No matter how much you love comic books and eagerly anticipate your favorites being turned into major motion pictures, at some point fatigue has to set in, right? Depending on how you define a “comic book movie,” we are currently slated for at least 64 upcoming comic-book related features over the next few years. The tide may be starting to turn as audiences are less enthralled with each passing X-Men or Superman movie. Now, this genre has to deal with another major disruptor: “Deadpool.” Poking holes in the genre is one of the titular character’s trademarks, but this series may bring the whole concept of the comic movie down with it.
Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, “Deadpool” tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life. (Synopsis by Fox)
If you’re a fan of Deadpool, this is exactly the kind of movie you’ve been looking for. It’s crass, vulgar, hyper-violent, and humorous—all at once. There is an obvious intention of pushing the R rating as far as they could here. That boundary has certainly bent over the years, but this movie may push further than any other recent movie into what may have once been considered an X rating. At the same time, there is a certain measured element to the chaos that keeps it from spinning too far out of control. There is a fairly straightforward comic story arc at work to keep the premise on course, even as Ryan Reynolds pinballs across the screen.
“Deadpool” feels a little too much like a movie made specifically for teenage boys, but with enough graphic content that only adults should watch it. On the other hand, it may reflect the much more brutal world of actual teenage boys. Mothers be warned: this is what your little boy is acting like when you aren’t around. The problem with this approach is that the movie alienates a portion of its audience by default. Read as: any wife, girlfriend, or child unwittingly brought to this thinking it’ll be a fun superhero movie. The writers even make this exact joke in the script. Is there a place for this type of hyper-androcentric film? What are the repercussions?
The short answer is: it depends. There are certainly films made targeting specific demographics, but not usually at the expense of alienating the opposite sex. No guy ever got that offended from watching “Sleepless in Seattle,” right? “Deadpool” doesn’t specifically treat women in a bad light. In fact, the major female lead is shown to be an equal with Wade Wilson—at least until she needs to get rescued by him at the end. Told you it was a fairly standard comic movie plot. However, the whole idea that this movie is brutishly male is a little off-putting. And yes, I realize that a man telling women how they will feel about this movie is a little sexist too…
Back to our premise. The comic movie industry is predicated on making these superhero films as accessible to as large an audience as possible. Everyone knows that comic books themselves are a niche industry. People will see a Batman movie, but they aren’t necessarily going to read a Batman comic. When a film like “Deadpool” chooses to target a specific level of vulgarity, it erodes the idea that comic movies are for everyone. Couple that with the obvious potshots the writers take at the X-Men franchise throughout the script, and “Deadpool” becomes a sort of reckoning for a comic movie industry that is relying on audience goodwill for the next sixty four films.
The litmus test will be whether audiences accept “Deadpool” as just a part of the comic movie anthology, or whether they see it as a genre-redefining film. It may be hard to watch the fantasy aspects of other superhero movies without thinking about the more “realistic” take in “Deadpool.” No matter what the outcome, this film has changed the barriers on how comic movies operate and may change what type of audiences these films will attract. Hopefully for the better, because as a red-blooded American male, this was sure a lot of fun. Apologies to my wife.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it. Here’s how you get your girlfriend to sit through this: Ryan Reynolds goes full frontal.
THREE STARS out of four.
Directed by Tim Miller
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.
Runtime: 1 hour and 40 minutes