The long-gestating Deadpool film arrives in theaters this weekend with so many questions. Has Ryan Reynolds found the right comeback vehicle? Does 20th Century Fox need to shed all its superhero films that don't involve mutants? Can quarter-century-old comic-book tricks feel fresh again when adapted for the screen? And of course, do you dare take the (older) kids to this visual orgy of stylised violence punctuated by sexual one-liners?
We arrived at a Deadpool screening last week with all those fanboy questions in tow. And here, as we sit across the aisle, are the answers that emerge from our own banter:
Michael Cavna: So first, we've gotta tackle the Ryan Reynolds question. Deadpool clearly is his attempt at a post- - even "anti-" - Green Lantern comeback. So does he succeed? What works - or doesn't - to you about his performance?
David Betancourt: This is a great step in the right direction for Reynolds, after the global (box office) disaster that was Green Lantern. I thought Reynolds as Green Lantern could work. I was a fan of Geoff Johns's comic-book run writing Green Lantern. And Reynolds had the look, the muscles, the wit. But he sold himself short by signing on without taking a good look at the script, which was weak.
Reynolds also deserves credit for not letting go of Deadpool after the less-than-stellar treatment the character received in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I mean, after seeing him in (that), I had no desire for a Deadpool movie. But they were smart to let that animated test footage get out and let fans decide if it was something they wanted to see. That got interest piqued.
As for Ryan's performance? Pretty good - especially in the Deadpool suit. He almost loses himself in this one, and that's not something he does a lot. He's usually Ryan Reynolds in every movie. This flick, you feel like he's Wade Wilson.
MC: That speaks to what seems to be the lesson that Ryan learned most after Green Lantern: Try to take a controlling interest in your project - whether as a producer or by seeing a final script. I think he also realised that he needed to a far snarkier comics character - quipping more like Iron Man than like an old-school DC icon. To suit his comic delivery, he needed to deliver lines in the right comics suit. I can't imagine a better pairing of Ryan's comic sweet-spot and a comic-book title character - and the mutant face and the mask actually feel like a knowing way to subvert his good looks. Another factor that seemed to work for RR here: He had real chemistry with both his love interest (portrayed by Morena Baccarin) and his best friend (T.J. Miller). What did you think of Deadpool's casting in the major roles?
DB: Morena brought a lot more to this role than I thought she would. Deadpool's determination in the entire film is based on their relationship, and I was surprised by her ability to be just as goofy as Reynolds at times. T.J. and Ryan were just as hilarious as advertised in the trailers. Ed Skrein brought some really bad vibes as Ajax; the rivalry between he and Deadpool - it's fun watching Deadpool try to work towards taking him down. And I think my favourite casting was the additions of Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), as some sort of moral voice of reason, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who has a name so hilarious even Deadpool can't say it with a straight face.
I think this Deadpool movie shows that you don't need the big name, A-list X-Men to make a movie like this work. This could be a template for future X-Men films at Fox. I think the real star of this movie is the R-rating. Trying to fit the dirty humour, the sex, the blood and violence of Deadpool into a PG-13 movie wouldn't have worked, even though the comics don't normally take it that far. Who knew an X-Men/Marvel character in an R-rated movie would work?
MC: Let's look at X-rated comics adapted to an "R" film for a minute. This movie really takes it to 11 with this gumbo of irreverent snark and stylized CGI violence and the level of sexual one-liners and jokes we were especially titillated by in middle school. How effective, and faithful, do you think the adaptation from page to screen is?
DB: What's the one thing we can compare Deadpool to? Watchmen? Watchmen was a dark "R." Brutality in the shadows. If there's a such thing as a fun/funny/violent "R," I'm thinking Deadpool would be it. As for faithfulness to the comics? You could say the Deadpool comics aren't rated R, but there's a lot masked behind onomatopoeia. But even though they kick it up severely dirty notches with a well-deserved R rating, the movie doesn't lose faithfulness to the spirit of the Deadpool comic. You want a Deadpool comic come to life? This is the movie for you.
MC: Speaking of that R rating, this raises an interesting prospect about Deadpool's potential box office. First, your 17-year-old nephew seemed to love the film (after the screening), and much of the film's more obvious sexual humour might be especially enjoyed by teens, to whom the flurry of innuendos might seem fresh. But given the rating, that of course means an adult must decide it's copacetic to bring the kid along. Do you think this movie's box office will be highly reliant on enough teens getting to see it - despite the rating?
DB: I think there are enough adult-aged fans of Deadpool, and enough positive buzz, that this movie can still be successful financially - but those 14- to 16-year-olds will be itching for a peek, I'm sure. But those kids might have to wait until Deadpool is on cable. I don't think Deadpool is the kind of movie you ask Mom and Dad to take you to; maybe that crazy uncle every family has - he might take you.
Is there money left on the table because of the kids who can't see this? Sure. Even Suicide Squad, as dark as it looks, will probably get a PG-13. And a lot of that is so the kids can spend money, too. But there should be enough adult fans to give Deadpool the numbers at the box office they're hoping for.
MC: The director, Tim Miller, worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, of course, so he knows all about being involved with an eye-popping, smartly adapted comic-book film that generates serious heat out of Comic-Con and that the loyalist fanboys turn out for upon release - but that never achieves general-audience elevation and so underperforms. So what is it about Deadpool that might most help it avoid a similar fate?
DB: There are a few factors. There's the X-Men connection. They were smart to put Colossus in there; general audiences should recognize the giant steel guy. Fanboys are going to see this.
Also, Ryan still has a little twinkle in his star appeal; Morena is known to the general audience (as being) from Gotham and Homeland. T.J. - most everyone knows is hilarious. And then there's Reynolds' sense of humour, which - because of the R rating - can be used to the max. There is hope for Deadpool that there won't be just a fanboy turnout, which we know is not enough. You've got to have the general audience. The trailers were great, so that could help as well.
MC: So based on what we saw: Will we get a Deadpool 2? And if so, what would you like to see the screenwriters next pull - and be inspired by - from the comic books?
DB: I definitely think Deadpool deserves a sequel. By that I mean, after seeing Deadpool, I'd like to see more of what I saw. I've heard rumors that Cable (of X-Force fame) could possibly appear in a Deadpool sequel. I think that would be a whole lot of fun. What Deadpool proves is that Fox can dive deep into the X-Men universe and find lots of adaptable content. If Cable could appear in a sequel, and it's him and Deadpool entertainingly going at each other with all the ammo they've got, we could possibly get an X-Force movie out of that. Now that's something I'd pay to see. Deadpool vs. Cable - something we've seen in the comics so much - and then an X-Force movie? Take my money now.
MC: So with Deadpool poised to ascend and Psylocke's X-pocalypse on the horison for Fox, should we now officially say "so long for a long time" to the studio's less-than-Fantastic Four efforts?
DB: I think Fox realises that its golden eggs are with the X-Men franchise. The Fantastic Four franchise should not be awakened again unless it is in the hands of Marvel Studios. Who knows? Maybe Fox would wave a white flag, as Sony did with the Spider-Man rights, or maybe if enough time passes, the rights will pass to Marvel anyway. But otherwise, no more Fantastic Four flicks. The point of Fantastic Four was for Fox to expand its superhero movies. Deadpool seems to prove that they can do that many times over with the X-Men rights.