Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Finest Redemption Story in Superhero Movies

My first attempt at watching Deadpool did not go so well. It had nothing to do with the movie; that, without going into too much detail too early, was really quite good. No, it was the case of grinding stomach cramps that started about halfway through the film, followed by my car not starting after the movie, capped off with nearly a week of gastroenteritis that put a damper on the evening. So I did all of you, my faithful readers, a favour and went to see it again. In IMAX. I swear, the things I do for you lot...

I've been aware of Deadpool for a very long time. I've seen his start as just another terrible Rob Liefeld creation, be-pouched and violent with a name made of two gritty words, generic as all hell in his fight against gritty, be-pouched and hyperviolent sort-of anti-hero Cable, another terrible Rob Liefeld creation. But I've seen him grow in the hands of more creative writers and artists into something different, something almost beautiful, one of those tragedies that just can't stop laughing because if he does, it'll hurt too much to go on. His finest redemption came with that of Cable, his brother-in-90s-badness, in the simply-titled Cable & Deadpool, and it's one of the best series I've ever read. Since then, he's been on a meteoric rise to pop culture fame, and now he's every-goddamn-where. Like it or not, Wade Wilson has struck gold.

But how was the movie? The FOX X-Films have been varying in quality, with the two decent-to-good and one poor X-Men, one terrible and one much better Wolverine, and the First Class trilogy, 2/3 complete with the excellent First Class and quite good Days of Future Past, and the concluding X-Men: Apocalypse on the way. Deadpool is, quite frankly, the best of all of them, possibly even the one with Apocalypse. It's on par with the better Marvel Studios films, with a faithfulness and wit that no one saw coming.
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Let's get a few things out of the way (as well as a spoiler warning): this is a film that more than earns its R rating. The language is crass. There's nudity, female as well as... well, Deadpool wang. Floppy, scarred Deadpool wang. The violence is visceral, detailed, and astoundingly gratuitous. And all of it grabs you and does not let go and shouts in your face “THIS IS NECESSARY.”

To release a family-friendly cut of this film would more than likely render it perhaps half an hour long. But every decapitated body part, every glimpse of flesh, every foul word serves a purpose to paint a picture of the world Deadpool inhabits and the circles he moves in,  places which were heretofore unexplored in the X-Men films.And speaking of the X-Men, there's another character with a true redemption here: Colossus, last seen as the hunky member of a boy-band covered in chrome paint, has been fixed. 

He's now ENORMOUS, not just above average tall and muscular; the chrome has been toned down; and his attitude matches what it should have always been: a farmboy raised under Communism who is now living in America with a supportive family unit. He's simultaneously the ultimate cuddly big brother (no pun intended), human wrecking ball, and source of some of the movie's best laughs -- not at his own expense, but at his optimistic reactions to the situations he finds himself in as well as the faith he shows in Deadpool.
I dare you not to love this guy.
Deadpool himself is a gem. He's portrayed with just the right amount of weird (not the lol-so-random that some writers saddle him with) and he moves perfectly. Agile, fast, accurate, he's a real menace on the field, elevated from minor threat to nigh-on unstoppable force by his regenerative powers, taking only a moment to stick his finger through a bullet hole in his arm and swear at the guy that shot him. Ryan Reynolds really gets the character, and I feel happy for him about it. He deserves this. He's been working a hell of a long time to make this happen, and he's redeemed both himself and the character from its dreadful portrayal in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is alluded to several times in the film (including showing the action figure, for which I've supplied a visual aid). This is nearly everything we wanted from Deadpool on-screen, and certainly far more than we ever expected to get considering a) the last time he was on-screen and b) it's not a Marvel Studios film.
Yep. That's the one in the movie, and I have one.
And speaking of that, it's really a shame that it's not, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was some form of crossover being set up. The final battle does appear to take place on a decommissioned helicarrier that looks like it's straight out of SHIELD's fleet. Reynolds's Deadpool is now added to the Downey Jr. Stark/Jackman Wolverine teamup I dearly want to see.

The film wasn't perfect, though; some pretty hefty details from Deadpool's origin were missing. The organization that performed the experiments on him didn't seem to be Weapon X, but they didn't explicitly name it anything else, so it still could be; Vanessa wasn't a mutant or a mercenary, and she was a much more morally sound character than she was in the comics; Colossus's trainee X-student, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, looks nothing like she does in the comics and seems to have Cannonball's power; and most damning of all, Deadpool's inner monologue does not speak in little yellow boxes.

But all in all, this is a mark in the win category, not only for how good it was, but how much money it's made. As I write this, I think it's past the 500 million mark, and it's cleared the record for highest-grossing R rated film ever. The viral marketing campaign for it was genius, allowing Reynolds to ham it up in-character in all manner of situations not in any way related to the film, just for us to get a taste of his performance and assure us that the movie did, indeed, know what it were doing.

The trailer cuts were smart, too. The “pity the guy that pressures her into prom sex”line is there, but it makes perfect sense in context, but Vanessa's line about not being a damsel in distress is gone from the final cut.

If you haven't seen it, and you've survived the cascade of spoilers, please go see it. It's great fun, as long as you're not easily offended. And Ryan Reynolds, of all people, deserves this. This was the man's last chance; he'd already screwed up twice in comic films before the great Marvel Studios flood that started with Iron Man. If he messed up again, he was done. But he didn't.

He deserves this film, and so do you.

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