J and Søren sit down to discuss Fox’s Deadpool in this dueling review. Below that you’ll find both of their written opinions for a more detailed look at their perspectives.
Deadpool is less a garbage fire than a raging inferno on that garbage island in the Pacific. For a film that prides itself on being unique and different, it sure does look like a million different movies I’ve seen before. Even the jokes repeat themselves. I hope you like endless variations on the line, “This is like [thing] had sex with [other thing] inside of [expletive] [pop culture reference]!”
Please don’t take me for a snob. I like plenty of dumb, awful trash. Everyone does. It just so happens that this wasn’t made for me. The problem is that it was made to be dumb, awful trash. I’m pretty tired of movies doing something dumb and then winking at the camera like, “Hey, I know that was a dumb thing that I did, and isn’t it funny that I know it?”
In Deadpool, we’ve got a character designed to be a sucker punch to mainstream Hollywood superhero fare. Sounds good. That’s a genre long overdue for some roasting. But Deadpool actually goes out of its way to avoid rocking the boat. I mean, people are talking about this thing like it’s gonna shake up the whole industry when it’s functionally identical to every other comic book movie. This is as traditional as superhero narratives get. The fact that the hero in question says stuff like, “I’m no hero,” is the opposite of subversive. It’s called “refusal of the call” and it is literally an ancient storytelling concept. The fact that he doesn’t answer the call is almost interesting, but it’s overwritten by what my old professor liked to call the “Happy Heterosexual Ending.”
Speaking of which: the R-rating is nothing but window dressing. A handful of curses are the only thing separating this film from your garden variety PG-13 action movie. I hope you think it’s really funny for a guy to say swear words, because that’s used in place of an actual joke about half the time. Even the sex is super tame. The closest it comes to genuinely edgy is the brief moment mid-montage when Deadpool gets pegged by his girlfriend. But you know what would’ve been actually edgy, guys? If he had liked it.
“Pansexual” my ass. This is some of the worst straight-dude nice-guy flattery I’ve seen in a long time. It can’t even let Deadpool be a jerk, because he has to “deserve” his girlfriend at the end. If this movie wants to be the anti-superhero movie, that aggressively macho genre, then why not give him a boyfriend instead? You can’t be shocking when you’re trying so desperately to pander to your audience. The big shame is that Deadpool had to give its fans what they wanted, when it had the potential to do exactly the opposite. This is worse than a [expletive] [pop culture reference] having [expletive] sex with a [thing].
Verdict: Movie Fail
I set a a bar so low for Deadpool that it’d be tough for Ant-Man to fit underneath. Every trailer was more cringe-inducing than the last, with only a throwaway joke or two from T.J. Miller sticking out enough to hold my attention. Don’t get me wrong—Ryan Reynolds’ heart and soul was clearly in this thing, but I wasn’t buying it. The only glimmer of hope I saw was in the promotional material, which often garnered a chuckle or two from me.
The issue was with the character himself. Deadpool is the brainchild of notorious art murderer and pouch enthusiast Rob Liefeld, an intentional mockery of DC’s Deathstroke character. For decades afterward, this 4th wall-breaking, self-commentating, horribly irritating red-suited idiot was little more than a string of dumb jokes about chimichangas and penises (and sometimes both at the same time). There’s nothing wrong with that, but based on what little I knew of the comics and animated adaptations of the character, I didn’t see a lot of potential in a feature-length film.
I worried that giving the comic relief center stage would quickly wear itself out, just as it has many times in the past (see Ian Malcolm in The Lost World or Tigger in The Tigger Movie). Turns out I was wrong. Not every joke lands in Deadpool, but Miller and his team made a smart decision to lay the burden of attention on a strong romantic plot between Wade Wilson (Reynolds) and Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When I hit a 20-30 minute stretch mid-film where the jokes ran dry and sparse, I was surprisingly caught up in Wilson’s tragic backstory.
Deadpool also wisely taps into the trend of ultraviolent comedy perhaps popularized by Quentin Tarantino as far back as Pulp Fiction or even Reservoir Dogs. In his wake, movies like 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service have exploited the whiplash effect of absurd violence tainted with upbeat, almost innocent mockery. In that sense, the humor in Deadpool doesn’t just come from its writing but also its choreography: a bullet through the arm or a bad guy stuck like a pig on our hero’s swords are often funnier than any single “joke” in the film.
Deadpool isn’t even spectacular in the narrow field of comic book adaptations—but it’s snappy and fun, and way more than I had ever thought to ask for. Ryan Reynolds anchors the film with a heartfelt performance (finally nailing a superhero—third time’s a charm), Morena Baccarin gives it emotional heft and T.J. Miller wisely tones down his schtick to make a credible right hand man to Wilson. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead both show up to offer some straight-man material for Deadpool to play off of and the chemistry is hard to deny. Some inconsistency in Wade’s transformation into his alter ego aside, I was pleased with Deadpool.
I was even ready to forgive that one chimichanga joke that kicks off the third act. That’s gotta count for something.
Verdict: Movie Win