I don’t have the deep back ground knowledge and appreciation of the mythos behind the current Marvel and DC films. I didn’t grow up with the comics or cartoons, except perhaps the occasional Superman film or Batman outing and before that Wonder Woman.
The only comics I remember reading were the Asterix editions in the school library. But I’m not looking for a crash course either. I believe the films can be appreciated for what they are (or fail to be) without trawling through the histories.
Somehow I have absorbed enough background to get by without trying too hard. It’s not difficult to work out Deadpool is based on Deathstroke from Arrow. I geddit but I didn’t need to know it. And while Deadpool spends a bit of time mocking X Men, he’s firmly in the universe.
Deadpool deliberately sets itself up as hyper-reflexive. It’s aware of what it is and how these films work, and milks them, from the title credits onward. I just about cheered when it go to the writers bit – if you’ve seen the film you’ll know why. It mocks itself, other films, its own actors and it winks at the audience, even when it doesn’t talk directly to them. However, it also takes its self seriously enough that you empathise with both versions of the non-heroic Wade Wilson. It’s a story that wears the writing, and all the tropes of heroic myth stories, for everyone to see from the outset. It’s traditional because it fulfils all the tropes, while simultaneously stomping all over them. People will like this or hate it.
For a violent action-comedy super movie there’s a lot of talking and a lot of relationship stuff. A bit like V for Vendetta. Yes, there is violence, and Deadpool analyses it for us as he goes, which works to both justify it (slightly), while also distancing the audience from the carnage. For a simple revenge flick, the timeline is artistically complex, using the initial violence to grab the audience, while Deadpool takes us back to explains what led to this.
The weakest part of the film was the two X Men Academy types in minor roles, although Explosive Moody Teen did a better job than Big Chrome Dude and the film gets Deadpool to point out why anyway. The audience only wants to see Ryan Reynolds make his wisecracks and kill a few people. Which he does.
It’s either a long way from Berg in Two Guys, A Girl and Pizza Place, or it’s not at all for Reynolds, who seems to be having a good time with both the light and the shadow in this role. He is remarkably close to nailing an Australian accent too.
Morena Baccarin is back to playing the Heart of Gold Girl to an ex-soldier with troubled past and a fondness for answering questions with bullets. This film also makes her a character connected to Batman and Deadpool. Whatevs – Reynolds was Green Lantern too. Chris Evans was The Human Torch and is now Captain America. We geddit, there aren’t enough actors in the world to fill these franchises. And there are too many films, again as Deadpool mentions, what with origin stories, ensembles, and individual hero films.
The soundtrack and film shout outs will be a hit with some parts of the audience, as this was basically an adult and non-alien Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile the reflexivity and fourth wall breaking will either annoy or amuse film studies types – I liked them. And yet I wonder if all this doesn’t end X Men right here, I mean once its own characters start mocking it, is that the end? Unless there is one last Wolverine film featuring Deadpool to make it, I don’t know, rate?
Deadpool raises all sorts of questions about the nature of violence in entertainment, blah blah a la Aristotle on catharsis. It shows us complex, flawed people, and how they cope in bad situations. It talks about the construction of identity, and shows us the power of personality. Through Wilson we see too his fear amid the humour, and how facing his lover is more difficult than killing people.
Then there are questions about whether Hollywood is eating itself with knowing films about film-making, and how far it can be pushed without it being the central motif rather than a layer to a film.
Sure, there are flaws, including the deployment of some (probably) questionable science in extremely unhygienic labs. However, no one was watching for the proper filling out of human experimentation ethics forms were they?
Anywho, it was a violent, naughty and fun ride.