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Deadpool •••1/2

Deadpool_posterStarring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller
Director: Tim Miller
Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Adventure/Comedy/Action/, Rated: R
Running Time: 108 minutes
Release Date: February 12, 2016


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, I’d say that we’ve encountered a new breed of superhero.

Deadpool is not your father’s X-Man. Let’s recap:

We meet Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a young man who makes a living scaring away males from stalking teenage girls. Wilson falls in love with a woman named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and even proposes marriage to her. Soon afterward, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

He’s approached by a mysterious man who offers to cure his cancer and in return he’ll be better, stronger, faster (sorry, wrong hero story) than before. Then he, in return, will perform mercenary acts. It turns out that to transform into this super soldier, he must undergo immense torture to cause his body to mutate. The mutation takes place, but it leaves his skin mottled in a sort of ugliness that his friend describes as “an avocado having sex with a much older avocado.” However, he has acquired regenerative powers that make him immortal. Now, he’s on a mission to find the man who did this to him and have him reverse the effects.

Greg, Ryan Reynolds has finally hit his stride. Yes, he’s appeared in many movies, some quite forgettable, but here he finds his groove and delivers the goods big-time. As Deadpool, Reynold plays a grim, goofy superhero whose grimness makes you wince and whose goofiness makes you smile. The movie combines darkness with irreverence, and crassness with nobility. Reynolds is electric; he has somehow channeled the spirit of Jim Carrey in Cable Guy. Only Deadpool is a much better movie than Cable Guy.

This film follows a fairly standard hero’s journey. Wade Wilson is a somewhat unsavory character whose only hope to survive cancer is to undergo a terrible physical transformation. As befitting the superhero genre, his physical changes are accompanied by psychological changes. He not only wants to avenge his disfigurement, he also wants to prevent Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein) from harming others in the future — not a bad transformation for a guy who was a loser at the story’s outset. Wade gets help along the way from two X-Men, defeats the villain, and reconciles with his fiancée. Along the way we are treated to witty dialogue laced with clever vulgarities that made my inner (or not so inner) 12-year-old boy very happy.

And that is my gripe with this film. It’s pretty much Spider-Man on steroids. Where Peter Parker is a wise-cracking youth, Wade Wilson is a foul-mouthed adult. There were a LOT of 4th wall breaks and inside jokes (“Which Professor X? Stewart or McAvoy?”). There were several asides to the audience about how the film was low-budget. Frankly, I got tired of it. If you remove all the glibness, it’s just a standard superhero origin story – but rated R.

Deadpool is very much an anti-hero. He’s not a very nice guy. He kills with impunity and with little regard for passersby. I can’t say that I agree with you about his transformation. He was a pretty decent guy at the beginning – terrorizing men who stalk women. But he grew into the kind of superhero who, when offered the chance to be a true hero, blows the head off his victim. I’m reminded of the anti-superheros from 2009’s Watchmen. There was a movie where all the superheroes were Deadpools.

I agree that he treads a fine line between heroism and anti-heroism. In our most recent book, Reel Heroes & Villains, we argue that if the lead character ends up a good person, then he or she is a hero, not an anti-hero. Because the film ends with Deadpool defeating the much more evil character, Francis Freeman, I’d call Deadpool a hero. Having said that, I do wish he had paid that cabbie the cab fare owed to him. That would have been a nice heroic touch.

This movie lacks a good mentor figure for our hero. An unfortunate oversight or deliberate omission? It could be argued that Deadpool’s leanings toward occasional darkness stem from the absence of an older parent-like figure who could have steered him in a more positive direction. Deadpool does receive help from his pal Weasel (T.J. Miller) and his two X-men comrades, but he’s pretty much on his own in terms of receiving sage guidance. Perhaps it could be argued that Francis was Deadpool’s dark mentor during his “training” to become a superhero.

I am pretty sure Deadpool falls easily into the anti-hero role. As you point out, the anti-hero is defined by the fact that he falls on the negative edge of the transformation. While Wade is not a boy scout at the beginning of the film, his disregard for the villain’s life at the end is enough for me to consider him a bad guy. Let’s recall that the villain didn’t actually kill anyone in the story. He was just really sadistic. His death was not justified.

I might argue that the two X-Men (Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) are mentor figures. They represent the “path of good” that Deadpool continually rejects. Colossus even tries to get Deadpool to spare the villain with the plea that “You don’t have to be a hero all the time. It only takes 4 or 5 moments to be a hero.” But Deadpool kills the slob anyway. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a hero or anti-hero who ignores the advice of his mentor.

Deadpool is an extremely clever departure from the typical Marvel comic superhero formula. The movie offers a witty, visually playful, and imaginative look at the origin story of our hero Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds surprised me with an electric performance reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s best work in physical and verbal comedy. Yes, this film is unnecessarily crass and vulgar, but it won me over with its charm and struck all the right irreverent notes for me. I award Deadpool 4 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey contained some elements of a superhero story and some elements of a super-villain story. Deadpool’s relentless drive to seek vengeance is typically characteristic of villainy, yet on more than one occasion he does show a soft spot in his heart, and he does defeat the bad guy in the end, making him heroic. Superheroes rarely undergo transformations, and Deadpool’s growth and development in this film is subtle yet real. I give our pock-marked avocado hero a rating of 3 out of 5.

As I’ve noted, Deadpool lacks a clear mentor figure. Greg, it’s possible that Colossus had mentor-like qualities, but certainly not Teen Warhead. Deadpool’s arch nemesis, Francis, resembles a dark mentor whom Deadpool overcomes and eventually overwhelms. Marvel knows the hero formula better than any movie production team in the world, and I suspect they deliberately deprived Deadpool of mentoring if only to demonstrate that our most virtuous heroes need elders to achieve greatness. This mentor vacuum means that I can only give this film a mentor rating of 2 out of 5.

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I can’t share your enthusiasm for this film, Scott. Deadpool is just an anti-superhero. Everything that PG-13 superheros do, Deadpool does the opposite. For example, he gets shot in the ass. No Marvel superhero ever got shot in the ass. So, now we have it. Deadpool is basically Wolverine without the morality. This is just a contrarian movie. I had fun with it for about 45 minutes. But then it just got ridiculous. The plot is hardly better than Reynold’s own Green Lantern film from 2011. I give it 3 out of 5 Reels.

I don’t think Deadpool has any redeeming qualities. He does have a “save the cat” moment or two which may endear us to him. But overall, the rationale is that Wade Wilson was dealt a bad hand of cards and now he has earned the right to be on a rampage. Basically, Deadpool does everything the opposite of an X-Man. I have to disagree with you Scott. Deadpool is clearly an anti-hero with few redeeming qualities by the end of the film. I give him just 2 Heroes out of 5.

But we agree that there are few mentors in this film, if any. You called Francis a dark mentor – but i see him as a traditional villain. He’s just mean for mean’s sake. And vengeance is Wade Wilson’s goal. I will stick with my earlier assessment that the two X-Men in the fim act as mentors. But just barely. I give them 1 Mentor out of 5.

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