The standard line being used to express love for "Deadpool", the 20th Century Fox adaptation of the Marvel Comics anti-hero is that it's the closest we have come to a live action Bugs Bunny cartoon. Fair enough, since the movie capitalizes massively on the creaky conceit of "breaking the 4th wall", the unspoken barrier which separates the characters on the stage from the audience in the theater. In this scenario, a character turns and speaks directly to the crowd sitting in the dark, commenting on the play itself, implicating the viewers in an implicit conspiracy involving the darker plot machinations that would not be thematically feasible unless the ticket holders were there, eaves dropping and looking in on the lives of those on the stage. Hardly a new technique ,one I encountered in college while attending plays by German/Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht, who devised his idea of the "alienation effect" and "Epic theater" to provoke the structures of the sort of fiction they use to entertain themselves and , in the process of interrogating the conditions of the genre imperatives that determine outcomes and contain philosophies that encourage passive acceptance of capitalist inevitability, a crowd would be freed of the lies they are told and the conditioning they recieve to accept the world as it is.
Brecht's goal was revolution , liberation, a post-capitalist society of equal men and women cooperating in a the fleeting idea of a worker's paradise. Not a whole lot of laughter there, but an fascinating theory of how to get audiences bothered by the lack of coin in their collective purse. 'Deadpool" plays for laughs, and there are laughs aplenty ; it's an easily handled device to achieve the "oh wow" effect. It does not, though, warrant extended use. As much as Bugs Bunny spoke to the audience or commented on the fact that he was an animated character in the process of being drawn badly, his cartoons were short adventures in self-reflective avant gard, played for fast laughs, and then done with. "Deadpool" is a full length movie driven by devices rather sufficiently interesting role creations who have at least a modicum of complexity so they might surprise when the plot merits a change of personality. 'Deadpool" has, in turn, a limited set of notes to play. It grates before it's half way through. It's a gimmick that should be used sparingly.
Admittedly "Deadpool", was clever and had real laughs mixed in with the snarky giggles the producers were going for, but it was tiresome after the half way point. The film, concerning a mercenary/assassin with a heart of gold and a non stop stream of sarcasm is paper-thin with regards to premise. The merc, Wade Wilson, finds out he's in the advance stages of cancer . In a hopeless state and wanting to continue to be with a recently found true love and soul mate, Wilson agrees to undergo a radical therapy by a stranger that will not only cure his cancer but give him meta human powers. The treatment,such as it is, turns out to be torture in actual fact , the point of the injections, incisions and radiations to force him to mutate. Wilson mutates , of course, but he is horribly scarred, his sole consolation being that he has an incredibly advanced healing factor that makes him basically unkillable. It goes without saying that his already solid fighting skills, honed when he was a government -paid agent of black operations, are now off the scale, acrobatic to the degree comic book fans adore.
Which would be fine, since comic book stories needn't have a Jamesian complexity to be compelling; here , though, we find Deadpool, once in the costume and killing bad guys between wise cracks, dirty puns and silly postures, relies on the old post-modern trick of becoming self-reflective, which is to say that the main character turns to the audience, the masked head bobbing as though on spring with a kink in it, making remarks about the movie he's in, other movies in this version of the Marvel Comics Universe, the cheapness of the studio executives, even remarks about the number of times the "4th wall" has been smashed . Repeat as needed, and repeat as needed in a dizzying reliance of one flashback after another.
To his credit director Tim Miller doesn't lose his place in all the unfolding, but for all the bells, gunshots, explosions and Snyder-style use of quick juxtapositions of slow motion and normal time to accentuate the power of all of those explosions flying glass, beheadings and on-the-beat snarkery coming from Deadpool's sheathed mouth makes you yearn for a movie that didn't think it was so clever. Ryan Reynolds gets his career saved from that looming fate of being known as the actor who destroyed the hip factor in DC's Green Lantern character, although he portrays the hyperactive Wilson with many of the same mannerisms. ticks, bobs, gestures and verbal rhythms.
The pace of what he delivers is faster, locked to one rapid fire pace; imagine the friends you've actually had who couldn't stand pauses or extended silences in a conversation who just kept on talking beyond interest or actual things to talk about. It's not depth or range we're looking for in Deadpool. It's just that the qualities that make him an appealing comic book anti-hero don't travel very far in a full length feature, at least this one. Deadpool comes up short. Half way through the film , in fact, I couldn't escape the feeling that cast and crew lost enthusiasm for the project but soldiered as dispirited employees do, showing up for the paycheck, not the mission.