Skip to main content

A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That's like, sixteen walls.

Deadpool
(2016)

Yeah, Deadpool’s okay. Probably fantastic if you’re caught ‘midst the throes of adolescence. Which is pretty much what I expected; a relentless stream of masturbation and penetration gags does not a movie – let alone a great movie – make. The occasional spurt would have been more than sufficient.


Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Warnick were clearly aware of this problem, such that they disciplined themselves and diligently incorporated a bona fide plot. But Deadpool/Wade Wilson’s fixation on recovering his looks so he can, in turn, recover his lost love is tepid at best. And yet. Deadpool delivers sufficient genuinely funny gags (most of the good ones are very meta-) and just about enough investment in the proceedings to keep its gnarly head above water.


I can only be faintly positive about the picture though, since it’s so clearly aimed at a completely different age group to my increasingly antiquated one. It has that much in common with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Which isn’t to say it’s rubbish, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but they do both occupy a relentlessly hyper, juvenile, sugar-rush self-regard that far exceeds their actual effectiveness. Mostly, Deadpool doesn’t even pretend it isn’t engaging in playground antics of one-upmanship and outgrossing itself. This is especially so when Wade and Weasel (TJ Miller, not to be confused with director Tim Miller) exchange unpleasantries on how unattractive the former’s new visage is. And they still missed the most obvious one, that he looks a bit like a latter-day Nick Nolte.


Reynolds obviously is Deadpool, laying to rest a largely justified reputation as box office poison. If I were studio execs, though, I wouldn’t rush out and offer him every high profile part under the sun just yet; his newfound bankability may yet prove about as enduring as Daniel Craig’s star status in non-Bond roles. That said, this is a character(s) one could easily imagine Jim Carrey essaying in decades past, and Reynolds gamely delivers a slew of self-mocking quips, from referencing the disastrous Green Lantern, to his roundly reviled X-Men Origins Deadpool incarnation via a “Deadpool sewn-up mouth” action figure, to citing Ryan Reynolds getting by on minimal acting talent thanks to his pretty face.


Winning too are the biting-the-hand-that-feeds-it swipes at the Fox Marvel-verse, be it confusing James McAvoy with Patrick Stewart, repeated jabs at Hugh Jackman’s all-consuming presence, or barbs concerning Deadpool’s cheapness (The X-Men mansion, occupied as it is by only two mutants). However, this kind of thing could have gone further.


In the opening, extended car chase, Deadpool leaps from a bridge, but we don’t see him land on/in the villains’ car; instead, we cut to the merc with the mouth in transit. Missing is the money shot, one that would have been essential to a Bryan Singer main event X-sequel, and the failure to take the piss out of such limitations suggests Miller et al aren’t quite as no-holds-barred as they’d like us to believe. They may even be a little sensitive. While much of the action is decently-choreographed, it isn’t especially inspired; as with the pervasive nob gags, it’s all about getting to that severed head or pixelated bullet hole in a stray limb (Miller’s background is an effects artist). The sort of thing we’ve seen many times before, and just as overly CGI-assisted. Only not in a Marvel movie. Actually, maybe in the name-checked Blade.


Ironically, the most consistently engrossing part of the picture is largely dramatic; the flashbacks detailing Wade undergoing the mutant gene-prodding process. Of course, the least engrossing part (Wade’s relationship with Monica Baccarin’s Vanessa) is also largely dramatic. There’s no recourse to asides during these sequences, so rather than undercutting how formulaic they are, they again emphasise that the much vaunted anarchy (break that fourth wall, Ryan!) only goes so far.


Likewise, the villains (Transporter Unloaded star Ed Skrein and mixed martial artist and one-time Soderbergh muse Gina Carano, who here extends her range with some intense prop acting courtesy of much-chewed matches) are as generic as they come. Despite sporting an authentically comics-liveried X-Men costume, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) makes little impression (you can only get away with so many Sinead O’Connor gags) but I liked Stefan Kapičić’s genteel and courteous Colossus (he even pauses mid-fight, inviting Carano’s Angel Dust to cover up her wardrobe slippage). The actual CGI for Colossus leaves something to be desired, but Kapičić’s performance more than compensates.


The ideal length for a picture of this ilk is about 90 minutes; short, snappy, leaving you wanting more. Instead, Deadpool manages to over-indulge, despite is modest trappings. That’s likely because it’s a martyr to excess, enamoured of its playground freehand to offend at the expense of any form of restraint. For all it’s revelry in distinguishing itself from its peers, I found the picture stopping yet again for more repetitively sourced Deadpool banter more wearying than when it heads into traditional set piece climax territory. You can see both coming a mile off, but straining so hard to be edgy quickly loses its lustre.


One area where the movie’s success appears to be unqualified, though: spelling the death knell for Bryan Singer’s over-reaching and under-nourished grip on the X-Men franchise. With it, Fox’s self-prescribed fairy tales detailing the ingredients for a hit comic book movie have instantaneously crumbled to dust. We’re now promised an R-rated Wolverine 3, which is rather missing the point that Deadpool has been a hit because it’s doing something different, but the pertinent takeaway may filter through eventually. Fox greenlit the movie only after the Internet went apeshit for a leaked test reel, which had been sitting on a shelf for two years. Usually I’d mock such online adulation as hyperbole, but Deadpool’s staggering success speaks for itself. So, like pretty much everyone else, I was dramatically wrong in my estimation of the appetite for the movie. Although, not so much in terms of its quality. But yeah, Deadpool’s okay.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Angry man is unsecure.

Hulk (2003)
(SPOILERS) I’m not a Hulk apologist. I unreservedly consider it one of the superior superhero adaptations, admittedly more for the visual acumen Ang Lee brings to the material than James Schamus, Michael France and John Turman’s screenplay. But even then, if the movie gets bogged down in unnecessarily overwrought father-son origins and dynamic, overlaid on a perfectly good and straightforward core story (one might suggest it was change for the sake of change), once those alterations are in place, much of the follow through, and the paralleling of wayward parents and upright children, or vice versa, translates effectively to the screen, even if the realisation of the big green fella is somewhat variable.

I do… very competitive ice dancing.

Justice League (2017)
(SPOILERS) Superheroes, and superhero movies, trade in hyperbole, so it shouldn’t be surprising that DC’s two releases this year have been responded to in like, only each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Wonder Woman was insanely over-praised in the rush to fete a female superhero finally leading a movie, crushing all nuanced criticism in its wake. Justice League, meanwhile, has been lambasted on the basis that it’s more of the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only worse – to the extent there have been calls for a Zach Snyder Director’s Cut, which is quite an extent, as extents go – as it’s guilty of being an unholy clash of styles, grimdark Zach scowling in one corner and quip-happy Joss pirouetting in the other. And yes, the movie is consequently a mess, but it’s a relatively painless mess, with the sense to get in and get out again before the viewer has enough time to assess the full extent of the damage.

That be what we call scringe stone, sir.

Doctor Who The Ribos Operation (1978)
Season 16 is my favourite season, so I’m inevitably of the view that it gets a bad rap (or a just plain neglected one), is underrated and generally unappreciated. Of its six stories, though, The Ribos Operation is probably the one, on balance, that receives the most accolades (on some days, it’s The Pirate Planet; many moons ago, back when DWAS was actually a thing of some relevance, The Stones of Blood won their season poll; there are also those who, rightly, extol the virtues of The Androids of Tara). I’m fully behind that, although truthfully, I don’t think there’s an awful lot between the first four stories. Why, I even have great affection for the finale. It’s only “KROLL! KROLL! KROLL! KROLL!” that comes up a bit short, which no doubt makes me a no good dryfoot, but there you are. If that Robert Holmes script is on the threadbare side, through little fault of his own, The Ribos Operation is contrastingly one of his very best, a hugely satisfyi…

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

Sometimes when you take people away, they don't come back.

The Ward (2010)
(SPOILERS) I’d felt no particular compunction to rush out and see The Ward (or rent it), partly down to the underwhelming reviews, but mostly because John Carpenter’s last few films had been so disappointing, and I doubted a decade away from the big screen would rejuvenate someone who’d rather play computer games than call the shots. Perhaps inevitably then, now I have finally given it a look, it’s a case of low expectations being at least surpassed. The Ward isn’t very good, but it isn’t outright bad either.

While it seems obvious in retrospect, I failed to guess the twist before it was revealed, probably because I was still expecting a supernatural element to be realised, it being a Carpenter movie. But then, this doesn’t feel very much like a Carpenter movie. It doesn’t have a Carpenter score (Mark Killian) or screenplay (Michael and Shawn Rasmussen) and it doesn’t have Gary B Kibbe as lenser (Yaron Orbach). I suspect the latter explains why it’s a much more professi…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

You diabolical mastermind, you.

The Avengers Season 4 Ranked – Worst to Best
Season Four is generally held up as the pinnacle of The Avengers, and it certainly maintains the greatest level of consistency in the run. Nevertheless, as I noted a few reviews back, one viewer’s classic is another’s ho-hum with this show, perhaps because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of exhaustive fandom to establish any level of consensus as some series. There follows my Worst to Best ranking of the season, told mostly in pictures. The index for full episode reviews can be found here.