Monday, June 17, 2024

Cinemutants - Deadpool (2016)

At a time when superhero movies are starting to lose their stranglehold on pop culture, there are really only two options: go back and watch old movies, or kill off an entire cinematic universe in spectacular fashion. This July, Marvel’s taking the latter approach with Deadpool & Wolverine, which seems primed to seal off the 20th Century Fox film universe. And while director Shawn Levy promises, “This movie is built [...] with no obligation to come prepared with prior research,” skipping the research has never really been my strong suit when it comes to franchises. It’s a perfect excuse, then, to go through the last 24 years (and 13 movies) with everyone’s favorite mutants, the X-Men.
This week, from 2016, it’s Deadpool. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) becomes the Merc With a Mouth after a mad experiment unlocks his mutant gene and makes him unkillable – and aware of the fourth wall, which he’s dead-set on breaking. After leaving Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the love of his life, Deadpool is out for revenge against Ajax (Ed Skrein) – but not if the X-Men Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) can stop him.

  1. It rhymes with “Pulverine.” Now that we’ve reset the timeline with Days of Future Past, the X-franchise remedies one of its greatest mistakes, giving Ryan Reynolds a second chance at the character that I would argue completely reshaped the trajectory of his career. Sarcastic and garrulous, potty-mouthed yet entirely affable, Reynolds might as well have been born to play Deadpool – this Deadpool, that is. And the film is unapologetically not in continuity with X-Men Origins: Wolverine; though this Wade Wilson is a former soldier of fortune, his mutant power isn’t unlocked until a first-act flashback, and there’s a sense that the X-Men have been aware of him for some time (more on that in a moment). All of this is incompatible with the mute assassin that was (spoilers) decapitated by Wolverine in the late 1970s of the earlier film – though, in one of the film’s better gags, Wade still possesses an action figure of this misguided adaptation. (We’ll revisit the prequel, quite literally, in the next Deadpool film.)
  2. McAvoy or Stewart? While I thought this recap series might be a good lead-up to Deadpool & Wolverine, finding the little clues along the way like a deerstalker, what it’s done more is remind me of how murky and nonsensical the timeline(s) could be. (No wonder the TVA is getting involved.) As a serial fourth-wall breaker, Deadpool is perfectly placed to hang a lantern on the franchise’s flexible continuity, and his frequent knowing winks turn the audience into insiders who are ready to laugh along with jokes about Professor X’s performers and the low budget that kept us from getting a full-blown team of X-Men in this film. (“It's funny that I only ever see two of you. It's almost like the studio couldn't afford another X-Man.”) We can assume this movie takes place in the present day of the X-Universe, but whether it’s before the mansion coda to DoFP, in the future of the First Class universe, or just an entirely separate timeline... we might need to wait another month.
  3. Language, please! When it was released, Deadpool was the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, dethroning 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded. (It’s since been beaten by Deadpool 2, which was in turn trounced by 2019’s Joker. Oppenheimer currently holds the #2 spot, a joke which one might expect Deadpool to make in the upcoming sequel.) The comic book superhero genre had flirted with R-ratings – Blade and Watchmen spring to mind – but Deadpool proved how bankable a grown-up offering could be. And this film is indeed for grown-ups, replete with ultra-violence, creative profanity, and a smattering of nudity for good measure. (Kind of weird that it’s on Disney+, actually.) It’s hard to imagine watering down Deadpool for Disney’s MCU, but the trailers for Deadpool & Wolverine suggest he’ll flirt aggressively with the line – or rake in enough money to convince Disney that superheroes can swear even if they’re not in a James Gunn film.
  4. We will make an X-Man of you yet. One of the most interesting throwaway lines of the film finds Colossus confessing that he has, more than once, invited Deadpool to join the X-Men. As serious as Xavier’s Academy has been presented thus far, it’s impossible to imagine Deadpool in the ranks, but it tells us so much about the cloyingly optimistic Colossus, a much-needed upgrade from his wallpaper-thin characterization in the previous films. Will we see Daniel Cudmore reprise his role, as he did in Days of Future Past? Or is Stefan Kapičić now the only Colossus in the multiverse? And of our budget-mandated two X-Men, Brianna Hildebrand is a terrific anti-Deadpool in Negasonic Teenage Warhead, whose mutant superpowers include “long sullen silences, followed by mean comments.” If she can ride the multiversal wave and join Kamala Khan in the MCU’s ‘first class,’ I will be outrageously happy.
  5. Four or five moments. At an hour and forty-eight minutes, Deadpool is littered with rapid-fire jokes, throwaway one-liners, and brutal physical comedy. As many times as I’ve seen the film (and it has been a lot), I always find myself forgetting a handful of jokes until they accost me once again. I’d entirely forgotten, for example, that Stan Lee has a lascivious cameo in a strip club, or that Deadpool leaves his armaments in a taxicab just before the third act superhero showdown (a casualty of a budget shortfall that nevertheless ends up so much better than just your standard shootout). While the box office receipts suggest that audiences want a comics-accurate Deadpool over whatever happened in Origins, the real truth is that Deadpool is just a cosmic amount of fun in a tight, punchy package (hold your puns). 
Sound off in the comments, true believers: is Deadpool the perfect Valentine’s Day film, or just the best X-Men film that doesn’t have Wolverine in it? Up next, Oscar Isaac gets in on the mutant fun with X-Men: Apocalypse, a movie that is certainly one of the X-Men films of all time.

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