So DMX’s entire rap career really was a joke
by Thom Yee
For most of their published lives in North America, comicbooks have been seen as a medium primarily for kids, but for the last 15-20 years, the truth is that comicbooks haven’t really been for anyone. At first, comicbooks were mostly bought for children, tossed around and then thrown away, but after the Marvel explosion of the ‘60s, they expanded their reach to a wider audience, affected and were affected by the [counter] cultures of the times, and would even become collector’s items as the writers and artists that created them wrote stories of increasing sophistication. That trend towards sophistication kept going, however, as the stories became more realistic, more grim and gritty as they stopped being written for kids, and in doing so they lost their chance to pick up a generation of young new readers, and today it’s pretty much just the freaks that have continued to read comicbooks into their adulthoods (like me) that still buy them.
Or maybe everyone’s just been waiting for the movie.
In stark contrast to the state of the comicbook industry, superhero movies are dominant at the Hollywood box office, with five of the top ten highest grossing North American movies of all time being Batman or Avengers-related, and two of this year’s most anticipated and expected-to-be biggest releases are the upcoming Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War, both movies heavily steeped in the lore of their individual cinematic universes. Both movies are also, basically, about superheroes fighting each other, the most adolescent of fanboy (and girl) power fantasies no matter how much their producers try to dress them up with realistic motivations and mature storytelling. The fact that movies about superheroes fighting each other are being made verges on the astonishing, and it really goes to show how much the movie-going audience has embraced the genre in its onscreen form.
And that’s how a movie like Deadpool gets made.
There was a time when releasing an R-rated superhero movie would be like releasing an R-rated Little Mermaid or Aladdin. Sure, the perverts might go nuts over seeing a mature take on Disney Princesses Ariel and Jasmine, but if kids can’t see them, then who are these movies for? Well, with a $132 million opening weekend, it turns out Deadpool is for everyone. No X-Men movie (the character’s parent franchise) has made that much in an opening weekend, no Wolverine movie (where the character first appeared on screen) has made anywhere near that much in an opening weekend, there’s never even been another 20th Century Fox movie (the movie studio that owns the rights to the character) that’s made that much in an opening weekend. All of which begs the question did we really need to wait for this current superhero movie renaissance for a Deadpool movie to be made or were people just waiting for superhero movies with d*ck and fart jokes?
What’s it about?
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a former special forces operative, has built himself a rich full life in New York City as a mercenary. He kills people for money, he has a girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), they have lots of different kinds of sex. That’s pretty much it (and what more could anyone ask for?), but when he contracts cancer of the liver and lungs and prostate and brain, he agrees to an experimental procedure that will not only cure him but make him a superhero. The torturous and cruel procedure, carried out by the villainous Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his henchman Angel Dust (Gina Carano), is successful in curing his cancer and granting him a superhuman healing factor that makes him virtually unkillable, but when his benefactors’ plans to instead make him a superslave are revealed, he rebels against his would-be captors, makes himself a red supersuit (to hide all the blood stains), and is now on the hunt for revenge on Ajax and Angel Dust. Also, the experiment made him f*cked-up-looking, so he can’t go back to his girlfriend, so he’s mad about that too. Also, he gets help from some of the X-Men, but none of the ones whose actor’s salaries would cost too much.
Deadpool was created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza all the way back in the early ‘90s, making his first appearance in The New Mutants (a comicbook about young mutants being trained as the next generation of X-Men) in 1991 as a villain hired to attack the group and their mentor Cable who had recently taken control of the young group. “Created” might be a bit of a generous way of putting it, however, as he was basically a composite of Spider-Man (which you can pretty much tell right away if you look at the design of their masks) and Deathstroke (another mercenary character who menaced a group of young superheroes being trained as the next generation of the Justice League in the DC universe), only with even more belt, arm, and leg pouches, a much less serious demeanour, and a much more annoying (or “irreverent” if that’s the word you prefer) attitude. Honestly, he wasn’t a very important character until some time in the early 2000s when the editors at Marvel basically decided f*ck it and let his writers do whatever they wanted with him, mostly because, like I said, he wasn’t very important. And that’s what made him popular to a generation of fans who are mostly idiots themselves. But not idiots in a bad way. Not like Donald Trump idiots or anything.
In terms of movie history, you might remember Deadpool from X-Men Origins: Wolverine as the Merc with the Mouth with that Mouth Sewn Shut, a movie that’s probably most notable for getting the character so, so, so wrong, but to be fair, it’s also a movie that got just about everything wrong. While people like to blame X-Men Origins: Wolverine for ruining Deadpool mostly because it kept a character famous for his motor mouth from speaking, that distracts from the way it also ruined the Blob, f*cked up the X-Men’s cinematic timeline even more that it was already f*cked up, and gave a movie role to will.i.am, and the only reason I’m not going to go further with attacking the movie is because I honestly don’t remember much else about it (and can’t be bothered to read any more of the wiki entry for it). The point is, the best superhero movies and the best X-Men movies have been the ones that understood the source material, and Deadpool is probably the most faithful superhero movie adaptation I’ve ever seen.
Is it any good?
Short answer, ‘yes’ with an ‘if’; long answer, ‘no’ with a ‘but’. For you? If you’re an idiot, then definitely, Deadpool is a good movie. Again, though, I’m talking about the good kind of idiot. Bygones?
The first thing you have to understand about Deadpool is that it’s not any one self-contained thing, and it’s a superhero movie only as a label, like Fresca is a drink or Taco Bell is food. It’s more accurate to call it a love story without much sentimentality or time for true love, it’s even more accurate to call it a high-octane action movie with more low action parts than you might have expected, and it’s probably most accurate to call it a comedy, only it’s almost all punch line with no setup.
First, as a love story there’s a surprising sincerity between Wade and Vanessa, pre and post-Deadpool, and even though most of the love in the movie comes in the form of sex jokes — really good ones actually and ones that do a good job of progressing the relationship — the movie wouldn’t work without them. There are jokes that are crude and ribald and occasionally uncomfortable, but they’re somehow just the right side of effective, and you buy their relationship after you see everything they’ve been through. But don’t go to see Deadpool if you want to see a romantic movie. Y’know, unless your only other choice is a Nicholas Sparks movie or something.
Second, as an action movie, Deadpool’s really good in choreographing impressive action scenes that are easy to follow and understand. There’s nothing revolutionary going on in terms of camera work or special effects (though the movie’s opening sequence with the freeway crash is technically impressive as well as fun), it’s just a lot of interesting fighting techniques on display and a lot of different kinds of action with the movie’s different characters. You’ve got Deadpool himself as a superhumanly enhanced street fighter with a vast array of weapons (though it might have been an even vaster array if he’d stop forgetting half of his arsenal in the taxi), Colossus as the indestructible, steel juggernaut with superstrength (and an aversion to hitting women), and Negasonic Teenage Warhead who can surround herself with an explosive energy field. One of the most disappointing moments I’ve seen in a superhero movie was in X-Men 2 when Colossus first shows up during the raid on the X-Mansion and Wolverine orders him to get the children out because it meant that that one seen, those scant few armoured-up seconds, were all we were going to see of the character, but in Deadpool we finally get to see a really cool-looking, brutally powerful, steel-clad Colossus running around hitting things the way we’ve always wanted.
Third, as a comedy… it is what it is. There are levels of humour, high-brow (think Punch-Drunk Love Adam Sandler), mid-brow (think Funny People Adam Sandler), low-brow (think Happy Gilmore Adam Sandler), and no-brow (think Pixels Adam Sandler), and probably the most encouraging thing I can say about the humour in Deadpool is that it’s like the Adam Sandler from Funny People had a love child with the Adam Sandler from Happy Gilmore. Humour’s a tough thing to peg down, though, and it’s very much your mileage may vary. For instance, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen is the Fiat ad below, which I find endlessly humourous for its absurdity, but I wouldn’t blame you if you took a look and didn’t find it funny at all. The comedy in Deadpool is fast and immediate and unrelenting and almost all-consuming, and if you’re not looking for a serious movie then that’s good, but it’s also very throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-hope-that-most-of-it-sticks. It’s not very decisive or on-point, and it makes jokes for the sake of making them rather than letting the humour flow from a place of storytelling. You could take a lot of the jokes, switch them in or out, put them in different places or make them about different things entirely, and it wouldn’t make a huge difference to the movie because so little of its humour has anything to do with what’s going on. All of this might sound harsh, but it’s true, and believe it or not, it’s true to the spirit of the character, so it’s not necessarily wrong that this movie was written this way, and it’s not as if I didn’t laugh at the right moments. I just didn’t laugh as much as everyone else.
So should I see it?
I think in some significant ways Deadpool represents an outright rejection of the superhero movie as we know it, or at the very least the self-seriousness of superhero movies. Given just how many superhero movies are coming out these days, that’s a big part of its appeal, especially with the numerous jokes made at the expense of Ryan Reynolds’ movie career, the Green Lantern movie he was in, and even the X-Men movies themselves. Some people call that fourth-wall breaking, but I don’t think Deadpool knows he’s a comic book (and now movie) character so much as he just likes to act like he is. Call it an irreverent sense of humour, call it a coping mechanism, but there are times in all of our lives when we talk out loud about the nature of existence to no one in particular just to deal with whatever we’ve got going on, and I’m willing to bet that at least some of those times we’re half thinking (or hoping) that there is someone out there listening, bearing witness, and validating that we were here even when we know that nobody is. I think that’s what Deadpool’s doing, but the difference is we’re real and he’s not. Right? Right?
For fans of the character, Deadpool is the absolute culmination of your greatest dreams and a movie that’s as good as it could have been, but you have to know what it is (and isn’t) to know whether or not you should see it. You’re enjoyment of it will probably hinge on how much you appreciate fast, quippy, imprecise, and ultimately meaningless humour. How funny you’ll find Deadpool will be like your appreciation of Robin Williams. If you liked Robin Williams because you laughed at his jokes, you’ll like Deadpool, but if you liked Robin Williams because he was an amazing actor, you might find Deadpool little more than an amusing distraction.
Thom’s Deadpool final score
On the Edge
- Yellow spandex! Negasonic Teenage Warhead prefers yellow spandex!
- Am I the only one who thought that Wade didn’t look that bad after the experiment? Most of the time he just looked like a mildly lucky burn victim (i.e., one who got out of the fire with scarring that healed okay) and there were a couple of times where the lighting just made him look like an older bald man.
- That Ikea stuff was pretty funny, though, mostly because they used the real furniture names.
- Dammnit autocorrect, stop putting a space between ‘Dead’ and ‘pool’!
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