This movie was billed as “a game-changer” by its star, Ryan Reynolds. The game is changing, he advances, because the recent spate of super-hero movies have been “serious and… gritty and dark,” and Deadpool is not.
Have most of the recent super-hero movies been serious, gritty and dark? I would say no. The Dark Knight trilogy was, yes. Man of Steel was, but Man of Steel was a sell-out attempt by comics creators to appeal to the cool kids who don’t like comics. The rest of the genre, represented almost exclusively by the Marvel movies, might, at most, be called only “serious.” And standouts like Guardians of the Galaxy belie even that claim. The Iron Man and Captain America films have been no more serious than your average James Bond film, and The Avengers no more serious than a Star Wars. All have poignant moments, yes, and high stakes, but they are largely upbeat in tone. They are also in the romantic tradition, that is, they depict an ideal world where things are as they should be, with good winning and evil losing. Dark and gritty these films are not. The darkest of the lot would be the X-Men offerings from Fox, and they are, after all, about persecution. Still, they’re hardly Schindler’s List.
Overall, though, I suppose those films are mostly serious, and Deadpool is not. But Deadpool is dark with a capital ‘D,’ and shows a world far grittier than its predecessors in the Marvel universe. Reynolds’s Wade Wilson dwells among the homeless, hangs out in seedy bars, and is in love with a prostitute. (The charming Morena Baccarin.)
Deadpool is also violent as hell. Heads get blown off, sliced off and ripped off, guys get dragged from automobiles, and one poor unfortunate is literally splattered to death against a highway sign on a bridge. I call all of these things ‘dark,’ no matter how many funny quips Ryan Reynolds makes as they happen. The opening battle on the overpass is disturbing to watch, if you remember that, in context, these are human beings dying in pain and being mutilated. The final conflict in the scrapyard is, well, long and pretty dull, all things said and done. But it’s still too violent.
So not taking itself too seriously is not new. Violence is not new. Dark and gritty is not new, nor is the absence of it. What is the game-changing aspect of this film? According to Reynolds’s cast-mate, T.J. Miller, it “open[s] up the R-rated landscape to superhero films.” I kinda thought Kickass did that, but okay.
Did we need the R-rated landscape opened up to superhero films? More to the point, did this superhero film need to be part of the R-rated landscape?
Aside from the usage of the f-word, and a lot of extra violence, from a story point, I’d say no. This is a PG-13 movie coated in extra blood and swearing.
From the point of view of tone, and the romantic portion of the story, though, I’d say… maybe. The best part of this movie is the relationship between Reynolds’s down-and-out hired muscle guy and Baccarin’s prostitute. It’s refreshing and honest, and it’s very, very sexual. A good director might be able to fit that story into a PG-13 film, but I’m not sure. I’d hate to lose the best part of the film to a rating.
Still, a well-written relationship is not game-changing. About the only thing this movie offers that we’ve never seen before in the genre are some very funny opening credits and a closeup of our hero being pegged by his lady-love.
So, if you really wanted the superhero landscape opened up (pardon the pun) to girl-on-guy anal sex, this is your game-changing film. Otherwise, nah.
Ultimately, and this is going to offend some people, I just found this film low-brow. The humor is pretty sophomoric, the violence is too heavy, and the marketing seems to be aimed at people who need their newspapers written on a sixth-grade level. Like Man of Steel, it’s a super-hero movie aimed at the non-geeks. It’s just funny this time, and, I’ll admit, enjoyable.
Did I just say you were low-brow if you liked this film? No, I did not. I enjoyed it, and I don’t consider myself low-brow. If you enjoyed it, you may not be either. Smart people and comics fans can enjoy this movie. It’s just not aimed at them, and I don’t think that’s a trend that is necessarily good for the genre.