Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead
The obvious is, well, obvious. The movie was bloody, irreverent, funny, violent, and so full of dark humor you could choke on it. I laughed a lot and was made to feel uncomfortable more than once (well, not actually, because I’m not uncomfortable with bullet-time shots of crotches, but I imagine plenty of people were if perhaps secretly). It was everything we all hoped it would be, whether we’re fans of the comics or just innocent by-standers of the wonderful and hilarious Deadpool memes that float around the internet. Plenty of reviews have covered this territory already, so I don’t feel compelled to repeat ad nauseam.
What I’d like to look at is why the movie is succeeding. It’s blowing Star Wars: The Force Awakens out of the water in some parts of the world. But here’s the thing: obviously it had some great source material to pull from, and obviously staying faithful, at least in spirit, to that source material was critical to the movie’s success. Plus, we all know that in this day and age, special effects can make or break a movie and Deadpool definitely passed muster in that respect. So there’s a lot of reasons why it’s clear the movie was bound to do well. The brilliant marketing campaign was the cherry on top and helped reassure a jaded super-hero fan base that the movie was going to deliver on its promises, which it did. But even still I think there’s one final, critical component that needs to be acknowledged.
Deadpool didn’t treat its audience like total idiots.
For a movie with what could be argued to have the most base humor seen in any big studio film for years, Deadpool didn’t dumb itself down. Take, for example, the forth wall break within a fourth wall break. “That’s like 16 walls,” quips Deadpool. It’s a fleeting moment in the film, but one that is beautifully timed with the action around it. Best of all, it’s actively engaging the audience, imploring them to think what Deadpool is thinking (a scary idea, I know). Deadpool doesn’t take the audience member by the hand and say “Now, four times four is sixteen. So if we have a ‘fourth wall break’ that means…” but lets the person sitting in the seat figure it out for themselves because it’s not a hard thing to get. And if you didn’t get it at the time, because let’s face it some people are lousy at math and that’s OK, no worries! The writers of Deadpool still succeeded in engaging your brain for just a second before the mindless action restarted.
And that’s a good thing because Deadpool didn’t waste time explaining jokes. From “He was up there when I got here” to “I bet it’s going to feel huge in this hand,” Deadpool knows the audience is smart enough to get the joke. Ryan Reynolds keeps his delivery smooth, never laying the sarcasm on thick or making additional gestures to show what he means. Especially when making jokes by telling outrageous lies, Deadpool delivers his lines with the casual conviction that hallmarks a man speaking the truth. It all adds up the absurdity that is the real core of the joke, and it’s left to the audience to understand that Deadpool doesn’t actually believe the things he’s saying, he just understands how hilarious the absurdity of it is when he says it the way he does.
Then there’s the naked fight scene. Now, we went through some of this back when Watchmen hit theaters but even then the studio or director felt the need to use CGI for Doctor Manhattan’s penis instead of showing the real thing on screen. To be fair, there could be an entirely valid reason that was never publicly revealed. Maybe Billy Crudup was too cold on set occasionally. But in Deadpool, as far as the public is aware, no CGI was used. I suspect that some shadows may have been added in post, and possibly some artfully placed flames in the foreground… not quite covering everything all the time, but there just enough to incidentally block the sight of Ryan Reynolds’ crotch occasionally. I thought it was a good balance, because the movie is treating us like adults who know what a penis is and can handle seeing one, while at the same time allowing us to enjoy an incredible fight scene without Deadpool’s post-mutation wang in our faces.
I’m sure somebody is wondering why I’m putting so much emphasis on that scene, and somebody, possibly that same somebody, might argue that the fight scene didn’t have to be in the nude. I disagree. I’ve frequently written about how it’s important to do what’s necessary for the story, and nudity is a powerful storytelling tool. It can represent freedom, trust, and a oneness with nature. It can also represent vulnerability, desperation, and death. And what is Deadpool about if not death? That’s why Wade had to be naked in that scene and it’s significant to me that the movie treated us, the audience, the way it did. It wasn’t gratuitous. Besides there being absolutely nothing sexual about the scene, there are other times when Deadpool could have shown nudity, but didn’t. I’m specifically referring to the fight between Colossus and Angel Dust. The opportunity was there for on-screen female nudity (which, it is established in the stripper club & other scenes, the director is willing to show) but clearly made a conscious decision not to. It’s reasonable to assume the same amount of judgement was given to all the nudity in the movie (the stripper club didn’t have to be there, but it worked extremely well for the scene by removing Weasel, who needed to be present but didn’t really have anything to add yet), and especially to important, heavy scenes like the post-mutation fight. Those are decisions the that were made for specific reasons.
And then, on top of all of that the movie still manages to deliver a heart-felt message about what it takes to be a hero, although they needed Colossus to do it because Deadpool certainly wasn’t.
Overall I was very impressed with the film. So, in my review of Deadpool, I’d like to describe the movie in a way that I’m sure most reviewers won’t: smart. It’s just one more reason the film is so successful, and why I’ll be happy to watch it again.
If you enjoyed the movie but aren’t familiar with the comics, Deadpool as a relatively short history (he started in 1993) and you can get the first collection on Amazon here: