So, I went to see Deadpool over Valentine’s Day weekend, because what better thing is there than watching a super(hero?) movie with egregious violence and juvenile dick humor? Mostly, it was because I had four days off, other previously designed plans had fallen apart, and it was a movie that sounded interesting.
To be honest, I had all the expectations in the world for this to be a terrible movie. Consider the following:
- Although they’re using the Marvel license, Fox is still behind it. Sure, the latest X-Men movies have been slightly better, but Deadpool is like trying to climb mount Everest naked with only a few stale stupid jokes to keep you warm.
- Ryan Reynolds may be a perfect fit for Deadpool, but his acting chops are still up in the air
- It was released in February, a classic dead zone for Hollywood. Movies are released in Q1 because they are expected to die.
- Its friggin’ Deadpool. It’s a miracle that Marvel made it work, an even greater miracle that Fox allowed it to be made. How likely is it to get screwed up? Very.
Oh, But There’s More
But now that the movie is being revealed as a massive success, we’re finding out how challenging the process of making this movie actually was. When a leaked version of the script emerged online in 2010, the writers had been trying to convince Fox to make the movie for years. Fox was hesitant, believing that an adult R-rated self-referential and sex-joke toting superhero movie would never work. The studio had enough trouble getting serious superhero movies working, with it’s Fantastic Four movies seeing lukewarm reception, and its X-Men series getting tanked by a terrible rendition of Phoenix.
Yet the leaked script did more for the movie than any amount of advertising dollars. Fans latched onto the script, demanding Fox that the movie be made. A few years later, yet another script leaked, along with some test footage of the freeway fight scene later displayed in the trailer. Once again, these leaks only served to rile up fandom, and finally forced Fox to greenlight the movie.
We’re hearing now that the original proposed budget was around $70 million, which is already almost 1/2 of the budget of any of the original Fantastic Four movies, nearly 1/5 the budget of Toby McGuire’s last Spiderman venture or Fox’s attempt to reboot it, and is goes right in with one of the most cost-effective hero movies ever, and the last time Ryan Reynolds was in a good superhero movie, Blade Trinity.
Yet, 48-hours before the movie was to be greenlit, Fox executives asked the writers, producers, and director of the movie to cut $7-8 million off that budget, which would give it a budget of $58 million. That’s about as much as it took to get Nick Cage to ruin Ghost Rider.
As good Hollywood writers do, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick sat down and figured out how to cut 9 pages out of an already tight 110-page script. The resulting script is tight, efficiently packed with content, and full of so many beautiful creative ways to cut down costs. For example, the original script had a massive gun battle in the final confrontation, but in the final script, he accidentally leaves the duffle bag of guns in a taxi cab. You’ll have to see the movie to find out why, but this decision freaking works and makes this scene way better than it would have been.
I feel like placing such ridiculous monetary restrictions on this movie made it better, tighter, and dirtier. The writers seem agree as well, as they don’t seem to reference any regrets in their cuts in interviews, and even continually poke fun at the studio’s sealed wallet with jokes at the expense of the fourth-wall. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the inventive spirit of this movie comes across as playful, fun, and yet very real.
The Surprising Depth Within Deadpool
What surprised me most about the movie is how much I actually learned to care about the story of Wade Wilson and the relationship he builds with his girlfriend Vanessa (AKA Copy Cat in the comics) (Morena Baccarin). Their chemistry is believable, their relationship is sweet and very much earned, and Baccarin’s female support offers a wonderful balance for a movie that might otherwise border on the juvenile and therefore misogynistic.
Wade Wilson/Deadpool is a much more complicated character than I would have expected. His sarcastic and sardonic humor is a coping mechanism for the pain of his past, his regrets, and his way of dealing with how fucked up his life becomes throughout the movie.
There should be no doubt about how cliché this story is. It’s one of the most cliché superhero origin stories around, and it barrows so heavily from what Fox has already done with the X-Men movies. But as a fellow writer myself, I can testify that plot doesn’t matter, it’s characters. Wade Wilson, Vanessa, his Bartender friend, Weasel, Blind Al, Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, these characters are all brilliantly rendered and all work perfectly together to make this tired plot actually work.
Oh and also the humor. Reese and Wernick perfectly capture the adult, juvenile, and self-referential humor that Deadpool is so known for, perfectly. There’s a shocking amount of 4th-wall breaks in this movie, but somehow, they work. Throughout the 1 hour and 40-minute runtime, the jokes never get stale, never feel tired, and always land perfectly. And believe me, I have no idea how that happened. This movie is phenomenally funny, and considering the type of humor used, it shouldn’t be. Not that I’m complaining.
Come On Guys, It’s Not Perfect
Now, let’s be honest. This is after a single viewing of the movie. I fully expect that this is not one of those movies that I’ll be able to see a hundred times and it’ll work a hundred times. This is a flash in the pan. Upon further reflection, it’s good to note that this is not the most perfect superhero movie ever made. Like I said earlier, the actual plot has been done time and time again.
There’s also the matter of the villains. Ajax, a villain with regenerative abilities who can feel no pain, is not interesting at all. His character is a trope, and the movie smartly leaves him out of the picture as much as possible. But the problem is that he is necessary for the plot to work, and when he is in the picture, I find myself nodding off in boredom. The final confrontation between him and Deadpool was bound to be boring, and is cut reasonably short as a result, but this can also be a problem for a movie-watching audience who thinks the movie is building to an epic confrontation.
Also, I absolutely loved that Negasonic Teenage Warhead is even being rendered on the big screen, and absolutely love Brianna Hildebrand’s portrayal of her, but she was rather underused. I would have preferred to see more of her blasting away bad guys than the rather boring and pointless fight between Colossus and Angel Dust.
The shadowy organization that Ajax works for also seems tacked on for convenience sake. It’s not important, so the backstory or conspiratorial nature of this group was probably one of the 9 pages that was dropped. But I feel like cutting this part so much to the bone also made the organization seem like a convenient plot device for turning Wade into Deadpool and building a rivalry between him and Ajax.
So, What’s Next?
Deadpool is probably the most profitable superhero movie ever made. It cost a shockingly low $58 million and has already made $135 million in its first weekend. With all the praise and buzz it’s getting, I can only imagine this movie will continue to sell tickets like crazy. Fox has its first bone-fide hit in a looonnngg time.
As can be expected, Fox has already greenlit a sequel, but they actually greenlit it a while ago. Ryan Reynolds came up on screen after the end credits to confirm the writer’s vision as quoted in a comic con last year. That the next movie will have Cable, one of the founding members of the X-Force.
Basically, if the X-Men is the Army, the X-Force would be the Rangers or the Marines or Black Ops or some such thing like that. They deal with time travel and even weirder shit than Marvel normally puts out in their X-Men comics. X-Force seems like a natural evolution, given that every studio wants their own “Avengers” platform to build on. Disney has Avengers, Netflix has The Defenders, DC has Justice League, and now Fox will have X-Men and X-Force.
But there’s a huge danger inherent in this strategy. The reason Deadpool works so well is because the superhero movie has become a trope, and many are getting a bit tired of them. Deadpool falls into these tropes at the same time that it satirically dismisses them, and challenges the industry to change their ways. Guardians of the Galaxy proved that the superhero movie can be done differently, and is probably how this movie got made, but Deadpool takes what Guardians started and takes it several steps forward.
If Fox intends to “Avengerize” Deadpool with the X-Force, then it’s dangerously close to becoming the thing that it derided originally. I’m also concerned about what would happen should Reese and Wernick be given a $200 million budget. Have they learned the lessons of a cutthroat budget, or could financial freedom stifle the creative process? There’s also the very real problem that the new X-Men movies have a completely different tone than Deadpool.
Yet there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, right? Deadpool is clearly not willing to join the X-Men, so it’s unlikely that a team-up will happen for quite some time. The X-Force is a natural fit, and could allow the writers to try their hand at figuring out the careful balance between dark serious plots with stakes and self-referential satire.