Published on February 18th, 2016 | by Craig Silliphant0
Limitation breeds creativity and Deadpool has become the little movie that could. But is it more than a fanboys wet dream? Is it any good?
A quote I’m fond of going back to again and again is, “Limitation breeds creativity.” Rather than whining about the fact that they’ve tied one hand behind your back, a good creative is always asking — how can I turn that into a strength?
There were many reasons that Deadpool languished in development hell for so long. The character, up until last week at least, was far from being a household name like Spider-man or Superman. It’s also a movie that the filmmakers rightly thought could only be done justice to with an R-rating, something conventional studio wisdom (an oxymoron?) calls box office suicide. But finally, through some ‘leaked’ footage and backdoor finagling, the studio finally agreed to make the film, though with a mere $60 million dollar budget (which sounds like a lot, but isn’t these days).
In fact, this weekend, as the budget for Batman vs. Superman ballooned to $400 million, Deadpool blew the doors of the box office, turning that mere $60 million dollar budget into the record for the biggest R-rated opening of all time ($300 million worldwide for the first weekend alone). And in glorious, gimmick-free 2D, no less. Deadpool is the little movie that could. That all sounds like limitation breeding creativity to me. They made the R-rated movie they wanted to make without a big budget and they’ve triumphed, thanks to the patience and vision of the filmmakers and a marketing campaign that played fast and loose.
Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, ‘the merc with the mouth,’ a mercenary who undergoes a rogue experiment that leaves him with mutant superpowers. It also leaves him scarred and without the love of his life, causing him to seek revenge on the people who created him.
Like the comic (and the marketing campaign), Deadpool is an irreverent, hilarious, anti-comic book movie comic book movie. From the opening credits, to breaking the fourth wall with jokes about Ryan Reynolds’ acting range and involvement in comic book movie disasters like Green Lantern, Deadpool scores. In fact, they even make jokes about the budget, because the only X-Men we ever see in the film are Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (yes, named after the Monster Magnet song). It’s all they could afford, quips Deadpool.
I also love the fact that they manage to get past the origin story blues by playing with the structure a bit, much like Tim Burton’s Batman. I hate sitting through a superhero movie for an hour before the hero actually appears on screen. That said, in terms of the story, they’re not reinventing the wheel or anything. It’s your standard revenge flick with a bit of unrequited love thrown in for good measure.
The film succeeds by being uncompromising in capturing the spirit of Deadpool and not getting overly complicated along the way. While it seems simple, this can easily go wrong. Case in point — the Punisher films. For the most part, The Punisher is an R-rated character that has been softened in film, casting aside the heart of what makes him the Punisher. And when they did make an R-rated version of the character, they got closer to what makes Frank Castle tick, but they made a cartoonishly bad movie. (Side note: Hopefully the upcoming second season of the Daredevil Netflix show can lift The Punisher to his rightful place).
When I reviewed Mississippi Grind, I complained that Reynolds ‘acting’ always felt like acting — like you were watching him play that character, never that he was that character. That’s still true here I think, but Wade Wilson is pretty close to being like Reynolds, so it works. And even better, where some comic book movies, like Spider-man, use every excuse to get the actor out of the mask so we can see the cute face of the big name hunk they paid for, Deadpool stays Deadpool.
Fanboys may tout this movie as being the greatest superhero film of them all; I don’t think that’s true. However, I am more than impressed with Reynolds, director Tim Miller, and the rest of the creative team. Some critics are complaining that it’s too juvenile, too sophomoric, too meta — I say, get over it. It’s a hell of a good time and the filmmakers should be proud of the feat they’ve accomplished. Making a hit movie and a decent movie at the same time, with a gross-killing R-rating, and only $60 million dollars in the kitty.
Limitation breeds creativity, and those are some creative chimi-fucking-changas.