Deapool is a legitimately great movie.
And I don’t mean “Great for what it is”, though what the heck does that even mean? Things should be judged for what they are.
And I don’t mean “Great Brain Candy”, a phrase I hate. I really, really, really hate it. Seriously, if you say that, stop saying that. About anything. Brain Candy is a way for apologizing for having fun, but you don’t need to do that. Fun is good. Fun is worthy of praise. Fun is not nutritionally empty.
No, when I say Deadpool is a great movie, I mean it. Wholeheartedly and without reservation.
Deadpool the comic book character is hit or miss for me. Like any character in a shared universe, there will always be different interpretations of the character, and we all have our favorite. I like Deadpool when he’s basically a more violent version of Spider-Man. He’s down on his luck. He likes to make jokes. But he still has things to deal with. He’s still a person with problems.
Unfortunately, a lot of times Deadpool is just reduced to a sadistic wise cracker or a one-dimensional goon who doesn’t shut up. And so many writers abuse the “Fourth Wall” schtick that I’ve long believed it should be put on pause for a while. And so when Deadpool: the movie was announced, I wasn’t terribly excited about it. I was mostly neutral.
Well, I saw it, and I loved it. And here is why:
DEADPOOL IS FUNNY IN THE RIGHT WAY:
Deadpool is a funny movie, a comedy through and through. It never goes too long without making a joke, and it is rife with visual gags, one-liners, and comedic subversion. In the wrong hands, this could easily devolve into a series of unrelated jokes and generic humor, but Deadpool does the unimaginable. It actually bases nearly all its humor off its characters and their interactions.
Few scenes in the film exist to supply a cheap joke. Instead, scenes exist to further the plot and jokes appear throughout. The jokes don’t get in the way of the story, and the story doesn’t get in the way of the jokes. Even better, the humor and plot often go arm-in-arm, complimenting each other in a delicate symbiotic relationship that is much harder than it looks.
Perhaps this is best summarized by the relationship between Wade Wilson and Vanessa, two funny characters who orbit each other in such a way that their relationship is probably one of the most developed love stories I’ve seen in film in recent memory. An extended sex scene between the two is played for laughs but also highlights just how compatible they are.
The fourth wall breaks are simple and subtle, often fulfilling some deeper purpose. The first one is a moment when Deadpool himself acknowledges to the audience how strange it is that he got a movie at all. Another, where the film pauses in the middle of a car accident and Deadpool muses whether he left the oven on, highlights his own indifference to bodily harm, given his virtual invulnerability.
It’s easy to see humor as this simple thing, especially crude humor, but when executed properly, it’s a great topping to a great moment. Deadpool uses humor like whipped cream and candy sprinkles. It makes the dessert all the more delicious without overwhelming it.
DEADPOOL IS THRILLING:
This is a superhero action adventure film, and when it comes to superheroes, I’m on record that saying nothing displeases me more than boring action. A lot of people seem to think action-adventure is just people punching or shooting other people, but great action is like a creative ballet, where every hit matters and the unexpected happens.
So far, Fox has produced a string of adequate superhero films. None of the X-Men movies have been particularly outstanding. The first film was solid for its time, but since then, the X-Men films are mostly forgettable. (Yeah, I know. Opinions vary.)
In Deadpool, action is thoughtful and creative. Funny, yes, but also unique and interesting. A running gag about Deadpool being low an ammo is used to justify some funny, eye-catching action sequences. Deadpool’s showdown with the final bad guy is more than just a couple of thrown punches. Most surprising, we finally get a Colossus battle worth watching as he throws down with a superpowered foe. The fight is more engaging than just about anything in any of the X-Men films up to this point.
NEGASONIC TEENAGE WARHEAD:
A character that nobody really cares about (who I believe is dead in the comics), Negasonic Teenage Warhead shines as a foil for Deadpool’s antics. Her interplay with Deadpool is so natural, I’d pay good money for the two of them on a road trip buddy comedy movie.
It’s easy for the love interest to become a prop in these movies, but Vanessa has great personality. She’s funny when she needs to be, thoughtful when required, and comes across as a real person. Her chemistry with Deadpool is wonderful and enticing.
Even the “damsel in distress” aspect is subverted. She’s kidnapped by the bad guys, but it is only her intervention after Deadpool saves her that allows Deadpool to win. This fits entirely within the nature of their relationship. Vanessa and Wade help each other through their screwed up lives, and it’s nice to see a couple that we want to be together for more reasons than they happen to be the designated love story.
IT HAS A STORY:
Some people, wrongly, have suggested that Deadpool doesn’t have a story. Nonsense. It just doesn’t have a very complicated story. All the elements of a satisfying story are here. A protagonist to root for, an obstacle to his goals, and even a satisfying story and character arc.
This is why I often chafe at the “funny” writer label. There’s this misconception that humor deflates story. Deadpool has a very real story with very real stakes. When the film is serious, it is serious. Wade’s choices when confronted with cancer and what it will do to him and (more importantly) the woman he loves are not played for laughs. There’s a sequence in the middle where jokes are mostly put aside, and we experience the horror and tragedy of what Wade Wilson goes through. It’s a daring move in a film that will mostly be remembered for jokes, but it elevates the experience from a one-dimensional deconstruction of superheroes to a genuinely character driven story.
IT TELLS A CONVENTIONAL STORY WITH A TON OF PERSONALITY:
The word “deconstruction” gets thrown around a lot, but Deadpool isn’t a deconstruction of superheroes. Its hero might be a little rougher around the edges. His world might be more obviously violent and absurd, but it’s just a matter of degrees. At heart, this is a love story and action adventure flick that elevates itself by virtue of having its own sense of style. Whether you like it or not, Deadpool has a unique voice and tone. It stands out.
And, really, personality is something we need more of. The trailers for both Civil War and Age of Apocalypse came on before, and neither struck me as particularly distinct from each other. Age of Apocalypse is more typically melodramatic X-Men fodder from Fox, who has consistently failed to give any of its cast truly engaging personalities. I mean, the big ending reveal of the Apocalypse trailer is that Xavier is going to be bald! Baldness is NOT an exciting character trait.
Everything in Deadpool is brimming with personality. This is the first time, for instance, that we’ve seen a Colossus worth spending time with. Even as he plays the straight man to Deadpool’s antihero antics, Colossus still feels like a genuine character. And Negasonic Teenage Warhead was awesome. (Seriously, road trip movie, Fox. Don’t make me resort to fanfiction.)
Deadpool is a movie that shouldn’t be great, but it is great. It will mostly be remembered as a goofy comedy, but I’ll say it’s a smart, creative, clever film. Deadpool as a character might be hit or miss, but Deadpool the movie is brilliant, butt jokes and all.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,