Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, we’re celebrating its nomination for a Hugo Award by discussing Deadpool, which originally premiered in the United States on Friday, February 12, 2016. It is currently available to purchase on DVD, for streaming on HBO Go, and to buy or rent on iTunes and Amazon Video.
Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.
Nancy: While their reign was once limited to the pages comic books, nowadays you can’t tread far before you start tripping over superheroes, whether it be in movies, network television shows, or streaming services. As a result of this embarrassment of riches, in order to stand out, a superhero property really has to deliver something special.
And this is something the movie Deadpool accomplishes brilliantly.
Since its release, Deadpool has been consistently (and rightly) praised for its faithfulness to the source material, both in Ryan Reynolds’ laugh-out-loud performance as Deadpool himself and in the movie’s willingness to embrace the balls-to-the-wall violence that often accompanies this chaotic character. But to me, where Deadpool really succeeds is in just how well it balances the multiple genres that make up the film. Deadpool is an action-packed superhero film, AND a comedy, AND a romance, AND (in the Weapon X scenes) an incredibly effective horror film. It is a character drama, that allows its players to be both emotional and vulnerable, as well as a hard-edged R-rated gore fest that mocks itself while embracing its superhero roots.
Deadpool isn’t the first superhero movie to pull from other genres. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was just as much a political thriller as it was about capes and cowls. But rarely has a superhero film drawn from so many genres, and weaved them in so successfully. When lesser films and TV shows (even ones that I am a fan of) try accomplish this, too often it feels like checking off items in a list. The writers and director may understand the importance of having an effective love story, for example, but don’t know how to emotionally earn it, leaving the romance feeling needlessly tacked on. Deadpool, on the other hand, takes the time to build up the relationship between Wade and Vanessa. They not only tell us, but show us that they may be fucked up, but in the end, they fit together perfectly. The scene where Wade — having recently escaped from Weapon X — tries to gather up the courage to talk to Vanessa, only to fail based on his horrific new appearance, gives me more feels than any of the more sweepingly romantic moments of the Thor movies, for example (as much as I like Jane Foster).
Taking a step back, it may seem strange to praise such a hyper-violent, broadly comedic movie like Deadpool for things like balance, and a romantic storyline, but one of the great things about the film is the fact that it knows that making a movie that is comedic and violent doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to developing worthwhile characters and their relationships. Deadpool is, to put a simply, a movie that really does have it all, a factor that I notice more and more every time I stop to watch it.
Casey: There is no movie closer to my heart right now than Deadpool. This is the “I’ve had a bad day, let me go home and watch something that I love” film. My day job is in a retail environment, so I have plenty of those days. I didn’t even get to/have to watch it again in order to write up my thoughts for this particular column.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about watching Wade Wilson on his vengeance quest. His determination to track down Francis/Ajax and make him pay for the torture and disfigurement that he bestowed upon Wade is almost frighteningly admirable. The man makes a plan and sticks to it. This provides some darkly hilarious moments. There are too many to name all of them, but look at the montage alone. From Wade questioning whether or not it’s sexist to beat up a pair of girls (or more sexist to not hit them) to the scene at the ice rink where Wade “chases” down a man on a Zamboni, informing his quarry that said man will die “in about five minutes” if he refuses to tell Wade where to find Francis, the entire sequence is a masterpiece of violent comedy. My inner linguist was especially amused when Wade asked the Hispanic baddies “¿Dónde está Francesca?” (Francesca being the feminine form of Francis, of course).
Revenge aside, Wade will tell you that he’s no hero, and he isn’t in the strictest sense of the word. He does, however, follow a loose version of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Campbell said “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Wade’s “region of supernatural wonder” is when his mutant powers come forth and he becomes a superhuman. The fabulous forces he encounters, however, are much darker and truly more suited to the antihero that Deadpool seems to be than to the traditional hero. The boon that he is able to bestow on his fellow man? The ability to almost effortlessly beat the snot out of anyone who crosses him or someone that he cares about. I did say that it was a loose version of Campbell’s outline.
The supporting cast does a fantastic job as well, collectively playing the straight man to Wade’s ongoing comedy. They all have their own unique chemistry with Wade that seamlessly blends together when the background players meet. Even small moments with, for example, Dopinder, Wade’s cab driver friend, shine brilliantly with genuine affection between “Mr. Pool” and his favorite driver.
Is Deadpool a worthy contender for the Hugo? It’s definitely well-made, filled with great acting and dialogue, and visually interesting. Award material? We shall see!
J.L.: The greatest tragedy of our age is that Deadpool does not fit neatly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, possibly depriving us of future gems in the form of Deadpool trolling the hell out of Hawkeye and Spider-Man in later films. My absolute favorite part of Deadpool as a character is his lesser-known superpower of breaking the fourth wall, making him perhaps one of the most powerful mutants. I was genuinely worried how they were going to handle this aspect of his character in the film, especially after the second-greatest tragedy of our age that was Deadpool’s representation in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But after the beauty of the tongue-in-cheek opening credits and Deadpool directly addressing the audience almost right away, I was reassured that everything would work out. (The opening sequence does credit the writers as the real heroes, after all, which I also appreciate.)
As a superhero origin story, Deadpool is a fairly standard film, though one filled with significantly more graphic violence and sexuality than previous offerings by multiple production studios. I think it is because of Wade’s ability to connect with the audience that this film truly becomes a gem. Much, thought not all, of the humor stems from this connection, along with acting as a foil to the aforementioned violence and sex. It works so well because it operates on multiple levels: humor for humor’s sake, and humor that assumes the viewer is in on the joke. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for “easter egg” references, and Deadpool is chock-full of references that dedicated fans will be able to appreciate on an entirely different level (such as the many, many delightful jabs at Hugh Jackman) — without making new viewers feel unnecessarily left out, because I’m pretty certain Deadpool would be wholeheartedly against gatekeeping in fandom. Despite its R rating, despite the high levels of sex and violence, the movie operates on the assumption that its viewers are intelligent enough to appreciate such references, and that they’re not just in the theater to see a comic book character brought to life.
I’m not sure about Deadpool‘s chances of winning the Hugo Award in its category against such contenders as Scratch that. I typed that sentence, and then checked to remind myself who else was up for an award in the category of “Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.” There are some amazing offerings this year, and I personally loved Arrival and Hidden Figures. But in terms of ground-breaking and intelligent writing and production? Deadpool takes a genre (superhero movies) that is always in danger of becoming stagnant and repetitive and bumps it up a notch. All superhero movies, both within and without the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will be judged against Deadpool from now on (especially if they are rated R), and this effort deserves recognition.