing powers, (not unlike fellow Marvel superhero Wolverine) but cursed with a deformed appearance.

The film doesn’t beat around the bush, getting straight into the self-deprecation with opening credits including ‘A CGI Character’ and ‘Directed by An Overpaid Tool’. And thus sets the tone for this irreverent, violent escapade. The audience chuckle as Deadpool splatters his foe’s brains whilst quipping all the way. Scriptwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, together with a smart-arsed performance from Ryan Reynolds, generate a fair few successful comedic moments. But it seems that underneath its tongue-in-cheek vulgarity, this is just another addition to an oversaturated genre. While some of the crude humour hits the mark, all the ceaselessly self-referential comedy in the world apparently couldn’t prevent this film from regressing into overly familiar territory. No doubt the filmmakers were aware that they were recycling tired tropes – rescuing the damsel in distress, the explosions and large buildings collapsing – and this is of course part of the joke. However, there is a fine line between pastiche and repetition, and it is in overstepping this mark that Deadpool risks inducing boredom.

After an elaborate advertising campaign gearing us up for a comedic romp, we all anticipated Deadpool would make us laugh – and laugh we did – but surely fans wanted something that would surprise. Should we have anticipated more than exactly what we expected, or was this film just made to fill a gap in the market? Deadpool – by its own admission – is a fan-pleaser. After Reynold’s previous portrayal as our mercenary joker had his mouth sewn shut in Gavin Hood’s misfired X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) fans have been begging for Deadpool to be done right on the big screen. This incarnation tries hard to prove that the superhero film can be for adults too – An aim that was already achieved with Matthew Vaughn’s arguably more zany Kickass (2010). This is Tim Miller’s directorial debut, and he has clearly taken notes on erstwhile superhero stories. Utilising flashbacks, together with a guiding narrative voice, the film manages – for the most part – to circumvent genre norms in explaining Deadpool’s origins.

But for all its meta-humour, violence and sex, Deadpool reeks of an attempt to breathe life back into a worn-out genre. It falls somewhat short of this aim, instead giving us what is essentially just another superhero movie, featuring most of the dreary conventions it seeks to poke fun at. Evidently wearing its 15 age certificate as a badge of honour, Deadpool is amusing, but far from fresh.

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