Deadpool is ugly. The guise might be that of a superhero not unlike Spider-man, but beneath the friendly façade hide horrors. This is true both of the film and its eponymous antihero.
As a piece of cinema, its cinematography is about as visually appealing as Wade Wilson’s severely scarred skin. A relatively low budget affair to begin with compared to other comic book blockbusters, the film seems to have blown its load in the (admittedly spectacular) title sequence, after which the usual accoutrements of the genre, such as digital color correction for dynamic contrasts or sweeping shots that pan and zoom impossibly, are foregone for a naturalistic feel full of grey skies and concrete corridors. But many shots are not merely bland but grotesque. No pennies were pinched on Reynold’s post-mutation make-up, nor does the film shy from showing his disfigured face frequently. In a film featuring brief bits of profanity, nudity, and visceral violence, the only real reason for parents to take pause in bringing their children (other than to avoid annoying fellow filmgoers, but that goes for all movies) is the potentially nightmare inducing imagery of Wilson’s mutilated mug.
The Merc with the Mouth is just as ugly. Aesthetically, the reasons are obvious. A recent Super Bowl ad might have had women swooning over a world where every man is Ryan Reynolds, but no ladies in the audience would swipe right on Wade Wilson’s Tinder if it featured profile pictures minus the mask. But Wilson is also morally repugnant, so much so that when a no-longer distressed damsel calls him her hero, the audience knows he’s not being merely humble when he corrects, “I’m no one’s hero.” Because he’s not. The deed which earned such adulation amounted to little more than breaking into the apartment of an innocent bystander, accosting said homeowner without warrant, and threatening to murder a man accused of stalking. That Wilson’s victim committed the crime is inconsequential; on nothing more than hearsay and the promise of payment, he was willing to exact a punishment way worse.
Indeed, throughout the movie he murders for money or vengeance, never anything more noble than that. That his character arc never brings him from antihero to hero was absolutely the right choice on the part of the screenwriters. Such demonstrates a reverence for the comic book source material. Since his debut in New Mutants #98, Deadpool has always killed without qualm. Had he been sanitized for the screen it would have been a different character than in the comics. Why even bother with adaptation at that point, other than to exploit faithful fans and a familiar brand? Such happens far too often in Hollywood, but no critic could accuse Deadpool of such. This is a fan film that happens to have official branding and Hollywood backing, but otherwise created by fans, for the fans, and staring the most famous fan of all.
But far more than ugly, Deadpool is hilarious. This is again true of the movie and its titular protagonist. The film is replete with references to popular culture, particularly that surrounding superhero films and Reynold’s own career. Per usual, Stan Lee makes his requisite cameo, but this is by far his best, overshadowing even his appearance as Hugh Hefner in the first Iron Man. The biggest laughs, however, come from Deadpool’s constant quips. He’s got a wild wit as Wilson, but once he puts on the mask his mouth runs a mile a minute, shifting from droll to downright insane as he begins to break the forth wall. Rarely a minute went by that the audience didn’t laugh louder than they did at the Hulk’s “Puny god” from the first Avengers. In fact, it’s safe to say that Deadpool is the funniest superhero movie of all time (at least intentionally so).
It’s also on track to become the highest grossing R-rated superhero film, though it’s number of competitors for such honors is sadly small. Deadpool perfectly forwards the argument as to why all superhero movie going forward should conform to the writers’ and director’s artistic vision for the film and not the irrelevant whims of ratings boards like the Motion Picture Association of America. Beyond proving their potential profitability, shattering the previous record for highest grossing opening weekend of an R-rated film, Deadpool demonstrates the potential for a well-worn genre to tread new ground when given artistic license.
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