Deadpool‘s fundamental flaw is that it is inordinately pleased with itself. It is so excited about being the superhero film that makes dirty jokes and includes bloody violence, that it has lost sight of the basics. Character, plot and action are crushed under a heap of severed limbs and gags about wanking.
A puerile sensibility is grafted onto what is otherwise a rather generic superhero adventure. It occasionally acknowledges this. For example, the title sequence dispenses with the names of the cast and instead lists the archetypes they represent like “a hot chick”, “a CGI character” and “a British villain”. Now that’s reasonably funny while it lasts but it’s a single moment of a film that lasts nearly two hours. Contrary to what the writers seem to believe it doesn’t grant them absolution for creating characters so devoid of depth or imagination. They might demur that they’re do something imaginative by dispensing with the traditional conventions of heroics that permeate comic book adaptations. But I would counter demur that this has in fact been done plenty of times before. It’s the central point of Watchmen, a major theme in the Nolan batman themes and something which even Marvel movies explore. There are some characters you would not usually find in a superhero film but they are just tropes like ‘angelic hooker’ that are lifted from other genres.
The action sequences are particularly disappointing. They are mostly the kind of juddery mess that is de rigueur in Hollywood at the moment. But it’s not clear why it is in Deadpool. Incredibly quick cuts between angles may make fights illegible but keep American censors happy. It gives the audience the impression they are seeing blows that are never actually shown. That helps films stay within the guidelines for a 12A. But given that Deadpool was going to be an R on account of its gore and general profanity, I’m not clear why they bothered shooting the violence in this annoying way. When the cinematography occasionally departs from this norm it’s for shots like the one in the trailer where three goons are killed with a single bullet. These are cartoonish in all the wrong ways. It also doesn’t help that the (anti-)hero is basically indestructible, which considerably lowers the stakes of even the best action sequences.
Which is not to say Deadpool has a no redeeming features. It makes so many jokes that, notwithstanding the fact that a large percentage are cheap, nasty and unimaginative, it still generates plenty of laughs. Ed Skrein brings some scenery chewing verve to his part. He may be playing a generic Marvel villain but he does at least commit in a way that the ageing thesps usually cast in such roles don’t. And it mercifully keeps its run time below two hours.
I’d be more inclined to look on the brightside were it a less impressed by itself. Everyone involved seems to think that a determination to work a diverse range of sex acts into jokes makes them comic geniuses. The constant smirking and winking about how clever something so stupid and vapid is becomes tiresome. And there’s no excuse for its casual sexism. If you are 14, you have an excuse to be impressed by this stuff. Nobody else does including most especially the people who made it.
Verdict: 4/10 – I understand the appeal but if you succumb to it then I will think less of you for it.