Deadpool movie review: How subversive is it?

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Deadpool is the latest superhero-with-a-twist story to find a marketable point of difference by positioning itself as an edgier alternative to standard-rate caped crusader movies.

The days when critics scoffed from on high about squeaky clean “underwear on the outside” characters feel, tragically, like they may be drawing to a close, shoo-shooed into nostalgia by contemporary stories that tend to be either bigger and meaner (The Dark Knight) or big and SFX-lathered (Avengers).

In recent years a ragtag of memorable crazies have emerged from the woodwork, swinging fists and talking jive. These include a wisecracking raccoon (Guardians of the Galaxy), a gung-ho 11-year-old girl (Kick-Ass) and a wrench-wielding buffoon (Super).

Played by Ryan Reynolds with spritely and exhaustingly self-deprecating spirit, Wade Wilson aka Deadpool is a cancer survivor whose sickness has been cured by a mad scientist type figure, Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein), who actually looks more like a Versace model. Freeman has built a cottage industry in transforming his patients into freaky super-soldiers.

The catch is that while Deadpool’s body can miraculously regenerate itself, rendering him virtually invincible and thus able to fisticuff foes until the cows come home, Reynolds’ beach bod good looks have mutated horribly. His face is disgustingly splotchy: it looks Freddy Krueger-esque, or how one might imagine an anthropomorphised third-degree-burnt scrotum.

This poses issues for his prospects with hot girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). So Deadpool – his name gleaned from a board on the wall of a dive bar, collating bets on which of its regulars will die – goes on a mission to track down Freeman and vent his spleen. This happens in much the same way Reynolds hunted another quack who saved him from cancer (ungrateful sod) in last year’s lacklustre body-switching action pic Self/Less.

Pre-treatment, Wilson is told “the one thing that never survives this place is a sense of humour”. This proves manifestly untrue.

Deadpool pogoes between jokes, the yappy anti-ihero firing off attempted zingers like a less effective, costume-clad Rodney Dangerfield. Some connect, most do not, but the sheer volume of them imbues the film with a spirited sense of humour that is both routinely amusing and clearly desperate to impress.

Most of the laughs come from dirty jokes; think masturbation gags involving white toy unicorns. And while Deadpool imparts a wearing-us-down-to-make-us-laugh psychological toll, it’s also refreshing to see a superhero movie that matches the bouncy and impertinent personality of its protagonist so closely to the personality of the film itself.

The opening credits inform us it was directed by “An Overpaid Tool”, stars “A Hot Chick”, features a “Gratuitous Cameo” and so forth. This is not a bad gag – at a push, a sort of lightweight counter to the magnificent opening sequence of 2009’s Watchmen, featuring visions of fallen superheroes matched to Dylan crooning about how the times, they are a-changing.

Both scenes are post-modern (acknowledging conventions) and both precursors to let-downs, in the sense they belong to films that gorge on the same kind of stereotypes they draw attention to them without a great amount of wit or innovation.

In Deadpool’s case a cheeky wink-wink intro is one thing; a genuinely fresh alternative to cookie-cutter content quite another. The casting of a hunk to play the hero and a hunk to play the villain is indicative of a film that wants to appear to take risks while not really taking any at all.

Probably the gutsiest director Tim Miller gets is laying out a scrambled non-linear narrative. The story jumps here and there, as if victim to vagaries of the protagonist’s memory and mind frame.

This execution is playfully performed – undoubtedly sassy at times – but also halts the plot’s momentum. However this proves no biggie given where the story ultimately ends: in antiquated damsel-in-distress mode, another reminder this is old-hat material dressed up with a fresh lick of paint.

For a better example of the kind of film Miller probably intended to make – or one that more faithfully fits how Deadpool is being marketed – rustle up a copy of the under-watched 2010 gem Super (by James Gunn, who directed Guardians of the Galaxy).

Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page star in a giddily entertaining film that blurs the line between mental illness and heroism, and walks a tightrope between being pared-back and over-the-top. It is also, unlike Deadpool, genuinely subversive.

 

24 responses to “Deadpool movie review: How subversive is it?

  1. While I don’t always agree with Luke’s film reviews I enjoy that they can be challenging. Being old fashioned, I often print them out to read on the way home, hence the delay in posting a comment which I never normally would do. Luckily I wasn’t on the train this time as I would’ve experienced “review rage”.

    Almost none of this review makes no sense. For example:

    “Both scenes are post-modern (acknowledging conventions) and both precursors to let-downs, in the sense they belong to films that gorge on the same kind of stereotypes they draw attention to them without a great amount of wit or innovation.”

    WTF does this mean? I had to read it aloud. Still no luck. Then you end discussing another film from another director with a positive comment. That is not the way of reviews. It’s poor style.

    Meanwhile, “Deadpool” smashes the box office and like all films doesn’t need a bewildering assessment seemingly written in some other weird dimension to succeed.

    If I’m arrested on a train yelling at a review like this, it’s your fault Luke. And I’ll claim temporary insanity. Perhaps you should too?

  2. “The casting of a hunk to play the hero and a hunk to play the villain is indicative of a film that wants to appear to take risks while not really taking any at all.”

    And this line shows you don’t know jack about the movie. Ryan was not cast, he was been working for almost 10 years to get the movie made.Not to mention that every deadpool fan has agreed for years that Ryan would make the perfect Deadpool and he did just that.

  3. The worst kind of critic always has some kind of ubermensch in the back of his mind while rating movies, never understanding the actual situation of storytelling on the big screen. In your mind. Deadpool is the movie that could never fit the path you are wanting it to take. Of course, without knowing the context behind the character, a critic just goes into the movie blindly, expecting it to be some art film to pander to their education. Deadpool, the movie, was made 100% for the fans of Deadpool, the comic. If you can’t understand that, then I’d encourage you to not review a movie you are not prepared to review in all fairness.

  4. This guy obviously knows absolutely nothing about Deadpool. And he seems way more concerned about how good looking the actors are rather than the actual movie.

  5. I am not a fan of this movie genre. However, he completely missed the entire story in the movie. He thought it was actually just another simple superhero movie and reviewed it on that incorrect assumption, incapable of seeing anything else. The comic book story was not the plot; or the story for that matter. To go to a movie and so utterly miss the entire meaning, subtext, plot, tone and intent of even just the writers work means he is utterly unqualified for the simple task he is responsible for. And to completely miss how brilliantly this was film was directed (based on the whole point of the movie that he missed) is just beyond acceptable.

  6. It’s been stated before, but what and why is your hang up on the attractiveness of the male stars? Did you like Super more because your head looks like the spawn of rain wilson and a volleyball, because Deadpool is leaps and bounds a SUPERior movie, though I did like both. And why didn’t you cry about the beautiful female cast in super which if anything seem more out of place? Deadpool has good story, great action, superb cast, laughs cries loves and dies. And stan lee as a strip club dj. Just because you relate to super’s main character doesn’t mean its a better movie. While Deadpool wasn’t perfect, it was damn near close

  7. I don’t expect everyone to like a movie, but I’ll tell anyone reading this guy’s review – I sat with a full crowd for a morning showing and the whole place was laughing throughout the whole movie and we all applauded when it was over. THAT is how good the movie was for those of us who aren’t hell bent on making everything serious.

  8. Critics are basically egomaniacs that think they know film, and more specifically good film better than anyone. Usually they miss the mark by underrating good films, and overrating decent films. Personally I take a critics review with no consideration as to if I watch a movie. It’s a good thing too because I would miss out on a lot. Deadpool gets at least a 4 out of 5 stars from me. If I were to be very specific I’d say 4.7 stars.

  9. To write a bad critic when you don’t even know the background of the character the movie portrayts… this is taking attention whoreness to a new level…

  10. Considering the fact that in the comic Cable & Deadpool it’s specifically pointed out that Deadpool looks like Ryan Reynolds, I do not think that it is too far of a stretch to think that casting him in the role was a good decision. Not to mention the blood, sweat, and tears he has poured into the project. This movie was exactly like a Deadpool comic, and I think that is a good thing.

  11. This review is those kind of “trying to be smart ass and different”

    Sorry I am not impressed because the feedback from worldwide is enough to prove you wrong.

  12. “The casting of a hunk to play the hero” Just the fact that you used the word “hero” to describe Deadpool clearly shows that you don’t have enough notion on the character Deadpool to criticize the casting for the movie. Deadpool isn’t a hero nor is he a villain, he’s an anti hero/villain. I hate seeing a movie get a bad rating because people don’t know the background of the characters. The movie was great and I really enjoyed it as someone who knows the character. The movie was really well executed and the story stayed true to the comics.

  13. It is really hard to take this seriously as a review because you keep harping on the attractiveness of the characters. All that serves to do is make you seem really bitter and hung up on looks.

  14. I find it hilarious that one of the main gripes is that both the lead and the villain are “attractive” and therefore lessen the quality of the movie.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that you did not watch the movie, and just got highlights from an intern.

    Do you have any concept of the difficulty it would take to convince a studio head to cast and pay one of People’s “sexiest man alive” winners, and then proceed to nuke his good looks for the sake of staying true to the source material?

    So please. In the future. Watch the movie before writing a review.

    -or-

    If you did watch the movie (which still i find highly unlikely), then you are so out of touch and off base that you should probably start looking for another job. You won’t last long here.

  15. “The casting of a hunk to play the hero and a hunk to play the villain is indicative of a film that wants to appear to take risks while not really taking any at all.”

    Lol. This movie wouldn’t have been made without Ryan Reynolds. He was the one who pushed really hard for it, it’s been his dream superhero role for over a decade… and just because he isn’t ugly doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be allowed to play the lead. Plus he’s no “hunk” when he’s Deadpool, after all, they made him “look like Freddy Krueger face fucked a topographical map of Utah.”

  16. I’m not sure you understand the point of the movie. Deadpool wasn’t supposed to be about some random idiot who became a hero. They guy was ex special forces, so he clearly needed to actually be able to fight, and he was anything but a hero. His actions were selfish throughout the movie so that he could get the girl. I get that you think it was trying to be funny and parody the genre in an effort to give a standout performance but you’re forgetting that it’s still an action film that wants violence .

  17. While I respect your rights as a critic to dissect and display…did you pull the waistband of your tighty whiteys above your belly button before you saw this? Sheesh, it was funny and original, and snarky, and yes, incredibly juvenile. Quite a refresher from the to-be-taken-too-seriously direction this genre has gone.

  18. Really Luke!! 2/5 stars!?? Be honest brah… You didn’t watch the hey?! It’s ok I won’t tell.

    Paul Henderson, dailyreview.com.au, should hire you. Your comments should of been the review.

  19. “The casting of a hunk to play the hero and a hunk to play the villain is indicative of a film that wants to appear to take risks while not really taking any at all.”

    What in the world is this meant to mean? Stop projecting your personal likes and dislikes of human anatomy and actually watch and review a movie…

    Seriously.. Half these rotten reviews from critics like yourself seem to have only watched the trailer and the test footage. >_>

  20. I saw Super and Deadpool and think Deadpool is better, funnier, more accessible. Super was good but a bit smug in its edginess.

  21. This review seems incredibly off-base in my opinion. I especially have trouble with this notion you have that it’s somehow less of a smarter, risk-taking satire just because the main lead is attractive (even though the source material itself specifically says Deadpool looks like Ryan Reynolds). If you can somehow see the practicality in having a fat Deadpool doing flips and kicks, let me know. I’d love to hear your explanation.

  22. Man, Luke, you are a hard marker ? Only two & a half stars ? This in my opinion is one of the best efforts in this genre since 2010’s Kick Ass. Ryan Reynolds plays the manic Deadpool with great verve, panache and also sensitivity as per his transformation to limb-growing super hero courtesy of a bout of real world cancer diagnosis. The self-deprecating humour works on many levels. The two scenes in the taxi with a sub-plot story of a mawkish Indian cab driver receiving some love advise from the clearly bipolar character Deadpool, is worth the ticket price alone. Also the reveal of Deadpool to his true love girlfriend at the end of the film is also “laugh-out-loud-funny” and has an Australian tinge that has made me want to see it again, just to hear the audience reaction. The use of breaking down the fourth wall and Deadpool talking directly to the audience is another winner in my opinion. Deadpool stay away from the X-Men, you are way much more fun by yourself and I am now a convert to this comic book character I knew absolutely nothing about. Bring on the next installment and I also look forward to watching director Tim Miller’s next film with interest. 4/5 stars from me, Luke see it again with an audience, Deadpool kicks The Avengers ass big time !!

    1. Start off with the Deadpool comics written by Joe Kelly, they’re the ones that got me hooked, and were so funny I had to put the comic down more than once to laugh myself to tears.

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