A Review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool: Just an R-Rated Version of Your Standard Superhero Fare

deadpool

Film: Deadpool
Director: Tim Miller
Primary Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, TJ Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Gina Carano, Stefan Kapicic, Karan Soni, Leslie Uggams, Jed Rees
US Release Date: 12 February 2016

Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a former Special Forces operative who works as a mercenary of sorts in New York City. Wade frequents a bar tended by a man named Weasel (Miller), who is the closest thing he has to a friend. One day at the bar, Wade meets a beautiful prostitute named Vanessa (Baccarin), who he pays to go on a date with him. Before the date is over, the two are in love, and they spend much of the next year fucking each other’s brains out.

Wade proposes to Vanessa, who accepts. He then collapses onto the floor and is soon diagnosed with terminal cancer. Wade is terrified of hurting and losing Vanessa, so when he is approached by a suit (Rees) claiming that his secret government program can cure him, he eventually takes the offer.

Wade arrives at a rather foreboding facility, where he soon learns that the government has no interest in curing his cancer; instead, a private experimental group intend to force him to become a mutant so that they can then take advantage of his super abilities. After meeting a “doctor” who calls himself Ajax (Skrein) and his assistant Angel (Carano), Wade is tortured for weeks on end. Eventually, all the torture triggers his mutation, and he develops healing powers that make him virtually indestructible. He also becomes incredibly ugly, which pisses him off.

After mutating, Wade manages to escape the facility by blowing the place up. After reuniting with Weasel, he fashions a suit and starts using the alias “Deadpool.” He also spends a good deal of time hunting down and killing anyone who is connected to Ajax, and he is determined to find Ajax so that he can force him to improve his appearance.

While he is wreaking havoc all over the place, Deadpool is confronted by two X-Men, Colossus (Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Hildebrand), who attempt to convince him to join them.

Oh, and before it all ends, he also gets to rescue Vanessa.

While Deadpool does manage to provoke a few laughs, it also fails to truly separate itself from the rest of the incredibly overcrowded (and often, quite vanilla) genre to which it belongs. For all its crude and cheeky humor, Tim Miller’s film is just an R-rated version of typical big-budget superhero films rather than an inventive or subversive one. Dick jokes, cursing, and breaking the 4th wall aside, Deadpool is often just more the same, and that’s too bad.

The best thing about Deadpool is Ryan Reynolds (there was a time when I never thought I’d say that about any film, but here we are). Reynolds embraces the role of Deadpool/Wade Wilson with glee, and his energy brings a great deal of life to the film. Since Deadpool is the only character that the writers pay any attention to, Reynolds’s performance, commitment, and comedy are all crucial to the film. And even if Reynold’s personality and charm aren’t enough to make Deadpool particularly impressive, they do help to keep viewers interested and amused.

But even if Reynolds himself had a blast playing Deadpool, the film is only moderately enjoyable. Though fast-paced and somewhat stylish, the film’s action sequences aren’t that different from what viewers have seen before (possibly in movies that are more successful parodies of action and super hero genres) At the same time, even if viewers chuckle and smile numerous times throughout the film, many of the laughs feel quite cheap and any humor they provide quickly dissipates. As fun and as funny as certain moments in the film are, they still don’t come together into a coherent and successful whole.

Reynolds aside, the majority of Deadpool’s cast fail to bring much to the cinematic table. Baccarin is clearly talented, and one gets the sense that she is capable of more than Miller’s film allows her to do. Though I’m not sure I’ll see them, I hope the film’s sequels utilize Vanessa more effectively and develop her more fully. Though Vanessa is a bit of a bright spot in a few scenes, she is also reduced to a pretty typical, frequently invisible, and somewhat flat damsel in distress before the film is over (the fact that she manages to help her fiancé in a fight for all of 2 seconds doesn’t change the way she spends most of Deadpool).

After Deadpool and Vanessa, the rest of Deadpool’s characters are rather thin. There is little depth to any of them, and the actors responsible for portraying them often seem to be somewhere else. After watching the film, I’m pretty sure that Skrein—who plays one of the most uninteresting villains I’ve seen in a while—can’t really act at all. And as angsty mutant Negasonic Teenage Warhead, newcomer Hildebrand may look the part, but she also seems unsure of herself in front of the camera.

While its performances may not be spectacular, they aren’t the real problem with Deadpool either. No, the real problems lie in its script. For all its tongue-in-cheek remarks, violence, nudity, and cursing, Deadpool still provides viewers with a largely formulaic—and rather predictable—origin story (boy meets girl, something happens to boy, boy becomes hero, boy saves girl from another boy). If the writers really wanted to prove their film’s superiority to other, tired super hero films, why didn’t they do things differently? Regardless of how Deadpool has been marketed, there is not much in the film that is innovative or particularly interesting—or, if there is, it is so obscured by the rest of the film, that it doesn’t really matter. The pacing of the film is also an issue, albeit a small one; the frame narrative puts the film’s best sequence at the beginning, and it takes too long for Wade to become Deadpool.

Deadpool may make some half-hearted attempts at mocking big-budget superhero movies, but it still ends up following the same pattern and making many of the same boring decisions that they do. For all its attempts to set itself apart, it’s mostly just talk. Moreover, Deadpool can’t really defend itself by crying “parody” either. Where the film is weak, it’s weak; it’s not calling attention to some of the issues typically found in super hero films—including the obligatory romance and the flat, vaguely European villains—it’s perpetuating them. Deadpool doesn’t turn a critical eye on the comic-book-movie genre; it presents a louder, cruder, and more explicit entry into that genre instead. Deadpool is somewhat engaging and occasionally pretty funny, but that doesn’t make it intelligent, inventive, or all that distinct.

Maybe Deadpool itself knows that it’s not that great, but it also knows that millions of people will pay to see it anyway. Deadpool is right when he says that the X-Men movie timelines are a mess, but the same people who love those films and spend money on them will also spend money on this one. Similarly, while Deadpool’s opening credits may be correct to claim that Tim Miller’s film was produced by “asshats” and that is was directed by “an overpaid tool,” that does nothing to change the fact that it’s going to make them all money and then some (largely because it’s a super hero movie starring Ryan Reynolds as a popular Marvel character). These movies don’t have to try very hard to turn a profit, and Deadpool is proof of that. Hell, even The Green Lantern broke even.

As much as I was underwhelmed by Deadpool, I know that there are plenty of people who will enjoy it. Maybe people who spend a lot of time at Hot Topic or who feel validated when films reference aspects of pop culture that they are even slightly aware of will have a great time with this film. 16-year-old boys who love dick jokes will probably love it too, and maybe those who are already invested in the character will as well, but it’s not really for me. In fact, as I was leaving the theater, I couldn’t help but lament the fact that Deadpool’s script repeatedly takes the easy way out—for all of Deadpool’s talk of “maximum effort,” not much of that effort seems to have gone into the film itself. If only Deadpool had the balls to do something truly different or to be as edgy as it wants people to think it is.

Until Next Time
I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations for Deadpool, so perhaps I’m wrong to be so hard on it. I mean, I did like it more than The Avengers (which I saw on an plane once), but it also reminded me of quite a few of the reasons why I tend to avoid the type of superhero movies that seem to come out every other week (I make an exception for the X-Men films, but they are a hot mess and I know it).

Thank you so much for reading! I’ll be spending a lot of my time after work this week working on scholarship essays, so I may not be watching many films until that’s taken care of. That said, I’d also love to hear what movies you’re looking forward to in the coming weeks! I may be going to see The Witch and Triple 9 this month, but I’m definitely open to suggestions.

Oh, and if you’d be so kind, please take a moment to follow this blog on twitter. Those who are interested can also donate here.

2 thoughts on “A Review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool: Just an R-Rated Version of Your Standard Superhero Fare

  1. I just have to say that I love your blog. I found it while looking for critical reviews of Death Proof, and your analysis was so spot-on, I read your other reviews. I LOVE your review of Deadpool. I recently watched Deadpool and couldn’t understand the hype. “Just an R-Rated Version of Your Standard Superhero Fare” is a perfect description of that movie. Loved reading your review of it.

    Because of you, I’m off to watch Trainspotting, a movie that’s been on my back burner for 20 years.

    Your reviews rock!

    • First of all, I’m so sorry that it took me so long to see and approve this comment!
      Secondly, thank you! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed my Death Proof post and that others feel the same way about Deadpool as I do. But mostly I’m just happy to know that you enjoy my thoughts on movies more generally. I hope that watching Trainspotting went well!

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