Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Deadpool" (2016)

Starring Ryan Reynolds, TJ Miller and Morena Baccarin
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Directed by Tim Miller
Rated R — Violence, language, sex/nudity
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Trailer (Red Band)

Wade Wilson ( Ryan Reynolds) is a fast-talking mercenary who likes to take on jobs where he can jerk people around. He's got a bit of a reputation for helping out underdogs and those he feels deserve help, though he'll angrily refute that if you ask him. After meeting and falling in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) at his friend Weasel's (TJ Miller) bar, Wade discovers he's got cancer and doesn't have long to live.

In comes a recruiter (Jed Rees) for what Wade is told is a super-secret superhero development project. But what Wade discovers too late is that he's actually just signed himself up to become a guinea pig for a mutant named Ajax (Ed Skrein) who is trying to create the ultimate super-soldiers to be sold into slavery to the highest bidder. When Ajax's experiments leave Wade able to heal from almost any wound, but hideously disabled, he breaks free and spends the next year trying to track down Ajax and get revenge for what was done to him.

All the while, Wade, now going by the name Deadpool, is hounded by Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic) who wants to recruit Wade into the X-Men. And Wade still has that nagging issue of being in love with Vanessa, who also hasn't gotten over Wade. He just can't stand to visit her while he's still a hideous freak. Not until he's gotten Ajax to reverse whatever was done to him... at whatever the cost.

"Deadpool" took a long and interesting road to the big screen, from aborted attempts in the early 2000s to the 2009 dumpster-fire that was "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and several appearances in animation. And now that it's finally here, audiences are eating it up... but does that mean it's really making an impression?

In just a couple weekends, "Deadpool" has racked up an impressive box office total nearing $500 million, basically more than any of the other previous X-Men movies. I myself found the film humorous and competently made, but other than it's R-rated, ribald humor, there's nothing particularly special or memorable about it. Most of the rapid-fire jokes are just pop culture references — some more clever than others, for sure. When Colossus says he wants Deadpool to meet with Professor X, Deadpool quips, "Stewart or McAvoy?" And while this is funny, the best part about it is really Reynolds' enthusiastic delivery.

And that's basically the problem with the film as a whole: It's just a vehicle for Reynolds to poke fun at other superhero movies, even his own. In terms of story, the plot, such as it is, is thinly-drawn even by origin-story standards. There is absolutely no character development for basically anyone involved here, especially Colossus or for his sidekick, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who only exist in the narrative as plot devices and more fodder for Deadpool's wit. Some of the film's funniest lines involve Wade's blind, elderly, IKEA-obsessed roommate, played by Leslie Uggams.

On the villain front, we get Ajax, whose powers and motivations are about as basic as they get. Interestingly, Ajax primarily brings everything down upon himself simply because he's A) an unmitigated asshole and B) he and Wade just flat-out hate each other. His henchwoman, Angel Dust, played by the ever-lovely Gina Carano, barely speaks a word but gets one hell of a fight sequence with Colossus at the film's climax. There's literally nothing else for her character; she's there to look pretty and fight Colossus.

Morena Baccarin fares well enough as Vanessa, Deadpool's ex and damsel in distress (though she manages to take care of herself well enough in the fight), but aside from having great chemistry with Reynolds enough to sell the audience on their relationship we also barely know anything about her, either.

"Deadpool" is a series of admittedly cool action sequences strung together with the barest of plots and more wisecracking than any of the Ninja Turtles could ever hope to pull off. The whole thing is a showcase for Reynolds to fool around, and while that works and it's entertaining... that's really all it is. And perhaps that's all it needs to be. Fox made a $60 million gamble that paid off, but now the expectations have to be upped for the sequel. And I don't think that we need to sacrifice any of the humor or silliness by embracing smarter plotting or deeper characterization.

Until then, though, "Deadpool" is a lot of fun. You should give it a shot.