Review: Deadpool

Deadpool (2016)
Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggams. Directed by Tim Miller.

deadpool1Deadpool is the first of the X-Men films to be rated R by the MPAA, and it is a gleeful, proudly R-rated film—crude, vulgar, profane and violent. It’s like everyone involved, rather than seeing how much they could get away with and still keep a PG-13 rating, decided from the beginning to get the R rating and see how much fun they could have.

deadpool3A LOT of fun. Not only does it revel in action and dialogue that’s strictly for adult audiences, but it destroys the fourth wall, it’s incredibly self-aware, and it opens with one of the best frozen-action camera shots I’ve ever seen. It’s as if the irreverent antihero Deadpool character also wrote and directed the film as kind of an anti-comic-book antimovie. Even the opening credits are anticredits.

deadpool2Wade Wilson is a former special forces dude who hangs out in the roughest bar in the world and seems to intimidate people on behalf of other people for money. He meets a woman, falls in love, and is diagnosed with cancer. Lots of cancer. Someone says he might be able to cure Wilson, but it’s going to be painful. Wilson agrees to the treatment, which is really a series of experiments by a sadistic man named Ajax who subjects Wilson (and others) to extreme physical trauma in hopes of triggering an artificial mutation.

This is Deadpool’s origin story, and its plot elements are not especially intriguing or interesting. The film’s strength is in telling the story in a manner unlike any comic book film I can think of. Wolverine may be a loner, resistant to joining anyone’s team, but his moral compass is pretty easy to read. Deadpool is morally ambiguous, and without apology, and while this makes some of his decisions unpleasant, the ride is so enjoyable it’s hard to complain.

Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is excellent. I honestly thought he was good as Green Lantern too, though, so maybe my opinion here is questionable. Two of the X-Men from Xavier’s school, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, help out, and they’re great too. I don’t know a thing about either of them, but I love Colossus, who seems to be Deadpool’s opposite in every way.

Superhero origin stories are getting tiresome, yet here is one that had me curious and entertained all the way through.

8/10
80/100

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Olivia Munn, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne. Directed by Bryan Singer.

X-Men_Apocalypse_reviewIn X-Men: Apocalypse, an ancient Egyptian mutant is awakened by Moira McTaggart, and he does not like what the world has become in the centuries since his live burial. He finds a few young mutants (Angel, Storm, and Psylocke among them) and – wait for it! – decides he needs to blow up the world.

apocalypseMagneto is living under cover in Poland, with a wife and child, while working in some kind of steel mill or something. He’s trying to live a quiet life, but as he keeps reminding us and Xavier, the world doesn’t want to allow it. I think Xavier finds him and enlists his help, with a bunch of young X-Men, including young Jean Grey, young Cyclops, young Nightcrawler (in what seems to be a timeline inconsistency), and young Quicksilver, in stopping Apocalypse, that Egyptian mutant, from ending things.

The Magneto story is great, and I appreciate the film taking its time through it. The Xavier-McTaggart story is interesting, but there’s not enough of it. And there’s just not enough of the relational stuff that makes other X-Men films so much better than this. Without it, you just have a crazy cartoonish villain wanting to – wait for it! – blow up the world, and that’s just not interesting. I still enjoyed the film, because I enjoy the X-Men and the students at Xavier’s school, but scenes with Apocalypse were just something to sit through, and there were a lot of them.

6/10
58/100

Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Holt, Kelsey Grammer, and Peter Dinklage. Directed by Bryan Singer.

days1In some future time, mutants (and their supporters) are being exterminated by Sentinels, robot-like things that have Mystique’s powers of transformation. To combat this, Shadowcat has been sending other mutants’ consciousnesses back in time, to warn their recent past selves of the impending danger, so the mutants can go elsewhere. This affects their present so that they were never where the Sentinels show up, a kind of going back in time to prevent a bad present.

days_2But it’s not enough; the Sentinels can’t be held off like this forever. So Charles Xavier’s plan is to send someone’s consciousness back to 1973 to prevent the murder Mystique committed that resulted in her being captured and experimented on, which gave the government the knowledge for the creation of the Sentinels. Shadowcat can’t go herself, because she didn’t exist in 1973, and the strain on even the formidable mind of Xavier would be too great to survive. So Wolverine of the self-healing mind* volunteers to convince Xavier and Eric Lensherr to help him stop Mystique. Xavier, remembering what he was like in 1973, warns Logan that he will “not be easy to convince.”

days3Wolverine’s present mind goes back to his 1973 self, which is a genius move for the writers, because rather than putting makeup on Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Romijn, Ian McKellen, and Kelsey Grammer to make them look decades younger, the film just uses the cast from X-Men: First Class. I love this.

The premise is so good that even a so-so realization would still have made this a pretty good film, but the writers and director have fun with the back-in-time bit, and they play with the suspense so it’s enjoyable without being manipulative. Jackman and McAvoy are excellent, loaded with all kinds of dark conflict—McAvoy’s Xavier manages to out-dark Logan in this film, and this is a very good thing. The continued friendship-rivalry between Xavier and Lehnsherr keeps working. It’s one of the best things about the X-Men series, and X-Men: Days of Future Past is possibly my favorite of the X-Men movies.

7/10
79/100

*I love the premise, but if I understand Wolverine correctly, it’s his body that recovers from injury, which means his brain regenerates, not necessarily his mind.  If his mind heals itself, why can’t he heal the parts of his memory that Stryker has taken away from him?