Movie Review: Deadpool


Deadpool stands out from other superhero movies in that its title character is a raging weirdo. He’s not adverse to blasting through a bad guy’s head with bullets, and he has a rabid disregard for other people’s comfort zones. Just like in the comics, Deadpool has the Bugs Bunny ability to break the 4th wall and talk to the audience. He addresses the audience by looking at the camera or narrates with colloquial voice-over. Most of the story is standard superhero origin mumbo-jumbo, but when Deadpool is suited up and the action is piping hot, the movie hits its stride.

In terms of performance, adaptation and realization, Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool is pitch perfect. The on-screen Deadpool is identical to his comic book counterpart in terms of movement, humor and unpredictability. The tone of the movie can be best described as violent, irreverent and zany, a step beyond The Kingsmen but not quite as wacky as The Mask. Reynolds delights in the role like a kid in an elevator pressing all the buttons. There is a strange seamless chemistry between actor and character, as if the humor of the comics was personally designed for Reynolds’s delivery. It almost goes without saying to praise Reynolds as there is so much non-stop full-force Deadpool voice in the movie that it nearly becomes overwhelming. If only Fox had given the filmmakers enough money to get Hugh Jackman as Wolverine we might have gotten a B-plot somewhere.

The story is so cookie-cutter it almost makes Wolverine look like Hamlet. But the humor is the real driving force here, so your enjoyment of the movie will largely depend on how deeply you know your comic books and how much you enjoy watching Reynolds talk about a bullet hole in his ass. It’s unfortunately an obligatory origin story, paint-by-numbers. Odder still, the romantic and body horror elements of the plot are treated with strange reverence when compared to the Duke Nukem style action sequences. I could have done with more tongue-in-cheek humor during these pseudo-scary moments.

The villain isn’t interesting, but Deadpool’s jokes at his expense make up for it. We’ve got a bajillion X-Men bad guys to choose from and we get this bad guy? He doesn’t even have a clear evil scheme. Stop Deadpool? Avoid Deadpool? Attract Deadpool? The movie veers off into giving side characters screen-time rather than explaining the plot. Then again, do we really need another story about a villain trying to blow up the world? It’s a straight-up grudgematch in Deadpool, and that serves the Merc with a Mouth quite well. There are some logical gaps overlooked to fit the film’s shrinking budget and ballooning insanity, but it all works in a screwball way. The average American filmgoer is pre-programmed to understand superhero origin stories by now, so a tweaked one is a welcome mix-up.

That being said, the jokes could use a little tweaking too. For as much of the comedy works, the screenwriters are fearful to poke fun at Sony and Disney, competing studios that also own Marvel properties. The film could have used its meta-humor to make broader satiric points about the state of superhero movies, but it chose instead to make jests at Reynolds’s expense. It’s self-effacing and funny, but it doesn’t have the same satiric edge as the comics or even The Simpsons. There is a sense that the writers pulled those punches and stuck to X-Men formula to keep the studio happy, which makes sense, but keeps the film from reaching the comedic heights of Tropic Thunder. It also locks the movie’s humor in sophomoric territory without the wit or precision of South Park. It’s more of a scattershot Mel Brooks approach. I’m impressed that the writers managed to give the film any romantic or dramatic tension at all considering how wild it is.

Deadpool himself sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie’s dour blue-grey visuals, and that’s perfect for a character trying to distance himself from the X-Men and their generally humorless heroics. Fans will be pleased that the film does the titular character justice, even if it spends so much time setting up his origins that the rest of the story feels hollow. Though its appeal might be lost on general audiences, there is just enough charm for Deadpool to coast by as a unique and memorable film, if not a particularly meaningful one. It’s worth noting that my friday night crowd was filled with too-young tweens and kids accompanied by their parents, in spite of the film’s gore and nudity. The audience was packed and roaring with laughter at times, so maybe for whatever reason, this is just the right place and right time for Deadpool, Christmas or not.




Movie Review: Iron Man 2 – The Ironing

...yeah, right

Nothing Lazy About This Movie!

There was a lot of potential for Iron Man 2 to deliver what all the best sequels hope to offer, a darker take on familiar themes with unexpected escalations that send established characters reeling in whole new directions.  Instead, Iron Man 2 is a moronic and haphazard attempt at summer blockbusting that shares more in common with the uninspired sequel to Transformers than its own predecessor.  Iron Man 2 systematically disrobes and molests all fragments of credibility left over from the first film by choosing tongue-in-cheek “ain’t I cute” mugging over believable conflicts or interesting characters.  Rather than painting Tony Stark as the arrogant but charismatic hero we’ve come to expect, the Stark of the sequel is a buffoon, an egomaniacal preening nincompoop hellbent on destroying his legacy without a second thought.  The evolution of Stark’s character from self-obsessed warmonger to national hero was the backbone of the first film, but here Stark is so overconfident in his effortless charm that the whole thing reeks of hubris.  It takes “textbook narcissism” to expect even the most dull-witted observer to overlook the gaping narrative flaws, listless plot progression and lack of palpable drama in this picture. The difference here is that the original Iron Man was palpably entertaining in spite of its flaws, and if the talent involved could be trusted as any indication, a sequel should have deepened and revised upon the universe in a way that could course-correct the missteps already in progress, similar to The Dark Knight‘s affect on Batman Begins.  No such luck for Iron Man 2. The movie nosedives toward tripe so suddenly and irrevocably that you’ll be lucky to notice before you’re knee-deep in dreck.

There’s no way to approach a film this disappointing without dissecting it scene-by-scene, thereby ensuring that the reader absolves to avoid contact with it at all costs, preventing further such monstrosities from happening.  From moment one, Iron Man 2 is an awkward mess of muddled tone.  Amongst all too dour re-broadcasts of the final press conference from the first movie we’re introduced to Mickey Rourke’s villain Whiplash, a Russian who hates Tony Stark for inexplicably poisoning his father with a hereditary disease that causes melodramatic overacting.  Once Rourke finishes belching out some Oscar-worthy melancholy, assumedly reacting to his own appearance in an off-camera mirror, we are greeted with the opening title.  What does this too somber villain have to do with our hapless protagonist?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Even after several mumbly interrogations by Stark, it’s patently unclear why Whiplash hates Iron Man so much, enough to make you question the screenwriter’s decision to include the character at all.  If you’re going to bring up the history and troubled past of two antagonistic characters, maybe it would help if the two characters had ever met or interacted before. Once it becomes clear that Mickey Rourke’s hideous dental work is a character choice and not the result of a bad tinfoil make-out, we shoot over to the Stark Expo for a brief exercise in torture.

I’m not sure how many times screenwriter Justin Theroux has set foot inside an Expo center, but based on the sheer number of dialog references to Expos, scenes that take place at Expo centers, and flashback footage featuring father-figures relating their personal thoughts on Expo development, it seems like the guy really digs Expos.  There’s nothing wrong with Expos per se, and Theroux would have you believe that they are in fact the greatest setting imaginable for expositional dialog and needless dance numbers to take place, nearly out-edging Spider-Man 3 in terms of sheer masturbation.  They’re also a great locale for an action movie to lose all narrative momentum, get lost in its own ego, splatter some patter, and move on like nothing happened.  This would be well and good if there weren’t so damn many Expos to contend with, or if anything remotely interesting happened at any of them.  The first Expo is the one you’ve seen in the trailer, with an abbreviated version of the likable yet cut “kiss the helmet for luck” sequence.  Stark lands in the center of his own ego, delivers a wank-fest monologue and wanders off to his next booze-cruise in search of tail and easy choices.  Downey Jr’s reprehensible portrayal of Tony Stark is bookended by abject refusal to change or evolve, plus pointed ignorance toward the character’s previous arc.  Would it have been interesting for Downey to portray the thrill-seeking death-defying boozehound from the comics, whose personal problems wreaked havoc on his life in legitimate and dramatic ways?  Perhaps, but that opportunity is undermined at every turn by the half-assed, jokey dialog that permeates this picture.  Rather than dealing with problems in a realistic way, Stark is shuffled from set-piece to set-piece with an alarming disregard for pacing or consistency, often resulting in multiple scenes of asinine dialog justifying the previous terrible sequence.  At one point, Gweneth Paltrow’s character explicitly comments on what a huge waste of time the Stark Expo was, out loud, to both Stark and the audience.  You would think this dialog would have served as a clue to the filmmakers that maybe the sequence is unnecessary, and that this kind of ex-post-facto dialog is only beating a dead horse.  Somehow this foolproof logic fails to prevent the 30-to-50 tech Expos that barrage the audience with pointless spectacle over the next two hours.

Unnecessary is the key word with regards to Iron Man 2, and Justin Theroux’s arrogance and over-indulgence eradicates even the slim slivers of poetic language he manages to string together.  Rourke has a particularly stirring line about attacking Stark to “make God bleed,” but in a microcosm of his unique idiocy, Theroux decides to take the metaphor one step further and explain that once God’s blood is in the water, the sharks will come, as if we should have been praying to sharks, the silent God-killers, all along.  Must have missed the aquatic chapter of the Bible.  It reminds me of the priest at my high school. He used to mix metaphors and say things like, “Looks like the little boy scout’s got his tail caught in the screen door.”  Even that phrasing suffers from a sort of retarded brilliance absent in Iron Man 2, where subtlety and beauty are fleeting or beaten by the brunt of the movie’s ravenous marauding dialog.  My friend JP even scoffed out loud when Stark’s father posthumously commented on the technological limitations of “his time,” anachronistically implying a preternatural knowledge of things to come.  As if the fact that Stark’s dad is played by Roger Sterling isn’t distracting enough, now I’m expected to believe that the man was so smart he predicted the future but failed to prevent Tony Stark from being an utter fuck-up.  Any father with the psychic knowledge that his son would be involved in Iron Man 2 would inevitably abort the pregnancy.

Gweneth Paltrow and Sam Rockwell serve as this movie’s most likable characters in that they both seem to hate Tony Stark as much as the audience.  Rockwell loses some credibility at the three-quarter mark when he launches his own Expo and starts dancing across the stage, in order to meet the retardedly childish expectations set by the movie’s first act.  If you’re wondering what happens between the first and third acts, again your guess is as good as mine.  Claiming this movie tells a story is an affront to stories everywhere.  Three concurrent and unrelated plotlines collide in the last scene like revisions from earlier drafts, stumbling to the same boring set pieces you’ve seen advertised in the trailers.  There are so many stupid and ancillary scenes in Iron Man 2 that I would be remiss not to mention a few of the more glaringly bone-headed narrative decisions.  When Tony Stark meets Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson in all his eye-patched glory, the last vestige of hope for comic book fans looking to see an Avengers or Captain America cross-over movie in a relatively stable and realistic universe, Stark is sitting hung over in a giant plaster donut on top of the roof of a donut store, eating donuts.  Sam Jackson appears in this movie as a wake-up call to both Stark and the screenwriter, who forgot until this point that he had obligations to more interesting franchises.  While it’s funny to see Tony Stark flip the bird to the other Marvel characters, you can’t help but wonder if the “fuck you” quality of the joke is lost on the filmmakers. When so many problems abound, these potshots read like last ditch-efforts to make Iron Man 2 seem superior to something, anything.  If you think that’s ridiculous, let’s not forget the Ninja Turtles-esque scene where Tony drunkenly dj’s his own birthday party in full Iron Man attire, eventually reverting to exploding watermelons and dated Gallagher jokes to keep both his fictional and theatrical audience’s attention.  If the original Iron Man had any shreds of dignity, they’re long dead now.

You can stay after the credits to see a teaser for another Marvel picture, but the absolutely dreadful treatment of the Iron Man property makes this brief advertisement even more questionable.  Scarlett Johanssen looks hot yet bored throughout the movie, and Don Cheadle serves passably as replacement for his equally boring Traffic co-star.  There is absolutely nothing here that you couldn’t assume from the previews, and aside from the opening flight sequence there is relatively little special effects-wise to admire.  For a movie called Iron Man, there is a surprising dearth of Iron Man.  The movie generally follows Tony Stark’s smug expression as it meanders around town corroding paint and stripping wallpaper from local businesses. In spite of the few laughs he provides early on, Garry Schandling fails to escape the curse of the crud, returning at the end of the movie to present Iron Man with a needless medal of bravery.  No one considers that the only attack on American soil that Iron Man prevents in this movie was caused by a contract employee of the U.S. Government, or that the whole debacle was Stark’s fault from the get-go. And outside of Rourke’s psychotic mumbling there doesn’t seem to be a villain in the universe who can fight Iron Man for longer than thirty seconds without folding like a house of cards.  If your superhero is so overpowered that it’s not even interesting to watch him fight, I suggest you reconsider where you spend your hundreds of million dollars, let alone your ticket price.  There is absolutely nothing positive or memorable about this slapdash recreation of comic book spectacle, and the whole thing stinks like the literary equivalent of Marmaduke.  Not only are you bored, you don’t even realize how bored you are until it’s finally over, and by the time it’s over, it’s already too late. You’ve just wasted two hours on a movie whose greatest aspiration is to build a few rooms onto Robert Downey Jr.’s summerhouse.