Film Under usual circumstance I only produce these enthusiastic post-film reactoposts for productions of the MARVEL cinematic universe but now The X-Men cinematic universe has finally found its feet (give or take a four stick) and with Deadpool being what it is I thought I'd apply some random thoughts to a computer screen. This is not a review, especially since it's going to include spoilers of the kind you really wouldn't want to read before seeing the film. So if you the person I was this morning still planning on waiting for the shiny-disc release for various reasons before intoning "oh fuck it" very loudly and going anyway, keep this bookmarked for six months. Or add it to your Google Calendar as an alert because you will have forgotten I've written by then. Hell, I will have forgotten I've written by then.
As ever my original plan was to see Deadpool at Picturehouse at FACT in Liverpool, but having skipped the release week because of half term, being a 15 certificate and all, then checking on waking this morning I discovered it had been supplanted from a lunchtime screening this week to late afternoon when I'm usually half asleep due to hunger and replaced on the biggest screen by Triple 9 which has wait for the Amazon Prime UK stream in six months written all over it thanks to its 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The only other alternative in central Liverpool is the Odeon and given that pretty much every previous visit to the Odeon has been a rotten shame, I decided that I'd wait for the dvd or blu-ray just as I have for every X-Men related film film The Last Stand (and pretty much every other film released in the past ten years to be fair).
Then after eating my breakfast of porridge whilst watching Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend and before sitting to check my emails, I made the previously mentioned audible expletive and decided to take the train to the Vue cinema at Birkenhead to sample its charms. It was perfectly fine. Tickets cost an old school £4.99 in the afternoon, half the price of the FACT and Odeon. The auditorium was adequate although the seats are amazing close to the screen and the safety lights directly above the first three rows were on all the way through the film which meant the dark scenes had a slightly beige hue. Otherwise it was well projected and the sound was loud enough to make the chairs vibrate. There were about ten of us in the screen including a group of youngsters (!) who talks loudly through the preamble adverts and trailers but sushed for the film apart from the moments when they weren't supposed to.
One of the key elements of the pre-publicity for the Deadpool, the viral marketing, the press interviews all of that, has been about the extent to which the meta-fictional post-modern elements would be reproduced on the big screen with some worrying that it would become blunted too much by the needs of being a film within a much larger franchise and also being inclusive for as wide an audience as possible. Despite not having read Deadpool comic from cover to cover in my life (something which will now change as the graphic novels section of Liverpool Central Library embraces me again), I understood that this is what made the character unique and liking that element a lot in other films because of its theatricality, I was keen to see just how far Reynold et al would stretch things.
As far as they could, I think is the answer, to an extraordinary degree actually given that for all its budget and certification this is a relatively wide release. His revealed level of awareness seems to stretch to knowing that he's a comic book character in a film adaptation within a franchise which has taken a few continuity knocks over the years with enough in-verse jokes about the treatment of the character in the past to be satisfied enough that the spirit of the very first trailer of Deadpool sat in the chair making jokes has been carried into the film. To a large extent much of the heavy lifting is done by the opening "credits" sequence which masterfully points out all of the tropes of the kinds of things you'd expect to find in one of these films. That's about as close as Deadpool gets to having Randy from Scream show up to explain everything while it's happening.
But there is a sense of film pulling back slightly on the more avant-garde elements, this isn't A Cock and Bull Story with superheroes, Deadpool doesn't stop the action in the middle in order to address the audience perhaps through an insert within an insert and it doesn't address within itself the fact that it's presenting yet another origin story perhaps because Kick Ass and its ilk have staked out that territory. Plus it has to modulate itself: too "inside", too many jokes and you risk alienating the large percentage of the audience who haven't read the comics and there was certainly a potential version of this film which would have had Deadpool winking at the comics fans in particular at the expense of the people who'd wandered in because of the superb viral marketing campaign. I think it walked the line beautifully, the post-credit sequence being the perfect example. Wow.
Glancing backwards through his back catalogue about the only two films in which Ryan Reynolds is physically on screen for any length of time that aren't Blade:Trinity I've enjoyed have been Definitely, Maybe and The Proposal and it's entirely possibly it was because of his co-stars. He's not an actor I've particularly understood, and in the case of Fireflies in the Garden, I stopped watching precisely because he was so expressively bad. Perhaps I needed to see more of his earlier work, the Van Wilders, his eighty-one episodes of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place to understand what he was trying to do. But he persists in appearing in films which I'd actively avoid in the past.
Now here he in Deadpool, in a passion project and he's blood brilliant. We all know the story of his disappoint about not being able to do the character justice in the Wolverine film (see above) and I do love that like Russell T Davies in relation to Doctor Who, it took someone with a certain notoriety to turn a much loved pop culture icon finally into the thing it's supposed to be. Initially the expressive line-readings feel a bit Ross, but eventually you realise that he's speaking in comic speech bubbles, that there's an imaginary exclamation mark at the end of most of the dialogue and that he quite specifically dials it down whenever he's out of the mask so it's very much part of Deadpool's act.
Morena Baccarin is extraordinary. It's often said that film actors and actresses aren't what they once were, but it's also forgotten that many of them, especially in the studio system, appeared in many more different types of roles and films across their careers. Katherine Hepburn or Rosalind Russell would appear in three or even four projects; some worked in quality terms, some didn't, but both of those actresses turned out enough classics for them to be well thought of all these years later. Plus there was an even greater amount of product which meant that there were more actors working and even more of those were considered "stars". As films have become more expensive and there are less of them, there are less opportunities for what could be well thought of actors to be given the opportunity to appear in more places as the same actors tend to appear.
Meet Morena Baccarin, who as Deadpool demonstrates has all the makings of a major actor, notably comic actor but tends to spend her time on television playing either frosty villain types or as per Homeland the grieving wife figure. Whilst it's true that's somewhat where she is in Deadpool, the canvas is much larger and for whole sections she's able to demonstrate the comic timing I don't think she's been allowed to since Firefly (though I notice now she was in Spy last year which I'm waiting to see). Her comic instincts here are really special and is more than able to hold screen on the few occasions when Deadpool isn't there and I'd argue is the reason so many of those earlier romcom scenes are so watchable. In an ideal world she would have headline Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman as well has appeared in a string of thrillers and romcoms. As it is I'm now considering returning to Gotham.
Feminist Film Theory
Best break this out separately. For all that said, Morena's is the girlfriend role and is dressed very fashionably in a great many scenes often in leather. But I'd argue that the amount of skin on display is balanced between both of the leads at least in that middle portion with Reynolds looking pumped. Um. In the riotously meta-fictional version of the film, Deadpool himself would possibly have addressed the inevitable damseling of Vanessa, but ultimately she does break out of her captivity, albeit with the help of Deadpool's sword, which is then she ultimately uses to save him, as far that goes when he's practically unkillable. It is notable that Vanessa is herself a mutant in the comics though given everything else happening in the film, that might have been considered overkill. Plus she's a shapeshifter as per Mystique and a power borrower like Rogue so that's another reason why they wouldn't have pursued it.
The Cinematic X-Verse
Remarkably, ignoring Fan4stic in a way I think we must do (despite Deadpool's likeness appearing therein), apart from epilogue to Days of Future Past, this is the first new film set in the rebooted X-verse although that's somewhat complicated by having what amounts to a totally different Colossus walking around, Daniel Cudmore having been replaced after all these years by a figure who's visually and audibly closer to the comics if not necessarily in temperament, a directorial decision which the rights owners went with. Cudmore was apparently offered the role but turned it down because he was going to be dubbed anyway which is understandable given that he's such a busy actor capable of opening films (buuurrrnnnn) but makes a hash of things a bit.
Are we now supposed to assume they're the same bloke? Is he seeing Kitty now? The business is slightly complicated by the fact that the DoFP epilogue is supposed to be set at the same point in the future as the stuff in the past (as per the holographic alarm clock) which makes Deadpool a prequel to that. As a Who fan, I'm all for working for the needs of the story rather than having to deal with creative choices of someone else when creating your own work, and this version of Colossus does at least have a personality but you sort of do feel that if the X-verse is going to be a thing moving forward, a Kevin Feige figure has to step in, even on projects like Deadpool, just as they do with Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-Man and make it cohere now.
Success, My Lord.
What are we to draw from the film's success. For a start it's another example of the audience proving that it's desperate for clever entertainment and is entirely capable of watching something which doesn't head towards the lowest common denominator. As expected said studios have interpreted this success the audience wanting more R-rated comic book films rather than realising that the sex and violence and swearing aren't the only motivation for people turning up, it's the intellectual stimulation amid the sex and violence and swearing. Expect the next Wolverine film to be R-rated. Still don't expect any of the MCU too, with the Netflix material quite happily covering the mature end of that universe with SHIELD as the more mainstream family orientated counterbalance (sort of).
Irrelevant sidebar: that's not true in any way of course and I still wishes that MARVEL would produce the MCU equivalent of The Sarah Jane Adventures of The Clone Wars perhaps starring Squirrel Girl or Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (even if that books in its early days) or ideally Power Pack. A series of half hour live action episodes, twenty-minutes with commercials, produced for Disney XD. They do make all of those cartoons of course, but the difference here would be that there'd be the potential for the show to crossover and reference the rest of that universe and narratively interact with it as per SHIELD and the rest. Logistical nightmare to be sure, but it would be an excellent way of including these younger characters who don't quite fit elsewhere.
Back at the X-verse, the upshot of Deadpool's success is that Fox can happily move forward with projects which don't have X and the name of a particular gender in the title opening up access to the range of characters like Negasonic Teenage Warhead who don't otherwise fit those other kinds of films, at least in a form which fits. The other implication is that they're also unlikely to do a Sony and lease the mutants back to the MCU so they'll be moving on with The Inhumans as the methadone like substitute, which is fine because with the X-Men in the MCU there'd be no particular reason to create a film which features LockJaw. If you'd told me in my mid-teens that by the time I was in my mid-forties that would actually exist, I would not have believed you.
So yes, I enjoyed it to bits and so much so I considered going to see it again straight afterwards, especially at that price but decided to let it marinate during the months wait until the BD release. I've seen a couple of people online argue that without the Deadpool schtick that it's an otherwise quite average comic book film, but just as classic musicals often have weak stories supporting brilliant songs and people watch murder mysteries because they want to enjoy the deductive process even though it's really just the same process of collecting clue and asking secondary characters questions, so Deadpool is about giving a stand-up comic in spandex material to work with, setting up those pretty genric situations but having someone who's aware of just how pretty generic those situations are and poking fun at them.