I am not a fan of superhero movies. The best superhero film in my opinion is a tiny-budget little thing called Chronicle which stars Dane DeHaan in a found-footage format (I know, I know) and attempts to show what it would really be like if the anxious, loner kid with the alcoholic father at school really did suddenly obtain super powers. (Interestingly perhaps, Dane DeHaan would go on to star as Andrew Garfield’s nemesis Green Goblin in the last Spiderman reboot.)
While the camera operator in Chronicle appears to be channelling a shake-weight commercial, the film cuts to the heart of the isolation, recklessness and pure horror of being suddenly so gifted, in a way that is just absent in most typical films of the genre. Superheroes like Spiderman or worse, Superman, are so lacking in genuine peril (Superman is literally the strongest thing on earth) that the onus is always on some sappy girlfriend, to inject a human sense of danger. If you haven’t seen Chronicle I advise you to watch it because it’s a great example of why disgustingly high budget superhero action flicks are all mouth and no trousers.
(I give Batman a free pass because he doesn’t have any silly powers, he’s just an extremely wealthy lunatic and let’s be honest it’s all about the brilliant villains anyway. )
SO, when we got tickets to see Deadpool, yet another spin-off from the Marvel universe, I was not especially looking forward to it. Sneery Marvel-lovers might just dismiss me as a non-fan who can’t hope to pierce the bubble of the world they love so deeply, but it’s not strictly true. As a child I was very into X-Men, the animated series of which I would watch every Saturday morning with my brothers, secretly wanting to be Rogue with her Southern Belle accent and kiss of death. But I’d been burned by the live-action films, not least by the portrayal of Rogue, and many, many, many Marvel films later I was jaded.
Deadpool starts off shakily in my opinion. The opening credits sequence replacing actors and producers names with snarky one liners such as ‘Some douchebag’ ‘a hot girl’ and ‘British villain’ starts out only mildly amusing at best and goes on far too-long. Put that alongside lots of breaking the fourth wall moments and meta-jokes about fondling Hugh Jackman’s balls and even this most cynical of cynics was bored. ‘LOOK HOW SELF AWARE WE ARE’ the first twenty minutes scream, while repeatedly flipping you the bird and showing it’s arse.
The film comes into it’s own when it starts telling you the actual story, which is by turn surprisingly touching and dirtily funny. The love story between quick-lipped Wade Wilson and his girlfriend is authentically charming. When Wade runs away because he thinks his girlfriend can’t deal with his mutation, it does seem a somewhat dumb thing to do, yet with cancer playing an early part in the story we can read his fear as a very real concern that occurs in the real world – that cancer desexes us, that we cannot bear for our loved ones to see us so diminished.
If that makes it sound like it’s trying too hard again, it’s not. The jokes fly in fusillades, sometimes with grating frequency, but more often than not they hit their mark. Ryan Reynolds should be given credit for executing so many Ryan Reynolds jokes with such bonhomie.
The weakest factor is the entirely unconvincing ‘British Villian’ foretold in the opening credits; no, I don’t believe he is a scientist, nor perhaps even British, so wooden is he. But I liked his burly lady-sidekick Angel with her buxom forearms and mullet hairdo well enough to overlook the matter.
The totally Korean audience laughed heartily throughout, although most of the in-jokes seemed to go over their heads. I had to explain to my husband, for example, that Ryan Reynolds was the actor playing Deadpool and that he had also once played The Green Lantern. But when the lights went up people were smiling and looking generally as if they’d had a good time, which I think sums the film up nicely. It doesn’t really matter, but it’s fun while it lasts.