Once Upon a Deadpool (David Leitch) 2 out of 4 stars
I suspect that it is the perpetually worsening feeling of political and social dread that has allowed the superhero to become our new and improved God. I myself have never been keen on delving into this spandex laden, black and white world of good and evil, despite understanding the mass appeal. I’m sure that many Marvel fanboys would advise against making one of my first forays into their cinematic universe be not only a recut of a sequel, but the recut for a character who is self aware of their own exclusion from the company’s pocket-picking troupe of more recognizable heroes. They would be wrong. It turns out that this repackaged, squeaky-clean version of the Fox-branded atypical antihero, Deadpool, is a fairly stomachable version for a lazy Friday night.
The story is the same one you’re all familiar with. Yes, it is simply a slightly different version of its source material, Deadpool 2, but, moreso, it is simply a slightly different version of the grand formula that comprises most films of its genre. While the story at the heart is a whittled down version of Deadpool’s quest to help save a young orphan mutant from the merciless time-traveler, Cable, the brand new framing device in the form of a Princess Bride style bedroom story between Deadpool himself and a grown Fred Savage is the film’s greatest success.
This addition capitalizes off of the films’ own needlessness. It seems to ask the least of the viewer and in turn becomes the most enjoyable element of the film. It allows the audience to feel comfortable experiencing the film in a more superficial, yet earnestly playful way. Fred Savage maintains an explicit connection to the audience, the filmmakers using him to demonstrate their own awareness of the original film’s flaws. It’s actually too bad the runtime is so bloated by the original, as it does seem to suffer from the same propensities for blandness and a script driven too much by its comedic value as others of its kind do. The fairytale subversion also allows the filmmakers to easily translate this notoriously R-rated character into a version of himself that is wholesome enough to earn its PG-13 rating.
This new family-friendly seal of approval, however, brings me back to the idea of the superhero mentioned earlier. In a universe in dire need of heroes, the mere notion of a superhero historically functions to explicate a society’s communal will. Their mystery and masks separate them from their identity as an individual and allows their suit to be one that any individual or group who is willing to fight for goodness can fill. The heroes churned out by this ultra-powerful corporation generally seem to fit this mold of heroic morality, except perhaps one. Deadpool is loved because of his inversion of the superhero image. He certainly has morals, yet his attitude goes beyond mere cockiness. He is rowdy, crude, violent, and, most importantly, unapologetic. These qualities make the ability to be a superhero seem more accessible and relatable to the contemporary viewer. This is what the franchises’ most devoted fans love most about him. This, however, is what the recut is largely taking away.
While the repackaging of this unusual hero presumably takes much of the caustic edge off of its original, its new additions work based on their divulgence into nostalgia and familiar plotting. Taking a note from this particular superhero, the industry clearly understands that their familiar tropes and delicately manufactured comedic wit are not going to die anytime soon. Expect to see a lot more of this atypical hero in your local theaters, whether R-rated or not, and you just might see me there too.