Deadpool Translates Past Failures into Big Laughs

I’m a week late to the Deadpool party because when I tried to buy my tickets last weekend, E-V-E-R-Y theater was sold out. I’m not kidding. Deadpool blew every earnings prediction out of the water, bringing in an astonishing, record-breaking, hold-onto-your-butts $132M on its opening weekend. This is not only the highest opening weekend for a film distributed by Fox, but also the highest R-Rated opening weekend ever.

Ryan Reynolds stars as the titular Wade Wilson – a.k.a. Deadpool, a.k.a. Mr. Pool – and shines as the wise-cracking hit man who spends more time showing his rear end to the camera than he spends actually fighting bad guys – except that one time where he did both at the same time. He is crass and foul-mouthed even while brutally killing his enemies. But he’s funny. Extremely funny.

Reynolds, who doubles as the film’s producer, and director Tim Miller have steered the film into the deep end of the self-aware swimming pool, sharing a lane with other meta filmmakers like Chris Miller, Phil Lord, and Edgar Wright. This popular technique of having a film’s characters acknowledge and even poke fun at the fact that they are in a film pairs nicely with Deadpool’s superhero origin story, the overdone sub-genre of an even more bloated superhero genre. In fact, many of the film’s biggest laughs come from fourth wall breaks where Deadpool pokes fun at the superhero genre at large, including Reynolds’ previous superhero films.

Jokes aside, Deadpool succeeds for plenty of other reasons too. The first 30-minutes involve a highly stylized fight sequence on a city freeway that would pause at a moments notice to allow Deadpool to narrate a flash back scene. This back and forth narrative of the opening act was edited well, answering questions after just enough time for the audience to ponder them for themselves. Why does Deadpool want to kill these people on the freeway? Why is he working alone? Why is he wearing a head-to-toe mask?

This back and forth pacing and fourth wall breaking gloriously stand out against the saturated Marvel Cinematic Universe universe we live in. Each Avengers film has felt increasingly paint-by-numbers. Movie-goers are growing tired of the same old formula. That being said, it’s important to say that perhaps Deadpool wouldn’t have been nearly as good had it not been for a decade of Hollywood superhero films to make fun of in the process. This notion is not meant to criticize. I applaud Deadpool’s creators for taking the contemporary successes and failures of the superhero genre and building on it in a meaningful, entertaining way. Some may simply call it a parody, I would call it sampling.

Mark Ronson, the musician known for Uptown Funk with Bruno Mars, discusses the idea of “music sampling,” creating a new track in and around an existing song that re-imagines the sound and lyrics for a new audience or generation. Some may call this practice lazy or outright cheating. Ronson has an opposing view. He says of music sampling that “when we really add something significant and original and we merge [one] musical journey with [another], then we have a chance to be a part of the evolution of music that we love and be linked with it once it becomes something new again.”

Verdict: Deadpool is the cinematic sampling Ronson speaks on. If you have been recently soured by the superhero genre, give this one a chance before retiring from the genre as I almost did.

Directed by: Tim Miller
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, and TJ Miller

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