This week I had the pleasure of watching the movie, Dead Pool. (Not the one with Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, the 2016 one about the Marvel Comic character.) This movie was so much what I expected, but also so much which I didn’t expect. In Dead Pool, Marvel has given us an anti-hero we can’t help but stand behind.
Right away, in the first scene we learn that Dead Pool, aka Wade Wilson, has an axe to grind against someone named Francis. The rest of the first half of the movie is spent giving us the backstory, so we understand the reason that axe is so sharp. Our villain, Francis, aka Ajax, not only tortures Wade in some extremely cruel and unusual ways, but in essence, he steals his life from him, forcing him to mutate in ways that make it so he can never go back. Believing that he’s lost the one thing that means the most to him, his super-sexy girlfriend, Vanessa, (and she’s not even a super hero, she’s just human), Wade takes on the identity of Dead Pool and will stop at nothing to make Francis cough up the cure.
In the movie description, Dead Pool is described as coming out of the experiment with “a ‘dark, twisted’ sense of humor, but I maintain the sense of humor was there in Wade, an ingrained part of him that even mutation couldn’t change. As we get to know Wade through flashbacks, it’s apparent that he is the perfect anti-hero, not real likeable, an ex-special forces killing machine turned mercenary. But, we also see that he has redeeming qualities through his obvious love for Vanessa and his ultimate, unselfish sacrifice, walking out of her life rather than burden her with his terminal cancer. Even though he’s not the most likeable guy, it’s hard not to empathize with him.
Okay, so his character is snarky. This may or may not be a redeeming quality. He says whatever is on his mind, prompting many chuckles from viewers, he says the things average folks might want to say, and behaves in ways which are undesirable. But the guy is honest and straight forward, in a smarmy kind of way. He makes it clear that he’s no hero and he is not out to help anyone but himself, in his quest to get Vanessa, and his life, back. You’ve got to give him credit, even if he is kind of a jerk at times. One more reason why he is the perfect anti-hero.
In fact, his character reminds me a lot of the characters Jim Carey plays, especially in the way he talks incessantly and often doesn’t think about the possible consequences before opening his mouth, or his totally outrageous behaviors. The trait certainly ticks off Francis/Ajax, creating a tension between the two adversaries, which leads to Francis/Ajax pushing harder to cause Wade’s mutation. So, in fact, Wade brings his circumstances down upon himself. In fact, that may be Wade’s fatal flaw, but he doesn’t seem to ever learn when to keep his trap shut. But then, that could be because for an immortal, a flaw really can’t be fatal.
Wade/Dead Pool may not be the most likeable character, but Francis/Ajax, the villainous character who forced the mutation on him, is even more unlikeable. In fact, it’s easy to actively dislike Francis with his super-fast reflexes and total inability to feel anything, making him a truly bad guy, and providing us with yet another reason to root for Dead Pool. No doubt that’s why Francis/Ajax is the villain. His lack of feeling also makes him the perfect adversary for Dead Pool, who heals super-fast, but feels the all pain, both physical and emotional. They balance each other out.
I’m not usually a big fan of digital imaging. I think most of it comes off looking pretty fakey. However, knowing Dead Pool came from the world of comics, I think I expected it to not be realistic and the digital imagery works for me. Comic book characters are expected to do things that seem totally unreal. They have super powers that allow them to do these outrageous things.
Which brings us to the discussion of Dead Pool’s super powers. I’m not sure exactly how his mutation has affected him or amazing feats he is able to perform beyond miraculous healing, accelerated movements and super human strength. Although they are alluded to, they are not spelled out for us. He doesn’t breathe flames or shoot webbing to swing from building on. Apparently, he puts his red tights on one leg at a time, like the rest of us, (no phone booth transformations for this guy). He uses weapons to defeat his adversaries and feels pain when he’s injured, just like a regular Joe. And he knows his limitations, too, calling on the help of Colossus and Nagasonic Teenage Warhead when the going gets tough and Vanessa’s life is on the line.
In many ways, Dead Pool was your basic super hero movie. Guys with super powers get out there and punch the crap out of one another. On the other hand, it wasn’t what I expected in a super hero at all. Dead Pool doesn’t save the world, or even his city, and his motivations are selfish. I think this movie was well written with interesting and colorful characters who are full of surprises, is filled with action, and is very entertaining. I give Dead Pool four quills.
I just watched the new Point Break, the one that came out last year, and I am sad to say, I was very disappointed. Maybe on the big screen, the special effects were impressive, but on video, they are obvious computer imaging. In the original, 1991 movie, when they jumped out of the plane and were free falling through the sky, viewers could feel the adrenaline rush, and when they were riding the waves, we almost felt wet. The graphics on the 2015 movie aren’t even convincing, and viewers don’t feel that same excitement when they swooped through a mountain canyon in wing-suits. A lot of it just didn’t look real, so there was no reason for the adrenaline to flow.
Perhaps if the title were changed, and the characters in the 2015 movie didn’t have the same names as the characters in the original 1991 Point Break, it could be judged upon its own merit. But as it stands, they’ve set the new movie up to be compared to the original, which I feel is a big mistake. The original movie was an action movie, in which an FBI agent infiltrates a group of surfers who are bank robbers, and it was fun to watch. The 2015 version has a completely different tone than the original movie, being more of an international crime suspense thriller with a lot of extreme sports thrown in.
The transition to the international plot did not work well. The Johnny Utah character, played by Luke Bracey, I conveniently involved in extreme sports, before becoming an FBI agent, so he doesn’t waste time learning to walk the walk in order to infiltrate the culture. He’s already a member of the club. They all know him. Then, just as conveniently, maybe even more so, he figures out where to look for the bad guys, goes straight there and the first group he encounters are the guys he’s looking for, and the Brohdi character, played by Edgar Ramirez, more convenient still, saves him from drowning after a surfing incident. Too many coincidences for me to buy in. Sorry.
And let me add here, though I’m reviewing this film based on the merit of the screenplay and story, that Bracey is no Keanu Reeves and Ramirez is no Patrick Swayze. In the original movie, it was clear early on that our bad guys were thrill seekers, adrenaline junkies, and viewers understood where they were coming from, what their motivation to take so many risks and live so dangerously was. I did not get that sense about these guys. And I didn’t really get a sense of how bad they were. The creators failed to create a villain I could love to hate.
(SPOILER ALERT – There may be spoilers from this point on.)
Patrick Swayze’s Bohdi character was such a villain. You knew he was a bad guy and he had to go down, but you could understand why Utah agrees to let him go out his own way, at the end, after winning their struggle in the water. Ramirez’s Bohdi is not. I didn’t get what made him tick, or what his motivations were. At the end of the 2015 movie, when Utah lets Bohdi go, I didn’t get it. There’s no struggle, no fight. Utah doesn’t even try and talk Bohdi out of it. Bohdi says, “You’ve got to let me go”, and Utah says, “Okay.” Maybe I don’t get it, because empathy with these characters is something I never felt through the whole movie. There was just no connection.
Also, the villains in the original Point Break were bank robbers, financing their surfing tour with their spoils. The villains it the 2015 movie appeared as modern day Robin Hoods, robbing from the rich and giving away all the spoils. It’s difficult to see them as bad guys because they have a cause.
The one interesting twist I felt the 2015 movie had was the girl, Samsara, who we at first believe is a love interest, but later we are surprised to learn she’s a part of the crew, after Utah shoots and kills her in the kiss of death moment. Of course, in the original, the girl is a love interest and the bad guys use her as leverage to get Johnny Utah’s cooperation, so I was expecting something similar here. I liked that twist, where there was not much else to be liked about this movie. As I mentioned above, I think this movie might have done alright as a standalone, but it doesn’t measure up to the original movie. I was not impressed with the recent Point Break movie, and I can only give it two quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.