February in Tights, Part Three: Deadpool
So, I went to see Deadpool this week, after several days of passionately resisting everyone telling me “Go on, you’ll love it, it’s not like all those other superhero movies you hate!”. I wore my Batman skirt, though, just to make a point. What that point was, I’m not sure, but I feel the creators of Deadpool might have appreciated my moxy.
And, yes, Deadpool was different to all those other superhero movies I hate. At least superficially. It kicked off with a genuinely hilarious opening credits sequence ripping the piss out of all the behind-the-scenes machinations that bring these films to light, followed by a breathlessly brilliant action scene that took full advantage of it’s non-family-friendly rating by piling on the gore and the dick jokes and the violence. For those first ten minutes, I was properly blown away. It really was different- smart, sharply witty, brilliantly action-packed. Ryan Reynolds was excellent- I’ve always found him intensely annoying, so casting him in a motormouthed role where he was required to get on your tits a bit really helped. The fourth-wall-breaking, meta-humour was patchy but occasionally excellent. And sure, it didn’t come close to topping that opening sequence, the action was pretty well constructed. But take away all the glossy, distracting execution, and it suffered from all the same problems that all the rest of the superhero movies it took such pleasure in disparaging suffer from.
And yeah, of course, the execution being so radically different is important, and shouldn’t be ignored. But this was a movie, for all it pretended to be something different, that ended in a climactic battle between two straight white guys on top of a building while a sexualised woman lies in the background of the shot getting tortured. For all it’s subversive pegging jokes (seriously), the plot just couldn’t move forward without a trip to a strip club to shake some tits in the audience’s face (I was ripping the piss out of the Suicide Squad trailer for hinting at this, so my eyes just about rolled out of my head when Deadpool did it). It hit all the origin story beats (chemically altered super-soldier? Deadpool, meet Captain America, and Wolverine, and countless others I can’t remember right now), often without actually acknowledging that it was hitting them. The only women and non-white people who appeared in it appeared as sidekicks to more important white male characters, and the wonderful Morena Baccarin was almost bogglingly wasted as one of the worst love interests in ages, with the movie beyond uninterested in her story. This was a movie marketed to me as a game-changer for the genre, and, in terms of it’s bare bones, it just wasn’t. It regurgitated all the irritating tropes of the genre, often without critique, and left me feeling kind of cheated.
Which is not to say I didn’t like Deadpool. As superhero movies go, it’s one of the better ones, for sure- despite the fact that the execution covers up pretty generic stories and characters, it is dazzlingly fun to see a character call out the tropes of his own genre directly to camera, especially in a movie coming from a studio as normally generic as Marvel. But I fear for the inevitable franchise, if this is the most groundbreaking thing they could come up with on their first go around. And, until I see something that generally pushes the more challenging boundaries of the genre (perhaps by critiquing dumb tropes surrounding gender, race, and the beyond-boring origin story structure), I’ll be withholding my wild praises for now.