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Deadpool: Not your daddy’s superhero

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Bit DepthXX
Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds, centre, cues the “heroes walk into battle” music with Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Brianna Hildebrand, and a CGI Colossus. PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX

Widescreen cinema has always had a problem with the concept of the anti-hero, regardless of its source. Truly amoral characters in popular fiction spring hitherto previously unseen hearts of gold when they are incarnated in the movies, their complicated motivations truncated and shoved into the “redeemed sinner” plot trope that’s worked so well and so satisfyingly for large audiences as well as nervous studios.

It’s no surprise then that the well-oiled engine of popular moviemaking is equally numb to the far less nuanced characters it has adapted from the comics, grinding simple and straightforward ideas about unhealthy motivation into more palatable fare. And there is, surprisingly, no shortage of such heroes in the four-colour world of comics.

DC’s parent company, Warner, had no idea what to do with Jonah Hex, a brutally scarred, utterly noxious bounty hunter who nevertheless carried one of the company’s longest running Western series and in 2010, turned his story into a lame supernatural mystery. DC has barely touched its Deadpool equivalent, Lobo, in other media.

Twentieth Century Fox, perhaps buoyed by the success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which mixed wisecracking humour with cosmic backgrounds to significant success, got fearless with its new film version of Deadpool. This isn’t the first time Deadpool has appeared onscreen in a Marvel movie.

The character appeared briefly in the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film which seemed to largely hang on the presence of a small blizzard of inconsequential mutants and Hugh Jackman’s bare chest.

It’s perhaps an indicator of just how serious Ryan Reynolds was about playing Wade Wilson (Deadpool) that he took that small, atrociously mishandled part in 2009, and then soldiered on for years jockeying to get the film made. And now Deadpool is here. And you can’t take your children to see it.

That didn’t stop many from showing up over the weekend at MovieTowne trying to get in and others, accompanied by what one expects are responsible adults, from actually joining an incredibly long line to see the film, which seemed to be selling out at showing after showing.

Your own mileage may vary, depending on how comfortable you are with your child’s familiarity with, human reproduction, truly repulsive body makeup, endless carnage, the f-word, the mf word and the mfffffff words.

The film begins in mid-action, as the titles, written in the dismissive tone of “the merc with a mouth,” thread their wry text through an artfully frozen scenario of vehicular carnage. According to these credits, the film stars God’s Perfect Idiot,  Hot Chick and A British Villain, which it actually does.

From there, Reynolds takes charge of the film with a stream of sarcasm and profanity. Deadpool the film is wildly irresponsible, aggressively violent, completely NSFW, politically incorrect, adult in content yet puerile in scope while nestling a love story at its thorny core, accompanied by Wham’s Careless Whisper, no less.

In the comics, Wilson talks to himself continuously, but there is acceptable no equivalent to the hallucinatory thought balloon in cinema, so Deadpool talks to the audience in an almost continuous and admirably seamless dovetailing of dialogue and monologue, often “breaking the fourth wall” and directly addressing the cinema audience.

This might quickly become annoying in another film, but Deadpool the movie is so utterly self-aware that it seems like the most natural thing in the world.

Reynold’s Wade Wilson is, simultaneously, playing a part in a movie, telling the audience about the part he is playing in the movie, offering exposition without the slightest hint of narrative sleight-of-hand and acknowledging, with virtually every frame, that we all know this is a special-effects driven action movie, so let’s just get on with the good stuff.

It’s the first post-digital effects film to accept the absurdity of hyper-real visual impossibilities and not just use the technology, it absolutely revels in it.

There are six major special effects houses credited with working on the movie, but the biggest trick the film manages to pull off is to acknowledge it’s all fake and contrived and suck us into the madcap ride anyway.


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