‘Deadpool’: WHAM! Maximum Effort!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Deadpool is the ultimate anti-hero for the South Park-loving, I-never-grew-out-of-fart-jokes teenager in all of us. He isn’t concerned with saving the world, preventing galactic annihilation, or wearing an X in a circle on his reds. His problem, at its core, is simple – some douche-nozzle tortures him at work, and then gets all huffy and girlfriend-kidnappy when Wade takes offense.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) proves to be a watered-down version of Deadpool’s mouth long before his skin avocadoes, and when he meets the full-grown woman who shares his sense of humor, he is in absolute lusty-love. Nearly everything in the movie comes in montages, so right after the sex-for-all-holidays tribute, comes the devastating news that Wade has seriously bad terminal cancer. Of course, the stripper girlfriend with the heart of gold and the mouth of a sailor, Vanessa, wants to fight cancer with all means available to them. Which essentially means the death-by-inches agony of long treatments and Wade just doesn’t have the patience nor stamina for that kind of dumbassery. Instead, he opts for the Agent Smith recruiting option at his local post-Special-Ops-Agent hangout, and next thing you know it’s off to the mutant factory!

You can expect anyone who’s been hopped up with mutant juice and subjected to many creative tortures, to be a bit cranky with his jailers. Ajax – excuse me, Francis – doesn’t stand a chance in hell of holding the charming-sleazy Brit bad guy of the film role, not in the face of Deadpool’s eternal give-zero-fucks snark. One conflagration later, Wade is determined to rise from the ashes like the most epic anime phoenix ever, slicing and shooting his way through the bad guys to get to the one who turned him into Mr. Potato Head! Francis (Ed Skrein) and his roadblock of a female sidekick, Angel Dust (Gina Carano), prove to be formidable foes, even when met with Wade’s blistering break-the-fourth-wall commentary!

Wade’s early attempts at costumery are terrible and hilarious and exactly what we would find ourselves doing in his boots. Here, we meet his roommate Al, who is about as far from the likes of Daredevil’s Stick as you can get, yet Wade still enjoys bantering with her in his juvenile well-meaning fashion. His bartender friend with the deadpool on when Wade’s gonna kick it does his best to help too – his efforts end up with Weasel (T.J. Miller) as a Shaggy-like sidekick, one of the few who knows both Wade and Deadpool.

The introduction of a CGI-ed to hell and gone Colossus (Stefan Kapicic does his voice) and his little sidekick — this is a mouthful — Negasonic Teenage Warhead, was an interesting choice for the X-Men cameos you just knew we had to have. Tagging Colossus for the unappreciated role of the eternal recruiter of Deadpool to the X-Men seems completely appropriate, considering the lengths Colossus has gone to in other storylines, but the translation of the mega-metal-Russian from the comic books to the big screen wasn’t what I had pictured. Negasonic (Brianna Hildebrand), on the other hand, is clearly the epitome of the New X-Men latter-day class, with her sullen teenage silences, biting commentary and ability to turn herself into a fireball bomb! And, of course, Wade’s wild and wonderful woman, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, gets many shout-outs for her completely believable portrayal of the woman to die, repeatedly, for!

That’s another thing too many people seem to be overlooking, Wade says it himself – Deadpool is actually a love story, yes, with some horror elements and other stuff thrown in, but still. Wade voluntarily had this done to him so he could live with the love of his life, the woman who shares his corrupted sense of humor and eternally perverse sexual tastes, more or less regardless of what he looks like. Far too many of my fellow geeks and freaks out there would give their entire music collection (I’m betting there won’t be a single Wham! album among them) and then some for a love like that!

There are already tons of reviews out there, all about how Deadpool breathed life back into a stale superhero genre and gave them the encouragement they needed to finally put on their big-boy pants and make an ultra-violent R-rated Marvel superhero movie! But you can’t sit there and enjoy Wade crack wise and twirl your cosplay Thor hammer to impart, “Mmmyes, Deadpool’s sleazy charm is just the thing we modern film enthusiasts need.” Deadpool is hardly the first awesomesauce R-rated superhero movie to come out, (see Watchmen for example) it’s coming out at the most serendipitous time, when we’re all so bored with the eternally bright superhero taking on the whole world of evil, we just want to see a foul-mouthed badass do a bit of the old ultra-violence. To win back the girl who’s just as foul-mouthed and awesome as he is, the only one in the entire world for whom Wade would actually be a superhero!

Do yourself a favor, fan-atics of the world – see Deadpool in the theater now! And for fuck’s sake, leave the kids at home! This movie is not suitable for children at all. You’ve been warned. Don’t forget to stay for the Ferris Bueller-style Easter egg at the end, and cast your own vote for who should be Cable in the sequel! And bonus points if you catch the Stan Lee cameo!

And yes, of course, the trailer is all kinds of NSFW, the entire movie is that way and you know you love it!

Happy Birthday, Spider-Man

by Agent Captain Logan (a.k.a. Agent Captain Logan)

It’s fascinating how the stars have to align just right before you get a universally recognized, pop culture icon like Spider-Man. Some of our most beloved fictional role models endure today by happenstance: total accidents no one could have possibly predicted, not unlike the one that gave Peter Parker his spider powers. Never could Stan Lee or Steve Ditko have imagined that their lanky, nerdy teenage wall-crawler would become one of the most profitable and recognizable superheroes of all time, or that the first story they created in Amazing Fantasy #15, assumed to be also be Spider-Man’s last, would sell 50 years later for $1.1 million.

On this very date in 1962, Stan Lee introduced a totally unique superhero, and he did it in the final issue of a failed series called Amazing Adult Fantasy, before Stan Lee and Steve Ditko got their hands on it. Its tagline was “The Magazine That Respects Your Intelligence,” a run-of-the-mill monster comic Lee had transformed into a smarter and fresher sci-fi book, because he thought treating his readers with respect and giving them entertaining that challenged them was the right thing to do. The stories were a vast improvement over what had come before, but no one was buying. So, when publisher Martin Goodman rejected Spider-Man as the lead in his own series, on the grounds that nobody would want to read about a hero with a spider motif because people hate spiders, Lee did the very same thing he had when he created the Fantastic Four: he defiantly wrote what he wanted to write anyway.

With Fantastic Four, Lee wrote a more story-driven comic and gave his characters some dimension, despite Goodman’s edict of putting action before everything else, because Lee was fed up with the comics business and was considering leaving. That book sold brilliantly, and so he stayed and began co-creating the pantheon of heroes that seem to own every summer in movie theaters today. Imagine what the pop culture world would look like today if Stan Lee hadn’t stubbornly insisted on humanizing his characters and turning superheroes into something more recognizable, into people who look and act a little more like you and me?

In the spirit of respecting readers’ intelligence, Lee created a hero in Spider-Man that was more realistic and believable than the dashing, do-no-wrong heroes that had come before. It wasn’t a forgone conclusion to Peter Parker that he must fight crime, simply because he had super powers, as was the standard formula. Peter was a high school kid with typical high school aspirations and problems. He lived a modest suburban life and suddenly had the means to do better for himself — who wouldn’t at least consider using that super strength and that ability to crawl on walls to try to strike it rich? Peter only starts spending his precious few free hours using his powers for good after a series of selfish choices that affect his conscience; what Stan Lee brought to the superhero, finally, was the human element, a character progression that makes the reader understand why the hero is so selfless and noble, how he got that way.

Is it cynical to assume that most of us, perhaps all of us, aren’t born completely altruistic, that we’re all self-serving to some degree and that readers won’t believe in a protagonist that doesn’t struggle with his own self interest over the greater good? Not at all. There’s a reason stories are always about a character who wants something. The optimism inherent in Spider-Man is that, although he has to learn his lessons the hard way, he learns them, and at the end of the day, he cares too much to ignore the good he can do with his powers, in favor of helping himself. Of course, Spider-Man’s is something of a redemption story; one could argue that Peter’s choices continue to be self-serving because he’s constantly trying to make up for his uncle’s death, which he blames himself for, that it’s all about alleviating his own guilt. And he continues to compound that guilt by constantly getting involved in situations that lead to more tragedy, like the death of Gwen Stacy.

And certainly, he’s a layered, complicated person, and that’s why he’s so relatable. Part of his motivation is, perhaps, an ever-present, constantly-compounded sense of remorse. But I see Spider-Man as a hero who, after he chooses not to act on that first, fateful occasion, dedicates himself to an ideal: The right thing to do is always to try, damn the consequences. If you can do something to help another person or stop an atrocity, especially if no one else has the means, it’s your duty to do the best you can, no matter what the outcome might be. The lesson for me has always been that all actions have unpredictable consequences, sometimes good, sometimes bad. But to know you could have stopped the burglar who killed your uncle when you smugly looked the other way to satisfy your own little petty revenge is a much harder thing to live with than if you had tried to stop him and your uncle was killed anyway. What if the burglar had killed somebody else, someone Peter didn’t even know? I wonder how much less profound a lesson it would have been.

Certainly, Spider-Man considers hanging up his costume over and over again, afraid that Spider-Man causes more harm than he does good. How many of his rogues gallery wouldn’t be the costumed crazies they are if not for Spider-Man’s interference? How many civilians are hurt in the crossfire when Smythe creates Spider Slayer robots to kill him? Those robots wouldn’t exist except that someone wants the superhero dead. It’s interesting to weigh the good and bad and ask whether the world would be better off without a flawed hero like Spider-Man, who doesn’t always make the right choice, who is a notorious screw-up, who learns everything the hard way. Simply looking at events retroactively, after all the collateral damage, it might be easy to tell Spider-Man, like J. Jonah Jameson would, to take a hike.

Peter Parker is us. The everyman. If it were me, I would have a hard time sleeping at night if I didn’t save the girl from the burning building the fire fighters couldn’t get to or stop a rapist when no one else was around, no matter what domino effect doing those things might create. Spider-Man teaches us more than just “with great power comes great responsibility”; He teaches us that anybody can be a hero, and that doing the heroic thing is always the hardest thing. We’re all flawed. We’ve all screwed up. And the choices we make won’t always be the right ones, but we can always strive to learn from our mistakes and, at the very least, choose not to make the wrong choice when we know it’s wrong. The attitude Stan Lee took when he started the Marvel Universe with the Fantastic Four is precisely the reason Spider-Man has endured and continues to inspire: Lee told his story the way he felt was the right way, made something he thought needed to be made. Damn the consequences. Lucky for us, the chain reaction that choice ignited was an overwhelmingly positive one.

Happy birthday, Spider-Man.

XXX