Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Deadpool


If you're a fan of the Deadpool comic books, this film is probably akin to a love letter. If you're not really aware of the original comics but can easily get on board with the film's style and sense of humour, this is probably a pretty good time at the movies. But for everyone else this is a bland, tedious and monotonous attempt to be different and not much else. Despite my overwhelming anticipation for this film, I found very little to like in Deadpool. Now I need to get something clear from the offset; I don't think Deadpool is a bad film. Do I think it's a good one, though? No. This is probably starting to sound muddled, hear me out. I think your appreciation of Deadpool as a film relies entirely on your appreciation of Deadpool as a character. So, in the film Deadpool, did I like Deadpool as a character? Absolutely not. The thing is, I can see why so many people have loved this movie. I really don't blame people for having a blast with this film, but when the character of Deadpool becomes someone you begin to detest by the second act, and when you can't get on board with the film's humour, Deadpool is not a great experience.

Frustratingly, Deadpool's original story isn't all that different when you strip away the crude humour and fourth-wall breaking. Wade Wilson, a former special forces operative, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, but his loving and devoted fiance remains by his side. However, he gives in to temptation and undergoes an experimental procedure to cure himself, which is successful but leaves him horribly disfigured. Later on, his fiance is kidnapped by the man who operated on him so he sets out to enact revenge and win her back. It's all very familiar, really. Granted, it's shrouded in offensive jokes (that don't actually succeed in being offensive) and repeated fourth-wall breaking (that isn't used as refreshingly as it should be), but it's still familiar. Deadpool as a film feels off very early on. The entire first half of the film devotes its attention to two separate time zones, but jumps between them so rapidly and suddenly that the whole thing feels jarring. The two sides (one pre-procedure and one post-procedure) are so tonally different that once you begin feeling accustomed to one you're flung violently into the other and it's almost impossible to ever feel as if you're watching a feature film; the first half is so structurally episodic that it could be a sitcom. Just, you know, not a very funny one.

Once the film feels confident enough to stay in one place for longer than fifteen minutes, the actual story of Deadpool starts to progress. The issue is that it's just as bland and uninspired as almost everything else Marvel have put out in the last four years. I say almost because the latest X-Men film was something quite special indeed, and Guardians of the Galaxy was pretty solid fun, but besides these two films Marvel haven't put out an actively good feature since The Avengers back in 2012. Once things get moving, we follow Deadpool through his plan to get his fiance back, but it just isn't an exciting story. Things are complicated further by the fact that the film is woefully predictable in almost every way: we can guess the ending simply by reading a Wikipedia premise, and it even reaches the stage where a prolonged speech by a side character in the final act ends in exactly the way you expect it to. Granted, not many superhero films transition into their credits to the sound of George Michael's 'Careless Whisper', but it's all a case of too little too late, really. Adding to the whole "too late" qualm, the traditional post-credits scene here is possibly the film's most inspired moment, but it still isn't enough to save the preceding two hours.

Perhaps Deadpool's most frustrating element, though, is its humour. The worst thing about Deadpool, for me, is that it knows exactly what audience its aiming at, and it knows full well that they will love it. This comes across in the film, so those left behind by the overtly crude humour are forced to withstand a smug screenplay that does little to ease things through. It's respectable how determined Deadpool is to please its niche audience, but that doesn't make it any more enjoyable for those un-amused by its antics. A lot of the film's humour comes from Deadpool shouting insults and slurs at people he is killing and, fair enough, I chuckled the first few times, but by the twenty-eighth scene and the thirty-fifth insult it just isn't funny any more. The film also falls into the trap of putting its best moments in the trailers: the two moments that made me laugh the hardest (and, by that, I mean that I sort of chuckled) are both present in the film's now famous marketing scheme. Every now and then the film makes a dig at Marvel as a company or the film industry as a whole, and these all make for some pretty good one-liners (the confusing X-Men time stream being a particular highlight), but before the minute is up we're back to the film's tongue in cheek humour, and all hope is lost again.

By this stage, all that Deadpool has left to redeem it is its fourth-wall breaking. In all honesty, it's the most exciting aspect of the film, and it's generally handled pretty well. It's introduced by the titular character flicking a piece of gum onto the screen, and it immediately demonstrates that, at least tonally, this is unlike anything Marvel have given us before. That said, even the fourth-wall breaking feels like a missed opportunity. What the film does with it, it does well, but it could have used it for so much more than Deadpool suddenly asking us, mid-action scene, whether he left the stove on, or getting excited by a fourth-wall break within a fourth-wall break. "That's like, sixteen walls!" he says excitedly, I'm not sure it works quite like that. Deadpool is, unfortunately, little more than a conventional original story trapped inside scattershot humour and mediocre attempts of fourth-wall breaking, surrounded further by a violent action style not particularly dissimilar to the likes of Kick-Ass. It sets itself up to be this enormous breath of fresh air, but if this is any kind of exhale, it's probably more akin to an elongated and weary sigh. There was so much potential here, and Reynolds himself is an engaging on-screen presence for the most part, but Deadpool just doesn't come together.

To Summarise: While admittedly unique in some areas, infrequent bursts of originality aren't enough to save Deadpool from its bland narrative, scattershot pacing and wildly uneven humour.

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