Thursday, February 11, 2016

DEADPOOL: Marvel’s Most Meta & Most Hilarious Movie

Opening today at a multiplex near you:

DEADPOOL (Dir. An Overpaid Tool, 2016)

In its first few minutes, in which we swirl around the chaotic imagery of a frozen bridge-set action scene involving a car crash, Marvel’s latest superhero movie declares its intentions by way of an ultra satirical take on the standard self-serious opening credit sequence that we’ve all been through a billion times.

That is, the shiny text that glides through the freeze-framed craziness doesn’t relay any actual names, just snarky labels such as that the film stars “God’s Perfect Idiot,” “A Hot Chick,” “A British Villain,” “A CGI Character,” “A Moody Teen,” was “Produced by: Asshats,” and most amusingly “Written By: The Real Heroes Here.”

Now, I must confess that I am fairly comics illiterate and had not heard of the Deadpool character, who I understand is a super anti-hero (or a anti-superhero?), until rather recently. This is despite the fact that the character, or his alter ego Wade Wilson, appeared in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, also played by Ryan Reynolds.

But Reynolds himself has stressed that the character in WOLVERINE is “not the Deadpool we are representing in this film, in any way shape or form.” So DEADPOOL, based on the Marvel comics character that first appeared in the early ‘90s, is its own origin story told by its wisecracking, fourth wall breaking protagonist, making it the most meta Marvel movie yet.

Reynold’s Deadpool, while still caught up in the mayhem on the bridge from the opening scene, stops time to tell us that his tale starts off as “love story.”

In flashbacks we see Wade, a Special Forces operative turned mercenary, fall for Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), a prostitute with a heart of gold, but, after some racy sex scene snippets, a diagnosis that he has terminal cancer gets in the way of their relationship’s development. Wade leaves Vanessa to seek treatment, and takes part in an questionable experiment that turns out to be a series of torture techniques conducted by our “British Villain,” Ajax/Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein), and his assistant Angel Dust (Gina Carano).

Wade goes through this ordeal thinking that it will turn him into a superhero – “Please don't make the super-suit green... or animated!” – but it leaves him deformed and mutated. However, he does have the power of regeneration so there’s that.

With the help of his best friend bartender, Weasel (T.J. Miller), and a montage, Wade names himself after a bar bet on his life, suits up as a masked crime-fighting vigilante, and sets his sights on hunting down Ajax and getting him to cure his hideous condition that has rendered him, in his words, a “butter face” (you know, “A girl with an exceptionally hot body but an exceptionally ugly face. ‘Everything but-her-face is attractive.’” – Urban Dictionary). Not sure I really had to quote that definition, but there you have it.

Joining Wade/Deadpool’s fight is X-Men mutant Collosus (Stefan Kapicic), and a new character, (well, new to me) Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who are funny enough, but don’t really add a lot to the proceedings.

The hard R-rated DEADPOOL is more than a laugh-a-minute affair; it’s more like a plethora o’ laughs-a-minute from the opening shot to the final stinger (seriously, stay to the bitter end).
Screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese really give meta-joke meisters Phil Lord and Chris Miller (THE LEGO MOVIE, the 21 JUMP STREET movie series, The Last Man on Earth) a run for their money here.

Reynolds, who’s one of the film’s producers, redeems himself for the superhero fail that was GREEN LANTERN, with his displays of quick-on-the-draw wit, and martial arts skills that he has obviously done some deep training to attain. He just may have put in the greatest comic lead man performance in a superhero movie ever (it might be a tie with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man though).

First-time director Tim Miller, who hails from an animation/visual effects background (SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD and various video games), provides exciting bursts of full blown filmmaking here. It’s a damn fine debut for somebody who’s credited as “some douche” and “an overpaid tool” in the aforementioned credits.

The superhero origin story formula is still present, but it’s re-invigorated by the ultra irreverent handling of the usual elements here. Film fans are most likely aware of the “Honest Trailers” that the site Screen Junkies has produced, in which a beloved movie gets a factual dressing down. DEADPOOL functions as its own Honest Trailer that takes itself apart. Such moments like when Reynold’s Deadpool notes inside of a flashback: “Fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break - that's like 16 walls!” attest to that.

Marvel’s superhero movies are essentially comedies, but the foul-mouthed, crude, raunchy, and violent as f*** DEADPOOL takes the self awareness factor to the next level. It’s the most hilarious Marvel movie yet, even though it’s not really a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (it's a Marvel property but it isn’t owned by Disney, so it’s part of Fox’s X-Men universe), and a welcome breather from franchise fatique. Nice to finally meet you, Deadpool. Here’s hoping you don’t wear out your winning welcome.

More later...

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