Friday, March 25, 2016

'Deadpool': Reflections on 100 minutes

Deadpool was marketed as a “Valentine’s Day Movie”. It’s not (and I’m not revealing a spoiler here), but that’s not what perturbs me. The simple fact of the matter is, it’s superbly crafted, keeps to a terse, tight plotline, and obviously has a sense of self-amusement that I haven’t come across in any other superhero movie. There’s genuine enjoyment here, the sort of enjoyment only the most spontaneous movie can get out of you. On that count, this movie wins. Big time.

What disturbs me is how easily audiences can confuse genuine self-amusement with genuine wit. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the two are clean different, that a movie which pits its own universe against the fourth wall (and thereby breaking it) isn’t necessarily witty. This confusion is (to my mind) pivotal to the success of Deadpool, and because of this, for better or for worse, it’s being touted as the Most Ironic Superhero Movie Out There. It’s not, and once again, by writing that I’m not revealing a spoiler.

First, the actors. Good god, they were awesome. Ryan Reynolds was born to play this role. He at once embodies the Deadpool those who grew up reading him (and those who didn’t) thought him as. His dialogues are as biting, acerbic, bordering on puns, and quick as the pace of the entire story. That’s always a good sign, after all. Suffice it to say therefore that Reynolds was spot on. There were, admittedly, sequences where I felt his wit seemed to outreach itself, but then again – this is Reynolds! This guy can (and I have seen his other performances) make us WANT to believe he’s overdoing it before going back just on time.

As for the others, I liked Morena Baccarin (Vanessa, girlfriend to Wade Wilson, AKA Deadpool) and Ed Skrein (as Francis Freeman, AKA Ajax). Skrein played out Ajax (Deadpool’s nemesis) the way any super-villain of his sort should: to the point, with no frill, and certainly with no fireworks. At times this was confusing – are we supposed to accept this guy’s a SUPER-villain? – but then again he didn’t need fireworks. He has undergone the same procedure that Wilson and Wolverine have (a mutation program that obviously went wrong for the latter two) and is capable of superhuman powers that, in a villain, don’t need a costume to make them seem more awe-inspiring.

From what I’ve heard and read, there are two main complaints making the rounds with both critics and audiences. One, there was lack of exposition and plot development. Two, the trailer summed the movie up so nicely it summed up the entire story. Of these Complaint Number Two is the most valid, because a perusal of the trailer reveals 1) the story involves a girl, 2) she figures in his decision to go into a medication procedure that turns him into a mutant-superhero, and 3) the entire story’s going to be based on how he gets at the person responsible for his disfigurement. Call me cruel, but the trailer (as my friend Kavindu Indatissa said) “literally gave everything away”.

Complaint Number One is different. True, there was a noticeable lack of character development, and as Brian Tallerico (www.rogerebert.com) implied in his review this helps the film’s attempt at presenting its story in a purposefully shallow way. In terms of plot development many felt there was much to be desired, but I disagree on one point: that this deprived the movie of any vitality. Why? Because unlike most superhero movies, this one doesn’t play on shades of grey (which Spiderman, Batman, heck even Superman does!) but instead sustains a black/white dichotomy from beginning to end. Because of this the plot needed to be terse, and the characters needed to be at their most outward selves.

Which brings me to another issue: all that blood and gore. I found it a little too much, even for a superhero like Deadpool, but for the life of me I can’t really find fault with this. I doubt this has as many scenes of dismemberment, disembowelment, and what-not as, say, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, but even though I felt (and feel) that Deadpool almost tried to imitate Tarantino’s bizarre blood-and-gore fest I didn’t feel perturbed by it. Wade Wilson is Wade Wilson, and to consider his actions as the result of his insanity (after being mutilated and transformed) is to miss the point: Deadpool isn’t the Joker. He lives, exists, and plans out his daily schedule with an end in sight, and whether or not the way he moves about is at odds with how the X Men (curiously only two of them are featured with our hero) want him to “behave” is irrelevant. He is amused at his own motives and how he sets about realising them. And we are as amused as he is.

This is just one way of looking at the movie, I admit. But that’s exactly how most viewers and audience members, whose reviews I’ve read or with whom I’ve talked, tend to analyse the story: in terms of its deliberate conceit, shallowness, and playfulness. Given the fact that we saw a darker, less comic Deadpool in X Men Origins: Wolverine (also played by Reynolds), we naturally felt disjuncture seeing Wade Wilson act the way he does in here. He is not apologetic but tries to be, he seems insane but is not, and he is in love in the most curiously curious way possible (and of course, he likes “Wham!”).

I liked the movie. I am not a superhero film fan but Deadpool won me, if at all because the main criticism made about it was misconceived and misconstrued in more ways than one. I mentioned at the beginning that audiences confuse self-amusement for wit. Deadpool wasn’t about wit. He was about self-amusement. But I couldn’t have cared less. He was fun, the story was fun, heck even Ajax was fun!

I must admit, however: that last scene was probably the reason why the whole story ended up as a Valentine’s Day Movie. And yes, it was awesome. Just the right kind of ending.