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Superhero movies get silly
Loves: '90s X-Men
Likes: Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds
Dislikes: Stupid loud action
Hates: Superhero overload
Considering how Deadpool was essentially born from the internet, with fans of the meta-comic anti-hero willing his film into existence following the reveal of test footage courtesy of Ryan Reynolds and special-effects wiz Tim Miller, this film could have easily become Snakes on a Plane 2--something akin to a feature-length meme. However, as fans of his comic-book appearances will testify to, Deadpool's appeal is more wide-ranging, thanks to a refreshing irreverence for superheroism and a self-awareness that helps escape the traditional boundaries of the comic-book adaptation.
For those not in the know, Deadpool (Reynolds), is a mercenary who's part of the X-Men universe, and he's certifiably insane. He also has intense healing powers, a mouth that won't stop motoring and an understanding that he is a comic-book character, which allows him to break the fourth wall and act unlike most of his fellow four-colored tight-wearers. Reynolds and Miller sought to bring this character to the big screen quite faithfully, which also meant an R rating for all the naughty stuff Deadpool tends to get involved in, whether it be sex, violence or dirty talk. The resulting film is far from your average Avengers movie.
Though origin stories are often poor plot choices for superhero films, Deadpool almost had to tell one, if only because the character had been so royally misused and misportrayed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that the slate desperately needed to be wiped clean (which this film does well while throwing shade on Deadpool's previous cinematic incarnation.) The story of how Wade Wilson became Deadpool is woven non-linearly in and around a story of revenge against a man Wilson tauntingly (for some reason) calls Francis, though he prefers Ajax (for some reason.) It was a smart move, as it essentially allows two storylines to be pursued without slowing the film down to explore some history.
It's in telling Wilson's origin that his shared past with sex worker Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a love story gone horribly wrong, is revealed, and Deadpool becomes a character audiences can root for, even if his moral compass isn't quite correctly calibrated, a point driven home by the presence of two members of the X-Men, shiny Russian giant Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and sullen teen girl Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who seek to draw Deadpool into their club. They become his helpers in the battle against Ajax/Francis (the well-villainous Ed Skrein, who has a helper of his own in the super-strong Angel Dust (Gina Carano.) Between the five of them, as well as a horde of cannon (or more precisely katana) fodder, there's plenty of action to go around, including a blowout final rumble.
What sets Deadpool apart from its spandex-clad cinema brethren is the comedy however, as Deadpool being funny is almost as important as his skill in combat. Reynolds has the cool-guy routine down pat, and can be as silly as the character requires, while still investing Wade with enough humanity to make the film's more dramatic moments more than just plot devices (though how you feel about him as a celebrity presence may affect your view of the film.) Often sophomoric and frequently risque, the film enjoys wallowing in the realm of curse words and bodily fluids, but it experiences the law of diminishing returns in this realm, getting its best laughs from the more elaborate set pieces, like a holiday-themed sex montage, and it's two comedy generators, TJ Miller, as Deadpool's buddy Weasel, and Karan Soni, who plays an adorably hapless cab driver befriended by Deadpool. While Miller dominates his scenes with his hilariously ad-libbed runs, Soni earns his laughs through character and personality, not to mention the contrast he provides for Deadpool. Both are highlights however.
Helming his first feature film, Tim Miller creates a maelstrom of action in most scenes, though he manages to avoid Bay-ing things up, so even when in close combat, you can still tell what's happening. There's no questioning that the visuals are this film's core interest, from Deadpool's healing factor to Negasonic Teenage Warhead's explosive outbursts, but it's actually at its best in quieter moments, be it the amusing exchanges between Wade and Vanessa or Deadpool's complex relationship with his blind roommate Al (a delightful Leslie Uggams.) In the end, the film has a little something for everyone, which likely accounts for its runaway R-rated success. Best of all, it's a film that essentially stands on its own, without the need for world building (despite the presence of an after-credit sequence.) Of course, if you know Deadpool's history, it's that much more enjoyable.
Deadpool arrives in a two-disc set (one Blu-ray, one DVD), which is packed in a dual-hubbed Blu-ray keepcase, held in an embossed, textured and UV-coated slipcover. The menu system is a bit unique, as on your first pass it has a chimichanga in a microwave theme, while later it takes on a action concept, while offering options to play the film, adjust the set-up, search and check out the extras. Audio options include English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English Descriptive 5.1 and Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 , while subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. In a nice touch, both commentaries are available in English, French and Spanish subs as well.
The 2.40:1, 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer on Deadpoolis outstanding, with spot-on color (there are several palettes utilized in the film) and a fantastic level of fine detail, most evident in the main character's costume, which is just incredible in terms of the attention to detail and the faithfulness to the source material. Black levels are solid throughout, a key since several scenes are played dark, while overall the film offers up a crisp image for the most part. That clarity doesn't help the CG though, which frequently gives away its presence due to slightly mismatched focus or contrast (or the awkwardness that is often Colossus)--only evident due to the quality of the image. That said, elements like the gorgeous still fly-around in the opening titles and the famous freeway fight remain impressive feats of visual effects. There are no concerns about digital distractions present.
So, Deadpool has a lot of guns and explosions. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track this disc arrives with ensures that those elements are well reproduced in your home, creating an utter barrage of sound. The final battle is straight-up room-shaking thanks to the hefty low-end work on-hand. The film has an extremely active soundfield, with even small atmospheric elements pumped up for greater effect, while nifty moments like one Chicago-themed fight has fun with audio volume and speed to really boost the impact of the scene. Music is strong and clean, whether it's the effective score of memorable soundtrack, while the dialogue isn't ignored either, with crisp, clear voices throughout. Just a delightful listen.
We get two commentaries here, but, oddly, the two men at the heart of the film, Reynolds and Tim Miller, do not share a track. Instead, Reynolds sits down with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, while Miller is joined by Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld. Reynolds' track was recorded in his basement, and covers the development of the film, the pronunciation of GIF, how much Bea Arthur costs and Reynold's kleptomania. There's also some insight into the budget's impact on the structure of the film, but mostly it's an opportunity for the guys to talk about the movie and joke around. On the other track, Miller, as director, naturally focuses on details, technical notes, special effects and changes that occurred during the course of the production, while Liefeld plays the role of the fanboy, asking numerous questions and gushing about the film. If your view of Liefeld is negative, it can come off as self-serving, but knowing he's a high-energy ball of enthusiasm, it just seems like Liefeld being Liefeld.
During the commentaries, deleted scenes and alternate takes are frequently mentioned, and 10 are included here (19:14), with optional commentary from Tim Miller, who explains the moments and why they ultimately were left out of the film. Among the more interesting scenes are Wilson's trip to Mexico in search of a cure, brief appearance by Nathan Fillion and an extended rant by Deadpool to various pre-complete versions of Colossus (featuring a bit about Green Lantern.) There's also a slightly different version of the film's post-credit scene to check out.
You'd like to think (or at least hope) that a gag reel for Deadpool (6:12) would be hilarious, and it would be with more T.J. Miller and more of the alt takes, though those are entertaining. Overall though, it feels like too much padding.
"From Comics to Screen...to Screen" is a five-part, feature-length (1:20:00) look behind the scenes of the making of the film. All the big names involved sit down to chat about the characters and the film, including comic creators Liefeld, Stan Lee, Fabian Nicieza and Joe Kelly, as they discuss the path to the film (including the X-Men Origins: Wolverine fiasco.) Though there's a lot of unnecessary recapping of what happens in the movie (as if it was a preview for a movie yet to come), there's also a ton of coverage of the production from beginning to end, with in-depth info on almost every element, including special effects and music. Considering the technical effort Deadpool required, this is the kind of extra it deserved.
Five galleries are available to look through, covering concept art, costumes, storyboards and pre-vis and stunt vis material (each featuring multiple sub-categories). Included amongst the 692 images, there are extensive storyboards for several scenes (the bulk of the content), along with some alternate costume concepts (though one assumes there are a lot more out there) as well as 7:13 of CG storyboard video for two of the more complex sequences and a 2:03 rehearsal clip for one of the film's big fights. Though you get the choice of auto or manual progress, disappointingly there's no play-all option available, so there's a lot of menu navigating to do if you want to look through all the content, especially since several of the sections have as few as two images.
And now we enter "Deadpool's Fun Sack." First up are 19 videos (23:54), pulled from the film's extensive and creative promotional campaign, including various trailers and teasers. Among the highlights are the original April Fool's video with Mario Lopez and Deadpool with a team of kid X-Men. It's also interesting to compare the green and red band trailers to see how they cut around the objectionable material. Once you're done with that, it's time to check out the seven still images, including a few different poster designs.
Wrapping things up is a preview for X-Men: Apocalypse. In the package you get a code for an HD digital copy of the film.
The Bottom Line
At a time when costumed crusaders have become commonplace in theaters, Deadpool is a solid antidote--a superhero movie that doesn't take itself deadly seriously and is willing to have a little fun, even if the character can be grating in extended and/or overexposing doses. (Your personal taste for Ryan Reynolds will influence how you view the film as well.) It's certainly a visual spectacle, but like the main character, the CGI can get to be a bit much as well. The disc however looks and sounds tremendous and the extras are excellent, if concentrated. Comic movie fans will want to have this in their collections as a bit of something different, with solid action and comedy, but will want to space out the viewings to not wear out the effect.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.