Robert Tiemstra ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Let’s take a moment to register some controversial opinions. ‘Deadpool’, the comic book superhero created in 1991, is an extremely lazy character in the traditional sense. A snarky, happy go lucky, borderline psychotic wish fulfillment exercise free from anything that would bring him back down to earth; genetically engineered fan-favorite Deadpool exists purely for one reason: To have fun. And, in all fairness, he is a fun character. He embodies all the adrenaline-soaked joy that goes into the most beloved comic books, and due to his creation in the 90’s (the “Frank Miller” era of comic books), his primary purpose (aside from the “have fun” part) is to stick out his tongue at every brooding hero conjured by pretentious writers trying to make comic books “deep” and “literary”.
However, as every Young Adult film made in the last decade has proven, there is a big difference between something “working on the page” and “working on the screen”. Many sequels to popular films try to “revitalize” their franchise change the focus to a popular comic side character from the first film (think Pirates of the Caribbean 4, or any Pink Panther movie made after 1963), in the process undermining what makes that character work in the first place. To put it simply: The Joker may be the most compelling part of The Dark Knight, but if the movie was about him, it wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does because he has no straight man to play off of. Likewise, Deadpool is a character who exists to mock serious plotlines, and making him the protagonist of his own movie cripples the film as a whole because it robs Deadpool of his relative narrative freedom.
Deadpool only works in the context of an ultra serious comic landscape in desperate need for a juvenile and irreverent voice to step up and remind them that comics are always silly and fun, no matter how much you dress them up in angst. And by introducing Deadpool in his own film, the creators are robbing this film of any chance it ever had to stand on its own as a comic book movie. Now, in order to appreciate this film, you have to understand that it is coming out the same year as “Batman vs. Superman: Absence of Self-Awareness” otherwise it will just come off as a cheap attempt to pander to fans, not an cheeky breath of fresh air in a genre fundamentally resistant to taking any dramatic risks. And the whole “irreverent tone” angle was already done by Guardians of the Galaxy, a film that stands on its own perfectly well, and actually has a main character who can sustain an entire feature film, not just act like a standup comic left on the stage with a pile of weapons and a green screen.
You’ll notice that I haven’t even mentioned anything that’s in the trailer yet. Well, the trailer is what it is – an enjoyable two minutes of footage pointing out how this film is “true to the spirit of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds)”. The Tarantino-lite quips are amusing enough, but the entire thing smacks of a creative team trying too hard for a gonzo superhero satire, but not quite understanding that even satire has to sustain itself dramatically. There are funny moments in the trailer, and cool moments in the trailer, for what it’s worth, but it feels like the creative team has taken for granted that they could release an entire film made of bad CGI and people would like it if it has the name “Deadpool” plastered over it (which they essentially already did with last year’s test footage). And because of Deadpool’s frequent fourth-wall breaking and stream of quips that never end regardless of how many times he’s been run over, the trailer only emphasizes that he is a character fundamentally unsuited to the role of a protagonist.
Making Deadpool “awesome” or “funny” doesn’t require any effort, because that was the reason the character was created. He cannot be bound down by plot, action, or pretenses of morality. He has enormous untapped potential as a snarky side character in someone else’s story (another reason why X-Men Origins: Wolverine remains a massive missed opportunity), but when put in the center of his own story, he does to a character arc what filing an action scene with overdone CGI does – surgically removes any reason for new audience members to be invested. There are thousands of people looking forward to Deadpool in 2016, but I look forward to it with the same sense of encroaching dread as Dreamworks’ Minions (another recent entry in the “poorly thought out spin off about side character” trend). That’s right – Deadpool is Marvel Comics’ Minions, only without giving us the benefit of a Despicable Me first.
Deadpool hits theaters on February 12th, 2016.
Watch the trailer here: