Movie Review: Deadpool
By Ben Gruchow
February 18, 2016
The best scenes take place in one-on-one conversation; upon his transformation into Deadpool, Wade acquires two sidekicks: Weasel (T.J. Miller) and Al (Leslie Uggams). Weasel is the owner of the bar that Wade frequents, and Al is Wade’s blind, elderly roommate; Uggams plays this character with a sharp kind of patient resignation, and her two scenes with Wilson are the funniest in the film. And then there is Baccarin as Vanessa, who starts out as Wade’s (and Reynolds’) equal in scenes of escalating one-upmanship and chemistry before she’s assigned the character traits and habits of the one-dimensional love interest and made the subject of a rescue plot.
See, that’s the thing I tap-danced around in my opening paragraph: for all that Deadpool flips the script on being family-friendly and four-quadrant audience safe, it doesn’t even really nudge the script on the whole narrative part. The movie is funny, yes, with most of the humor well-timed and executed. And in scenes where Wade discovers that he has cancer throughout most of his major organ systems, Reynolds evokes dramatic capabilities that are recognizable to those of us that have seen Buried. He has a magnetic screen presence given the right material, and he’s a great fit for this character.
And that is by a huge margin Deadpool’s reason for being: the asides, the profanity, and the overall geniality of Reynolds’ performance elevate what is probably the most anemic, tossed-off Marvel storyline to date. The bad guy is named Ajax (played by Ed Skrein with roughly the same amount of charisma he displayed in last fall’s Transporter Refueled), but I’ll be damned if I can tell you much about where he’s from, where he’s going, or why he does what he does. I suppose you can go ahead and fill in some of the blanks, based on genre convention, but all that does is tell you that Ajax is gunning for some kind of evil super-soldier regime.
Supporting characters are given even less of a purpose: Gina Carano plays Angel Dust, Ajax’s henchman; what she’s really doing, though, is playing the Gina Carano character. It feels like she’s been wearing the same slight narrow-eyed smirk since the sixth Fast & Furious film. Deadpool recruits some stray X-Men to assist him; at least one of these has something resembling an identity, but it’s one entirely on loan from the X-Men films.
And the story serviced by these characters is of a template; it sketches in the broadest possible motivations and resolutions. Anything more introspective or revelatory is beyond the scope of the film; given that Deadpool seems to exist outside the film itself (he has a throwaway line about the X-Men that reinforces this while providing a laugh), I was sort of waiting for the movie to go even more meta, and for the character to begin affecting events in the way that Greek plays employed deus ex machina. But no; the fourth-wall breaking by Deadpool is there when it’s needed and absent when it’s not or when it gets in the way of resolving a paint-by-numbers plot.
I mean this as observation, not necessarily as criticism; the structure here feels intentionally shallow and straightforward. In a way, it reminds me of the first X-Men, which introduced all of its characters with just enough screen time remaining for a moderate and almost low-stakes final battle. That film, if you’ll remember, led to a first sequel that delved significantly further into character psychology, with a better conflict and villain. I don’t know if I can see Deadpool following the same path; by movie’s end here, it doesn’t seem that there’s much in the way of new territory to cover. The movie is at least lively and fun while it lasts, which is more than the past few Marvel efforts earned; if the worst we can say about it is that it’s a lightweight thing that begins evaporating from our heads almost as soon as it’s over, we still have a good amount left over in the plus column.