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Friday, January 13, 2017

Deadpool: A Breakdown & Anlysis

           



           In February of 1991, Marvel Comics introduced a new character in the pages of New Mutants #98.  Made to be as indestructible as Wolverine, but as nimble and chatty as Spider-Man, this character was one of many created by writer/artist Rob Liefeld during his run on the title.  Who would have thought that 25 years later, this character would be given his very own movie?  Especially after that colossal disappointment of a 'first appearance' in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. 

            That’s right, boys and girls!  It’s time to talk about 2016’s cinematic blockbuster:  Deadpool.  Deadpool was that sleeper surprise this year because while longtime fans of the character were extremely excited for his first solo venture in cinema, wider audiences, and even the studio didn’t really have high expectations for a character with very little public recognition.  Selling a Spider-Man movie or a Batman movie or a Superman movie is relatively easy because almost everyone on the face of the planet generally knows who they are.  In 2015, if you had asked a random person on the street if they knew who Deadpool was, odds are they wouldn’t have been able to tell you.  Now, in 2017, Deadpool has practically become a beloved household name thanks in no small part to the success of this movie, so this movie made the #2 spot on my Top 10 Comic Book Movies of 2016 list with good reason.

            As I’ve done with both my Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War reviews. I’m going to breakdown Deadpool into 7 categories:  Story, Casting, Costumes, Cinematography, Score, Editing, and Action.  I will score each category out of 5 stars, get the average of those scores to give a final rating at the end of the review.  Once again, I feel compelled to say:  Everything said here is just my own opinion.  I’m not asking that people agree with me or think that I’m trying to convert anyone’s opinion to match my own.  I hope no one takes any offense to anything I say about the movie here, but am always welcome to hearing differences in opinion.

            Okay, with all that preamble outta the way:  Let’s do this…



STORY:  As I mentioned above, Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, had been introduced once before in a film that most fans like to try to forget ever happened, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  In it, we got a slight hint of the character but were soon subjected to something so bizarre that I don’t really believe we can call that character Deadpool.  So this movie functions first and foremost as an origin story.  Unfortunately, in 2016, because many of the characters that comic book films are based on are new to most audiences, a large portion of the most recent movies have been origin stories.  This makes it a bit hard to do something fresh and new that will put a different twist on how we learn about a character.

            To put it bluntly, writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds did not reinvent the wheel as they knew that they had to acknowledge who Wade Wilson is, where he came from, and how he got his powers.  However, through genius wit, clever dialogue, and utilizing the character’s ability to break the fourth wall, the writers bent and molded the classic methods of telling an origin story to feel new and fresh.  While the story uses age-old plot drivers such as revenge and romance, it is how they utilized Wade Wilson’s warped sense of humor and ability to break the fourth wall that fans and audiences were treated to a whole new and exciting way to go on what is really a very familiar ride.

            The key aspect that I feel like I have to address is loyalty to the source material and how it operates as a film, because a lot of the time, what works in comics won’t necessarily work in a movie.  Arguably the largest gripe fans had with Deadpool’s first appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was that they, for the most part, completely ignored the character’s origins from the comics.  Yes, they had Wade get his healing factor from Wolverine, but that was about as far as it went.  In this movie, they go much deeper and stay loyal to the source material of the comics.  There are certain things that aren’t addressed such as Wade being placed into Department K (the subsidiary faction of Weapon X), Doctor Killbrew, or that Deadpool is a mutate who got his healing factor from Wolverine’s DNA.  But if we take all of that comic book knowledge away and look at the story as it is, it functions very well by perfectly capturing the essence of Deadpool with a strong origin story, good motivating factors for every character involved, and a good balance between humor and drama.

I’m going to give Story 5/5 stars.  While it is a bit strange to see Deadpool in a somewhat clich├ęd romance/revenge driven story, the writers were very clever and made it work.  You are invested in the character of Wade Wilson and even though we see him doing some extremely immoral things, we can’t help but root for him and see him as one of the best heroes brought to screen in recent years.



CASTING:  Casting a comic book movie is no easy task.  With every A-list actor taking on one of these potential franchise earning roles, audiences have become increasingly harder to please when it comes to casting these types of films.  Gone are the days of just being impressed with cool costumes and fancy special effects.  Now, audiences are clamoring for well acted, heartfelt performances that are almost Oscar worthy.  And they’re not wrong to ask for that as it is a person’s acting that will determine whether or not we can suspend our disbelief to see a celebrity as a comic book character.  And the cast of Deadpool does not disappoint.

            Back in 2004 while shooting Blade Trinity, Ryan Reynolds was offered the role of Wade Wilson/Deadpool in the failed X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  From the moment when he first took on the role, Reynolds fell in love with the character and during his scenes in the first act of the movie, he clearly understood the character.  That was proven true even more so in this film.  Ryan Reynolds was born to play this role.  While he has inhabited several comic book films up to this point, Deadpool has been the character that has resonated the most with fans (no, we’re not going to discuss Green Lantern, RIPD, or Blade Trinity.  We’re just gonna go ahead and leave those alone).  Ryan does an outstanding job in not only capturing the wit and humor of Deadpool but also worked his ass off to physically embody the character.  With no other way to put it:  Ryan proves that this is the role he was born to play.

            Added to the cast are Ed Skrein as Ajax, Brianna Hildebrand as Negsonic Teenage Warhead, T.J. Miller as Weasel, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, and Gina Carano as Angel Dust.  What’s great about this cast of characters is that they all play great foils to Wade Wilson’s humor and insanity.  In any comedy, there needs to be an established chemistry whether your character is participating in the humor or if they are playing the straight character for the humor and insanity to bounce off of.  When the cast is imbalanced, the comedy can feel forced and insincere.  But each supporting actor plays and reacts perfectly to the humor of the film.
           
            I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some flaws with the cast, though.  One of the things that this movie does a lot of is improvisation, meaning that the actors come up with a lot of lines on the spot while shooting that aren’t in the script.  Improv can work extremely well, as it often does in this movie and in other films like Iron Man.  But there are times in this movie where things go a little bit too far, namely with the character Weasel.  There are several points in the film where you can feel that TJ Miller did 18 different takes and the editing team picked the best one.  I’m not saying that it’s bad, but some of his responses just go a bit too far over the top that it becomes far too apparent that he’s trying to be funny. 

            While by no means do I feel anyone was miscast, I have to give Casting 4/5 Stars.  While I very much enjoy every actor in their roles, the over-use of improvisation does become very apparent throughout certain parts of the movie.  I know that many people would blame that on the editors or the director or the writers, but it’s the actors who are thinking of the things they’re saying.  I would have also liked to have seen some more well-known characters from the comics and X-Men Universe to give Deadpool more notable characters to play off of.  Ed Skrein was arguably the second best performance next to Ryan Reynolds and I certainly hope that he gets to find more work in the genre since he does seem like a comic book fan.



COSTUMES:  2016 has seen some of the biggest names in costume design making the threads of superheroes.  Earlier, I’ve praised Michael Wilkinson for his extremely stellar work on the costumes for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and been a tad underwhelmed with the costume designs on Captain America: Civil War.  So where does Deadpool reside in this category?

            Angus Strathie was responsible for designing all of the costumes for this film.  I have no problem saying that he created arguably the most comic book accurate costume of any comic book film ever made.  Deadpool’s costume is up there with Superman and Batman’s from Batman v Superman, Christopher Reeve’s Superman suit, and even Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man suit.  I was thrilled to see that not only did they make it a combat-ready skin tight suit, but it was fantastic to see that they were able to make the mask and facial expressions exactly like the comics.  Part of what makes Deadpool so enjoyable to read in the comics is seeing the impressions of his facial expressions coming up from under the mask.  By showing eye, mouth, jaw, and eyebrow movements, we got to see a fully loyal adaptation of Deadpool.



            My second favorite costume in the film (since it’s really only one of three) is Colossus’s.  Now, I know I’m gonna have people saying, “He was a CGI character.  That shouldn’t count.”  To that, I say, "erroneous"!  We’ve gone 14 years with a Colossus that was 6 feet tall and looked like a T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  Yes, Colossus in this movie was CGI’d, but the fact remains that they were so devoted to the source material that they finally made a version of this character that looks like the books where he’s 8 feet tall, massively muscular, and has a flat top.  Not to mention that they finally gave him his Russian accent!

            The only other character in this film that wears a costume is Negasonic Teenage Warhead.  She wears a basic yellow/black skinsuit that is meant to be representative of the older X-Men comics.  I think this costume works well for her as she also adds her own rebellious flare to the costume by wearing a long black overcoat and jewelry.

            I’m going to give Costumes 4/5 Stars.  While Deadpool and Colossus look absolutely amazing and proved that you can do a loyal adaptation of a superhero costume, I was disappointed that they were the only ones.  None of the other characters in the movie wear costumes that are like they appear in the comics.  I’m not saying everyone had to be in a costume, but it would have been nice to see characters such as Ajax and Angel Dust in costume or to have the mercenary soldiers in something more interesting than all-black tac gear.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:  This was probably the most disappointing aspect of the film for me.  As I discussed in my Captain America: Civil War review, so many films today are shot in digital.  By doing this, digital cameras sap and mute a lot of the colors so that editors can go in in post-production to do color corrections.  However, many big budget films today for whatever reason don’t take the time to re-color time their footage.  The result is a very steely, muted color tone to their movies.  Such as we’ve seen with Captain America: Civil War, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, and X-Men Apocalypse.



            While the movie isn’t ugly to look at, it lacks something special to really make it pop off the screen.  For something like Deadpool where your subject matter is very dark and gruesome, but you’ve got a lot of humor and levity, a brighter color palate would help to enhance the movie and give it a very distinctive look.

            I’m going to have to give the Cinematography 3/5 Stars.  It just looks bland and unoriginal, with no real pop or flare to give the movie its own unique signature look.

SCORE:  I feel like this category is going to be a very mixed bag.  I feel like there are going to be a lot of people that love this score and others who hate it.  For me, personally, I’m on the side of the latter.  I don’t really hate it, but it just doesn’t do anything special for me.  While there is a very fast paced, action-oriented tone to it, it sounds like a score ripped out of Mortal Kombat or some other video game.



            I have watched the making-of documentary where composer Junkie XL talks about how he went about composing a score that would capture the intensity of the action sequences but be easy beats where he could easily cut the music off at a second’s notice to make room for a joke.  Obviously, with this film, I can see the sense of obligation to do that, but the result to me was something where you don’t get memorable tracks, but instead you get memorable lines of dialogue. 

            There are some tracks that work extremely well such as “Man in a Red Suit”, “Going Commando”, “Let’s Try To Kill Each Other”, and “Watership Down”.  They work well with the action sequences they’re placed in and lend a sense of adrenaline and urgency to the scene.  But it was more the pop hit tracks that they inserted into the movie that were more memorable like “Angel of the Morning”, “Deadpool Rap”, “Shoop”, and “X Gon’ Give It To Ya”.  Those songs became more of an anthem for the movie than the actual score did.

            I’m going to have to give the Score 2/5 Stars.  Very forgettable, very mundane, and nothing that makes me feel the need or desire to listen to it without the movie.  I was disappointed and felt that Junkie XL has much more that he could have offered that score.



EDITING:  Editing is something that Deadpool as a movie did very well.  Director Tim Miller comes from a background of video games where has very clear and concise visions of how he wants things to look and how to tell his story.  The biggest asset is cutting together an action sequence.  With how busy each scene is, it could be very easy to get lost and make the movie feel choppy in the middle of very complex and bloated action sequences, but Miller and his editing team do this very well.  A prime example of this can be found in the opening highway SUV fight sequence.  The film masterfully cuts rapidly to several different angles, but never once do you feel like you’re lost or stuck inside a pinball machine.

            The way this film operates is much like Batman Begins and Man of Steel in that it progresses in a non-linear format.  We are constantly shifting from the present to the past where we learn of Wade’s origins, the inception of his love interest, and the present deals directly with his drive for revenge.  One of the very few complaints that I’ve heard with this movie is how some sequences linger for a bit too long, such as the Wade and Vanessa flashbacks.  While it is important to establish that relationship and build the reasoning behind Wade’s apprehension to share his deformity with her in the present, there are a few moments that lag in the film.  Other instances of this can be found with some of the improvisational sequences that I discussed early in the Casting category.  There are a couple of scenes where they let the banter go a bit too long or a joke overstays it’s welcome.  It doesn’t make the movie unwatchable or eye rolling, but those moments are felt.

            I’m going to give the Editing 4/5 Stars.  While the action sequences and non-linear format of the movie are executed well, there are some slow points in the movie.  While the film is never really boring, there are moments where I found myself saying, “Okay, I get it.  Let’s get to the next bit.”



ACTION:  When I heard that Tim Miller was going to be directing Deadpool, I had to look him up because I had never heard of him, which wasn’t odd considering that Deadpool is the first film he’s ever directed.  However, I was put at ease when I looked at the work that he is responsible for in the realm of video games.  His standout piece for me was the DC Universe Online game trailer.  In that moment, I knew that we were going to be getting an awesome, action-packed thrill ride of a movie.

            Tim Miller doesn’t disappoint here as he introduces some of the best action sequences ever seen in a comic book film.  They’re not as large in scale as Batman v Superman or Captain America: Civil War, but what makes this movie stand out is the fact that most of the action sequences are done practically, with very little use of CGI.  That’s something, for me, that is very important and is quickly becoming a lost art.  So often today, filmmakers are relying more and more on CG characters and augmented special effects to make things easier or seem more impressive.  But seeing fights like Deadpool vs Ajax or Colossus vs Angel Dust and knowing that while there may be some CGI features, the fights, for the most part, are done for real by people on set.  Obviously, things like Colossus’s physical appearance and chucking a tractor tire at 5 guys can’t be done for real, but much more of it was done with real people than we would be led to believe.

            So as not to be biased, I do have to point out something that I do see as a flaw in the action of this film.  Going into the movie, I had seen all the trailers and even the leaked test footage that appeared on the Internet a year before the film’s release.  From all of that, I had the impression that I was seeing most of the action sequences, and for the most part, I was right.  In every trailer, we kept seeing more angles and bits from the highway fight and then we kept getting more and more of the watership fight.  Now, I’m not saying that I knew everything that was going to happen, but since the movie is only an hour and forty-three minutes long, there aren't many other action sequences that they could pick from to add to the trailer to show audiences to get them excited.  Because of this, I didn’t feel AS wowed by the action sequences as I would have been had they not shown as much as they did.

            Everything considered I’m going to give the Action 4/5 Stars.  Every sequence was very real and visceral and perfectly captured the way Deadpool fights within the comics.  None of the scenes felt gratuitous or forced like they were just trying to impress the audience.  Everything flowed very smoothly and the story dictated the action, instead of having the action dictate the story.

STORY 5/5
CASTING 4/5
COSTUMES 4/5
CINEMATOGRAPHY 3/5
SCORE 2/5
EDITING 4/5
ACTION 4/5

TOTAL AVERAGE: 4/5 STARS



            Deadpool was easily the biggest surprise for me of 2016’s comic book movie season.  When you look at all that the movie had riding against it with a relatively unknown character, an actor who’s partaken in 4 failed comic book movies before, and then an hour and forty-three minute runtime, I couldn’t fathom the idea that it would become as successful and well-received as it has been.  But the biggest achievement of this film is on par with the achievements of movies like Superman: The Movie, Batman Begins, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier:  they were true to the character.  They didn’t try to change or “improve” the character and instead stayed loyal to what has made Deadpool a fan-beloved character for the last 25 years.  That is a message that needs to be shared with any studio that goes to make future comic book films.  Tell a story that stays loyal to who the character is.  Don’t try to change the character to fit into the story you want to tell.


            This movie was also as strong as it was due largely to the fact that they didn’t approach it as a franchise, loading it with sequel bait and Easter eggs which the Marvel and DC movies have all been doing recently.  “We have to use this movie to sell the big team-up movie!”  No.  This movie functioned so well as a stand-alone movie, but left the world they presented open enough for a sequel where they can explore more aspects of Deadpool’s world (with or without famous X-Men characters).  While Deadpool was shunned and scoffed at by most of the highbrow executives in Hollywood, the makers ended up proving that the success of a movie doesn’t rely on team-ups and impressive special effects.  It’s al in the story and the character you’re presenting.  It’s why movies of the 80’s and 90’s were so beloved and remain classics.  I think Deadpool will earn a place in the hall of Best Comic Book movies ever made as time marches on because of all these elements.  Here’s to hoping the sequel is even better than the original.  Bring on Cable!

Top 10 Comic Book Movies Here


Written and Edited by: Witt Reese. Co-Edited by: Jack Flowers. Published by: The Nerd Hub

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