Why ‘Deadpool’ Remains 2016’s Best Superhero Film

.jpg

We’re getting to a point where superhero films are no longer artist-driven films; they’re conglomerations. That’s definitely the case with this past weekend’s ill-conceived Suicide Squad, but the disjointed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the rather uneventful X-Men: Apocalypse and, in my opinion, even the fairly lumbering Captain America: Civil War were manipulated by too many cooks in the kitchen. They’re not all bad (minus Suicide Squad, which was pretty bad); they just weren’t special. Deadpool, therefore, remains the best superhero movie of the year, mostly because it’s the only superhero movie that actually felt like, you know, a movie. But that’s not the only reason.

Sure, the influence of the MCU has introduced expanded universes and cool character team-ups. But it has also subtracted directorial influence and ushered in an age of indistinct blockbusters. Look at the films from Phase 1, like Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Then look at some films from Phase 2 like, say, Thor: The Dark World or Avengers: Age of Ultron. These are only a couple examples, of course, and that’s not to say that creative filmmaking is completely dead and gone in superhero films. Watch Guardians of the Galaxy or Man of Steel and you’ll notice the director’s touch sprinkled throughout. But a time where Sam Raimi could make Spider-Man and 2, Jon Favreau could helm Iron Man or Christopher Nolan could bring us The Dark Knight trilogy is nearly a distant memory. Producers like Kevin Feige now have full say on these films; The Dark Knight Rises is the last auteur-steered superhero film.

They may not be perfect (except The Dark Knight), but they were films made by filmmakers, not business decisions made by board members, like Ant-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. That’s partially what made Tim Miller’s Deadpool so exhilarating: Where so many recent superhero movies came across flat and listless, this wild-and-out spin-off was punchy and bristling with life. It was timely. It was quippy. It was bold. Most of all, however, it had its own identity — and it stuck by it from the first frame until the last.

Again, it wasn’t flawless. Far from it, in fact. But Deadpool is the only 2016 superhero movie made better by its imperfections — something that’s become a rarity since Raimi’s aforementioned superhero trilogy. It had a vision and a sense of humor, yes, but it let its personality and style define the film, rather than be a quirky part of the bigger picture. That’s been noticeably absent from the genre of late.

Miller’s feature debut was a breath of fresh air for moviegoers, as well as the kick-in-the-dick the genre desperately needed. While overly juvenile and mildly formulaic, particularly to the unspoken rules of origin stories, it was also invigorated, sharp and pointed. Those are adjectives I haven’t used to describe a superhero film since 2010’s Kick-Ass. Is it overly masculine? Sure. Does it substitute crass language and four-letter words for cleverness? Quite often. But more than anything else, it had flavor, inspiration and heart. It’s clearly a labor of love for Miller, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland) and star/producer Ryan Reynolds, and its passion and persistence oozed onto every single frame. It knows exactly what it wants to be and, more importantly, what it should be. Thankfully, Fox didn’t mess it all up for them, and that’s what ultimately proves to be its saving grace.

In my Suicide Squad review, I called David Ayer’s latest “a superhero film with an identity crisis.” The sad fact, however, is that almost every superhero movie of late seems to be insecure, unsure or confused about itself in some way or another. Apocalypse wrongheadedly believes that trilogy cappers need to be grave and serious, and it often sacrifices the series’ ingrained lightheartedness for familiarity and unoriginality. Similarly, Batman v Superman is straight-faced to a fault, almost becoming comically brooding in its need to assert its real-life implications in a movie with a flying alien man and a billionaire who dresses up as a bat and fights low-level crime. Gritty realism can work, as Nolan’s films proved, but Zack Snyder’s film often feels reflective of its peers, and it never quite establishes its own voice to make that feel appropriate.

As for Civil War, it’s probably the second-best superhero blockbuster we’ve gotten this year, but it still suffers from lumpy pacing, a clogged narrative and an endless barrage of fighting sequences. It’s exhausting even before the climax begins. Deadpool, however, could have been two hours longer and I wouldn’t have minded it one bit. It appears effortless and light on its feet, and its goofiness, slapstick humor and pun-happy attitude miraculously never become nauseating. Miller, Reese and Wernick balance the depth buried within Deadpool‘s tragic backstory with humility and a keen self-awareness, which also miraculously never gets too on-the-nose. The drama is self-contained and personable, while the action and comedy is broad and wide-reaching. The more I think about this film, the more I’m surprised it worked at all.

Some people mistake Deadpool‘s R-rating as the key to its success, but such superficial analysis is not what made it declarative or different from its peers. At least, not completely. After all, the Blade trilogy, the Sin City films, Kingsman: The Secret Service, 300, Dredd, The Crow, Watchmen, The Punisher, Punisher: War Zone, Wanted, Spawn, V for Vendetta, Ghost World, American Splendor and the aforementioned Kick-Ass were just some of the comic book films made and released with an R-rating before Deadpool hit theaters — even if they each celebrated varying degrees of success. No, Deadpool was different because it took those adult elements and propelled them into a film that felt new and fresh, even if it followed a very familiar groundwork.

Deadpool took on the connected universe found in MCU and DCEU films and provided the rich jokes, clever asides and snotty commentary that fans have muttered to both themselves and their friends for years. Deadpool, the character, was both in-sync with the comic book universe and the perfect outsider, just like he was in the original comics. He was connected enough to fit into the system, but also removed just enough to make it count. In the wrong hands, Deadpool could have been the most insufferable movie of 2016. Instead, Miller made it one of the most fitfully entertaining and gleefully off-the-cuff blockbusters to come onto the big screen in years, not merely this year. That it came in February was both a blessing and a curse. It started the year off very strong, but it also left us with what might very well be 2016’s best superhero film far too early.

It’s possible Doctor Strange is going to knock Deadpool off its podium. We’ll have to wait until November before any of us can truly call anything the year’s best and worst, and that applies to superhero films as well. But with August heating up and Miller’s debut feature far surpassing anything in its field, I’m confident this little odd duck of a vigilante film will be the best the year has to offer. You’re free to agree or disagree, and I’m sure the comment section will be littered with those of you who don’t align with my thinking. Despite the harsh criticism I gave some of the year’s other superhero flicks above, I did find something or another to enjoy in all of them — no matter how bad some got.

But Deadpool was the only one that actually felt alive and affirming. It’s also the only one I’m inclined to re-watch, except for maybe Batman v Superman. Spunky, hilarious and oddly heartwarming, Deadpool is exactly the kind of superhero film we need right now, and I hope studios took the right notes from its success. In a time when the genre is becoming more economically-driven than artist-defined, it’s wonderful to see someone put their middle finger up to the system and fearlessly shake things up. Deadpool felt extraordinary where so many felt ordinary, and that’s what truly makes it a good superhero film.

Will Ashton

Will Ashton

Will is a writer for Heroic Hollywood, and a lot of other places too. One day he'll become Jack Burton. Just you wait and see.

  • Renato Tan

    “The best” is far away from funniest. Perhaps you should’ve used the “IMO” before your statement.
    To me the best SH Movie is BvS. Im sorry haters.

    • Marquis de Sade

      “the best SH Movie is BvS.”

      *BLASPHEMOUS!*
      YOU SPEAK MADNESS, I SAY!
      MADNESS!

      • Renato Tan

        hahaha oh you…!

    • Yes, you are sorry.

    • Sugam Kher

      Dude people don’t use ‘IMO’ these days .. they’re so lonely all they want is to rant on .. like this Marquis guy … lol he comments on each and every HH article about how he hates DC movies .. he has no life .. it’s sad and funny at the same time .. I laugh at him everyday .. 😛

      • Marquis de Sade

        Oooooohhhhh, I see a certain dc fangurl had a lot of pent-up hostilities to get off its ches(er) breast, huh?

  • DarkoCool

    IMO BvS UE is the best. Civil War had the best action scenes in any super hero movie I’ve seen so it’s 2nd. Deadpool would be numero tres. Suicide Squad 4th. Haven’t seen Dr. Strange so that might change. Xmen Apocalypse is 204th.

    • Marquis de Sade

      “IMO BvS UE is the best.”

      That cocaine is a H3LLLA’ drug!

    • Dude, glue is bad for you.

    • Sugam Kher

      I agree with this guy .. BvS UE is a legend .. people will look back while watching mickey mouse and the avengers and say that’s how it could have been if half our population wasn’t retarded ..

      • batghost

        I only visit this site now to read the increasingly insane comments from DC lovers. It honestly makes me understand how so many people can be Trump supporters.

        • Marquis de Sade

          Yeah, Sammy-rai & Co. are a scream, huh?

          • batghost

            ha. I truly am not trying to start drama, but yeah – all these guys are so obviously in denial that its sad. I assume that they cant be any older than 17 or 18 years old so I try not to go too hard. “BvS UE is a legend” Wow. He really cant be serious, right?

          • Marquis de Sade

            Uhhh, yeah, I’m afraid he is…and the sad part about it, bvs:ue is just as boring as the theatrical cut. Sad, but comical how these dc fangurls will rationalize dceu’s ineptitude.

  • Sugam Kher

    Deadpool was awesome .. but it wasn’t that great of a movie .. just because it was what you wanted to see at the time .. IMO apocalypse, BvS and Squad take were much better movies .. unless you’re one of the hate herd.

    • Will Ashton

      I’d argue Deadpool is a legitimately good movie, but to each their own. Maybe my opinion will change over time, but for the time being, I stick with what I wrote.

      • Sugam Kher

        Oh I agree totally .. Deadpool was a good movie .. an awesome movie .. no argument there .. but I just feel that Singer, Snyder brought more to the table in term of film making… but yes indeed .. to each his own.

        • Will Ashton

          I’m glad we’re on the same page. I do think Singer and Snyder’s visions were seen more than, say, David Ayer’s. But I also felt their influence was found less than it was in X2 and Days of Future Past, in Singer’s case, and Watchmen and Man of Steel, in relation to Snyder.

          • Sugam Kher

            Ironically sad that they were blamed for it though ..

    • Axxell

      Deadpool was awesome .. but it wasn’t that great of a movie .. just because it was what you wanted to see at the time

      I know what you’re trying to say, but no…there’s no way you can go wrong with giving people what they want. Producers thinking they know better than us about what we want is the reason why DC is bumbling around wondering why people aren’t blowing their load at the thought of their movies like they convinced themselves they would…

      • Sugam Kher

        I don’t think DC is wondering that at all .. I think this is exactly how it should be… if you look back to the 90s and even before DC started taking such an approach in comics as well .. DC has never been for everyone .. it was always too defined for gen pop… because as you said there’s nothing wrong with people getting what they want and I know a bunch of people including me who wanted exactly this kinda universe .. Deadpool was really really good .. but the fact that there’s been a comedy revolution online since the meme days that has made people inclined towards comedy above everything else .. coincidentally Deadpool was in the pipeline ..

        • Axxell

          I don’t think DC is wondering that at all .. I think this is exactly how it should be… if you look back to the 90s and even before DC started taking such an approach in comics as well .. DC has never been for everyone ..

          Is that why WBDC decided to do a 180 turn on making solo film series? Why they’re paying up the wazoo for multiple cuts of the same movie while it’s being produced?

  • Thanostic

    Ummm, no. Civil War is the best of the year, and it’s not particularly close. I’d listen to an argument for Deadpool as 2nd, but never the best. Just because it’s unique doesn’t make it the best (exhibit A: Ant-Man).

    • Will Ashton

      To each their own.

  • Chris W

    Deadpool was fun. But it’s chalk so full of contemporary pop culture references, that it will become extremely dated within the next 5 years. Watch it again in 2021 and I’ll bet good money you would just roll your eyes through half of it. It’s the same reason modern spoof movies have such horrible rewatchability.

    • Will Ashton

      I’m curious if that’ll be the case or not. I’m not doubting you; I just don’t want to assume something will be the case in the future because you never know. That said, I’m writing in the now, and right now, I believe it’s the best CBM we’ve gotten this year, and I think I gave some pretty good reasons.

      • Chris W

        Yes it is totally my own conjecture. But I’m just basing it off of movies that rely on contemporary pop culture references for their gags, and whenever I go back to them, it’s always painful for me.

        The other thing is that when newer generations dive in to those sorts of movies, most of the gags will go completely over their heads, and the movie needs to stand on its narrative.

        There’s only an extreme minority of a generation that can appreciate the satires of the previous ones. So they always have a hard time standing the test of time with anyone but the people who lived in that moment.

        • Will Ashton

          But I feel like Deadpool is not exclusively its pop culture jokes, which is why it’ll live on longer than, say, Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie or Disaster Movie. I think the best comparison would be Family Guy seasons one-three, but time will be the true test.

  • CC

    Not sure it’s the “best” of the year, per say – Civil War is a much stronger movie content wise, but I’d agree that it’s certainly the most rewatchable of the year. It feels like a movie you can throw on and watch whenever, or have on in the background while you do something else.
    I’ve watched it like 7 times now, and I’m still not sick of it.