Advertisements

Deadpool 2 Is About The Problem With Fandom (Spoilers)

The first Deadpool was a parody of the superhero genre, and so is Deadpool 2 in a lot of ways. But watching the movie recently, I came away with the conclusion that this sequel is more about the superhero genre’s fans, lampooning us and our expectations going into these summer franchise flicks.

To explain this, I took to my trusty YouTube Channel Jon In Theory the other day and rambled into a microphone. It’s not the shortest video, but hopefully some of you will find it interesting. This is less of a review and more of a spoiler analysis from the perspective of someone a bit mixed on the film.

Go on…Deadpool 2 Is About The Problem With Fandom (Spoilers)

Advertisements

Cinemaholics Review: Deadpool 2

deadpool 2

The Chronicles of Wade Wilson continue in Deadpool 2, the follow-up to what I once considered a true breath of fresh air for superhero franchises everywhere. Like the original, Deadpool 2 is R-rated, edgy, and almost painfully self-aware, nothing like most comic book flicks today. I certainly got a kick out of the movie, but I don’t think I’m as in love with the concept of this franchise as I was at first sight. To help me unpack my mixed feelings, special guest Brandon Katz from Observer joins the show with regular cohosts Will Ashton and Maveryke Hines.

Question for you: How many times have you seen the first Deadpool, and did you like it more or less the second time?

Go on…Cinemaholics Review: Deadpool 2

Ranking The Best Superhero Movies Of 2016

From Deadpool to Doctor Strange, here’s how I rank the top superhero movies of the year. The post below is a transcription of the video above, minus some extra commentary at the very end.

It’s pretty obvious at this point in 2016 that the “superhero genre” is here to stay. These movies seize a huge share of box office profits every year, and their mainstream takeover isn’t slowing down in the slightest. Going back a decade, we’ve gotten at least four or five “big” superhero movies a year, sometimes six, and this year saw eight alone, with all but two of them being huge moneymakers and making the top 10 grossers of the year.

I say “superhero” movie, by the way, because things get messy when you try to categorize these films by “comic book.” For the same reason it would get a little hairy if you tried to lump all book adaptation movies together, because they stretch across so many genres and sub genres. With a superhero movie, you’re at least addressing a few basic similarities between movies that are derived from DC, Marvel, and other studios. You have a hero (or heroes) with strange abilities who goes on some type of emotional, action-packed journey.

superhero movies 2016

So this year, I want to point out which superhero movies in 2016 were “better” than others, not just from a film critic standpoint, but also from how they contribute or don’t contribute to the ever-expanding superhero movie genre. I have to leave out two movies in particular because I haven’t seen them: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Max Steel. Because I don’t review absolutely everything that comes out, these ended up being on my cutting board of films to review over the summer, and I have no desire to check them out anytime soon.

But the rest of the entries on this list are certainly ones you’ve heard of if you’re a big fan of superhero movies, but in case you haven’t watched them all, I’ll be avoiding any and all spoilers within reason. So let’s begin with the worst of the bunch:

#6 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

superhero movies 2016

The film critic in me can’t stand this movie. It’s an abomination of narrative, pacing, and character development to the point of almost being a parody. But the DC fan in me has plenty of nice things to say in spite of all that, notably from a visual standpoint. The costumes are incredible, the subject matter is at least interesting in theory, and most of the characters are well-cast with the exception of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

The strange thing, though, is that despite being such a weak movie overall, it contains some of my favorite superhero moments of 2016, including Batman’s warehouse fight, the Trinity’s stand against Doomsday, and Wonder Woman’s theme music. Unfortunately, these bright spots just don’t overshadow enough of the problems to redeem the rest of this frustrating embarrassment of a superhero movie.

#5 Suicide Squad

superhero movies 2016

For me, Suicide Squad was just a slim margin better than Dawn of Justice, mostly because the standards were set just a little lower thanks to this being a movie about lesser-known characters I’ve always wanted to see on the big screen.

It does have some of the same issues as Dawn of Justice, though, particularly when it comes to style over substance with its visuals and plot. But the characters are mostly fun to watch and suggestive of a bigger, better DCEU we haven’t gotten to see enough of yet.

#4 X-Men: Apocalypse

superhero movies 2016

I actually liked this one quite a bit more than most, mainly because I’ve been hoping for a better realization of these characters since the third X-Men movie, and for the most part, Apocalypse is immensely entertaining lore for longtime fans.

It’s nowhere near perfect, of course, but there are enough great moments here to overlook some of the bland story structure and checklist of characters for Fox to cross off their list. This is one of those superhero movies I walked away from wanting more, which is both a criticism and a complement in this case.

#3 Doctor Strange

superhero movies 2016

Familiarity breeds contempt, and so it goes for some who view Doctor Strange as more of the same from Marvel. And they’re not entirely wrong. This is the origin formula Marvel has been polishing since 2008, complete with a flawed protagonist who has to humble himself after gaining extraordinary powers.

And mileage varies for anyone who appreciates some stunning visual effects that go with the whole package, as you might be one of those viewers who can’t get past folding cities reminding them of Inception, or just someone looking for a breezy, colorful Marvel movie with some clever spins on what’s already worked before.

#2 Deadpool

superhero movies 2016

This was the movie that arguably had the bigger impact on comic book fans this year, even ones who never liked the character much before seeing this movie. And that’s because it’s less a superhero or anti-hero movie and more a self-reflection of the genre itself.

That lended for some great movie moments and humor, but at its core, Deadpool is just barely shy of real greatness, as it only manages to tackle a small handful of neat ideas over and over again, using a formula that’s not far removed from much of what we’ve seen before. It won’t be long before the movie will be remembered as a lightning in the bottle experiment that aged a bit quicker than we expected.

#1 Captain America: Civil War

superhero movies 2016

If you had to criticize Civil War for one thing, it might be that it almost has too much going on in its long running time. But if what you’re looking for is a dense spectacle that reshapes a cinematic universe with recognizable characters, then Civil War absolutely had you in mind.

There were so many ways for this movie to completely fail: the villain could have been atrocious, new arrivals Black Panther and Spider-Man could have been mishandled, we could’ve gotten more Iron Man than Captain America, the emotional stakes by the very end could have come off as meaningless, and so on. But while it stumbles at times, Civil War pulls all of this off in an entertaining, often thrilling way.

And close to everything we love most in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a time to shine, paid off after years of buildup and patience. Similar to how a comic book event can impact longtime readers, this was worthy of its title and then some.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Marvel Has Been Successful Because It’s Better at Being Different

marvel better different

Until the end of the “superhero golden era” finally comes, we won’t be able to analyze the full impact that Marvel Studios has had with its cinematic universe of movies. But even though we don’t have the full picture at our disposal, everyone has their own reasonable guess for how and why Marvel been the dominant superhero movie franchise for nearly a decade, in terms of both critical and fan reception.

Some of the effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are quite obvious, and I think that’s why vague observations about Marvel Studios are tossed around by its naysayers. When you think of shared universe movies — that is, movies that share the same characters and other sandbox elements without being direct sequels — you might feel the urge to groan a bit, especially if you watch and keep up with a lot of different movie franchises that all strive to replicate what Marvel did so well with Iron Man in 2008.

Sony tried to kickstart a Spider-Man shared universe of villains and ultimately failed. Universal has long been planning a shared universe of monster movies, citing they could have the “Avengers” of Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Wolfman, and more. Even a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe is reportedly in the works, planned to kick off with a new Scooby Doo movie. And this year’s Ghostbusters ends with a universe-setting teaser straight out of the ambiguously defined Marvel formula.

Marvel’s most direct rival, and for several obvious, yet key reasons, is DC Comics, which Warner Bros. owns the exclusive rights to. After a hugely successful trilogy of Batman movies, all helmed by Christopher Nolan and universally praised by fans and critics, Warner Bros. took the next logical step toward establishing a shared universe of their own that could do for Wonder Woman and the Flash what Marvel managed for Iron Man and Captain America, just to name a few.

marvel better different

Remember, just one year after Nolan’s Batman trilogy ended with The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel, the perfunctory beginning of what was meant to be something completely different compared to anything put out by Marvel Studios.

Except, well, Marvel has already  been “different” by its own standards for years, and it’s found great success doing so, while DC Comics hasn’t. At least not on the same scale.

To be fair, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were not financial failures, but they did fail to live up to their profitable potential, making less money domestically than Deadpool, which is based on a character far less popular and recognizable than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. And even more recently, Suicide Squad has been panned by critics for sharing a lot of the same flaws of these movies, though it will still open to huge box office numbers, regardless.

What’s odd, then, is that the films have been criticized by many for being too different, using phrases like joyless and dark to color a picture of a movie that doesn’t deliver the same experience viewers got with most of the Marvel movies.

marvel better different

Supporters of these DC Comics movies have a right to call out this opinion for being intellectually dishonest. Of course a movie like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is different, they say. If it were the same formula as a movie like The Avengers, then critics would complain just as feverishly.

Both sides of this argument have it wrong, then. Because what they both forget is that while there is a bare-bones formula to the Marvel movies that makes them feel cohesive — that is, it’s easy to believe the movies exist in the same universe at all — none of them are all that similar to any of the others in just about every other way, unless the movie is a sequel, and even then, Marvel movies have a habit of changing entire subgenres in between their sequels.

One of the best and most famous examples of Marvel being “different” involves the entirety of what sets up the first Avengers movie, which serendipitously released the same year as The Dark Knight Rises. The very concept of setting up an ensemble superhero film after several standalone pictures that establish the characters was brand new at the time and, more importantly, untested.

Yet The Avengers is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time and was universally acclaimed by moviegoers, which holds up even today.

marvel better different

It’s fair to judge Marvel for being good at being different based on the fact that people loved The Avengers, despite how risky the structure of it was, and because it provided a sizable return on investment both financially and even culturally, hence we’re even having this debate about superhero movies being different.

What’s even more interesting, though, is the fact that Marvel movies have continued to be different and surprising, even though they have a proven formula they could repeat on end to minimize the risk of failure.

For example, the Marvel films that have truly defied expectations include Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, arnhich were both proven hits for the studio, despite being completely different from any other Marvel film in tone, structure, and many other crucial elements.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an action comedy set in space, and most of its characters aren’t even human. That’s a far cry from any other comic book film, period, let alone Marvel movies like Iron Man and even Thor. The premise of Ant-Man is absurd enough, despite the movie actually taking place on Earth. Yet it feels so different as a superhero movie because first and foremost, it’s really a heist film with bits of Edgar Wright’s unique editing style thrown in.

marvel better different

The upcoming Doctor Strange, set to release this November, is also a movie that — judging by the marketing and previous knowledge of the character — looks and feels different from previous Marvel offerings, because it seems to be tackling unchartered territory in terms of fantasy elements and dimensional science for the hero of that movie to experience.

These movies, excluding the as of yet unseen Doctor Strange, have been hits with both critics and casual audiences because yes, they’re different. So it’s strange, then, when both critics and naysayers of Marvel movies speak as if this cinematic universe has a firm license on vague storytelling elements, like humor and quipping. There’s a desire for DC to be the other side of the coin, different and more progressive than what might be called a mainstream superhero franchise with Marvel.

The problem with that desire, though, is that Marvel has already been the other side of that coin, and the other side of many coins that they, themselves, have inserted into the zeitgeist of superhero films. They don’t always get it right, of course, and some of their risks have been paid off better than others, but if DC should take notes on being “different” for the sake of surprising and delighting its fans, it should really be paying more attention to Marvel. Not less.

Because being different, while a good start, is not a merit on its own. Fantastic Four was different, which we can all agree on. But that definitely didn’t improve what was inherently flawed with that film. A non-Marvel movie that’s great at being different is Deadpool, made by Fox, proving that a superhero film doesn’t have to be made by Disney in order for it to be beloved by just about everyone old enough to see it.

marvel better different

I still have high hopes for DC Comics moving forward, though not nearly as high as I used to three years ago. But if you’re reading this and feeling a bit alienated because you want DC Comics and Warner Bros. to keep taking risks and producing films with these iconic characters that demand to be different from what we’ve seen before, then you can definitely take solace in one, major thing: The DC Comics movie universe under Geoff Johns — their new Chief Creative Officer and co-developer of The Flash on CW — kicks off next year with Wonder Woman.

And from what we’ve seen so far of that movie, the future could still be quite bright (not dark) for DC Comics.


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

The Deadpool Episode

deadpool episode

Hey podcast friends, I’m joined by Kayla Savage, Maria Garcia, and (eventually) Adonis Gonzalez, as we review and discuss Deadpool on this week’s Now Conspiring. We’ll give you plenty of notice for spoilers, of course.

As always, we fill your conspiracy-loving brains with the latest movie news (mostly trailers this week), our answers to your questions last week, and some other twists and turns.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What types of movies do you wish Hollywood would make again?

Go on…The Deadpool Episode

Review: ‘Deadpool’ Is Fantastic at a Few Things

deadpool review

The makers of Deadpool had a tall order on their hands.

A beloved comic-book antihero conceived in the early 90s, Deadpool has collected a legion of fans for a list of specific, stringent reasons. Failing to capture the exact spirit of the character would land Fox in a repeat of X-Men Origins: Wolverine history, when they first tried to fit the merc on the big screen.

But Deadpool also had to be a movie. Which means Fox had to work hard for the affections of Deadpool fans…and everyone else. And in a lot of ways, Deadpool more or less pulls this off with some creative humor and storytelling.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds, again playing Wade Wilson in a new origin story for the same character he played in Origins (sort of). After finding out he has terminal cancer, Wade leaves the love of his life, Vanessa (played by Gotham‘s Morena Baccarin), and tries to find a cure.

A group of scientists, led by “Ajax” (Ed Skrein from last year’s Transporter Refueled), manage to save Wade’s life, but they give him mutant abilities in the process. The procedure viciously scars Wade in more ways than one, setting him off on a mission to track Ajax down using his new abilities as the assassin, “Deadpool.”

deadpool review

If this sounds like a straightforward superhero movie, then I’m doing a decent job of preserving a lot of the jokes and humor that comprise Deadpool. Going into too much detail surrounding the plot and how certain scenes are set up would probably ruin a lot of the laughs you would otherwise have in the theater.

Because as you’ll realize within the first ten seconds of the film, Deadpool is absolutely a post-modern comedy. More than that, it’s a satire of superhero movies, much like how the original comic was a satire of the macho, violent 90s comics Wade Wilson was created to mock.

This is as funny as it is poignant, considering what it took to greenlight a feature film for a character most people have never heard of. And fans of superhero movies will likely consider Deadpool to be one of the best offerings in the superhero genre in years.

But Deadpool also provides an appeal that casual fans of the genre can appreciate, thanks mostly to Reynolds’ performance. His quick delivery lands more jokes than I think anyone else in the business could pull off, and his likability keeps the plot “moving forward” as you’ll discover.

deadpool review

Violence is also a hallmark of the Deadpool franchise, and Fox didn’t hold back at all this time. Deadpool belongs to a small club of R-rated superhero films, and the rating is spot on. There’s plenty of gore and grisly mayhem to justify the restriction, but that’s all part of what makes the source material so endearing. While it’s not as on the nose as the comics trying to spoof the 90s, the gratuitous violence certainly feels welcome in a genre stuffed with sanitized action and fake-out deaths.

What’s more impressive than the violence, however, is how competently Deadpool is shot as an action film. While parts of the origin story drag for a bit before getting back into the action, what we do get in these scenes is typically worth the wait.

The camera cuts at just the right moments when you want to feel the pain of a character’s head getting smashed against a wall, and impressive stunt work and effects make for an immersive comic-book movie on par with some of the best ever made.

You’d have to be pretty demanding to expect anything more from a movie that is as well-made as Deadpool, but there are enough issues to remember that Fox is just getting started.

deadpool review

The movie is overflowing with a surprising amount of faithfulness to the source material, and it’s fairly inventive. But it’s also generic, anyway. Underneath all of the delight you’ll get from well-written, self-aware humor is masked by an origin story that feels by-the-numbers and formulaic—a stark contrast to the risky business displayed by everything else in the movie, from the side characters to the soundtrack.

Perhaps this was necessary in order for Fox to ensure that there can, in fact, be a superhero movie for people who are sick of them. But for everyone else who can’t stomach the genre, Deadpool won’t do much to entertain them.

I’m going to give Deadpool a B+

If you like superhero movies, X-Men or otherwise, you’ll find a lot to love in Deadpool. Otherwise, you may find a lot of the humor flat and uninteresting. It would be a must-see for the action and Reynolds alone if only it didn’t fall back on so many origin story cliches it could have easily sidestepped.

Did you like Deadpool? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Retronalysis: Ryan Reynolds Was the Least of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s Problems

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

In 2009, the X-Men film franchise took a step backward in more ways than one. It stepped backward in time, literally, to explore the origins of Wolverine, played a fourth time by Hugh Jackman.

The problem? We had already experienced a Wolverine-centric trilogy. Seriously, those movies were all about Wolverine. Many people, myself included, had no idea why we needed an origin film for a character we already knew so much about .

But we were still excited going into Origins because it featured our favorite mutant, and perhaps, we thought, there was still a great story to be told. And even more new X-Men characters for Fox to show us, including Gambit, a fully realized Sabertooth, and yes, Deadpool.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine has its fans, to be sure, as it serves up at least a passable romp of an action movie (as well as a far superior video game made by Activision). But what made the origin movie unforgivable for legions of X-Men fans had a lot to do with that character I mentioned earlier: Deadpool.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

The “Merc with a Mouth” made his debut on the big screen with Origins, and he was actually played by Ryan Reynolds (a hint that the casting was one of the character’s few bright spots).

What’s odd about Origins‘ take on Deadpool has a lot more to do with the Deadpool we got in the final act of the film, not his initial introduction. Early on, he was still Wade Wilson, before getting the Weapon X treatment that would transform him into the fully fleshed (depending on how you look at it) Deadpool.

The movie portrayed him as the mercenary for hire with enhanced reflexes. This, of course, was before he would undergo the nightmarish operations granting him Wolverine’s healing factor.

And this version of Deadpool was one of the highlights of what was mostly a dreary retread of the first X-Men with more montages. Just take a look at how they nailed Wilson’s ninjaesthetic in just one scene:

Reynolds’ quick wit was a welcome addition to the exposition-heavy origin story, and it set up for an even more interesting story we were getting with the character who would become Deadpool.

Then he became Deadpool. And all hell broke loose.

Spoilers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine going forward. 

As I stated earlier, the final act of Origins is where the bastardization of Deadpool came into effect. Stryker unleashes “Deadpool” on Wolverine, whose mouth is sewn shut to somehow resemble the comic book character in a grittier manner. Deep sigh.

Not only that, but Stryker dumped several mutant powers upon Deadpool, rather than just the healing factor. For whatever reason, they even decided to give him Cyclops’ optic beams. The result was a pale shadow of what makes Deadpool a compelling character, complete with blades coming out of his arms to mimic Wolverine.

The message was clear. Fox was so convinced that Wolverine was their only draw for these movies, they had to manufacture more characters to emulate him. Tinkering with source material is one thing, but assuming fans only care about one character in such an expansive mythology is just idiotic.

Which is why I hesitate to lay any blame on Reynolds. True, “Deadpool” contributed heavily to why Origins was a failure, but that’s removing a decent take on the character that we can place on Reynolds. He fit the part, just not the script.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

And when it comes to Origins as a whole, the problems begin long before the final act. For one thing, the movie removes a key trait of Wolverine that makes him interesting: the mystery of his origins (who’d have thought?) Taylor Kitsch as Gambit is given nothing to do, along with many of the other characters you saw in the video above. Adamantium bullets. CGI Patrick Stewart. It all adds up to something bizarrely awful.

The side characters are hard to place fault on, even Will.I.Am (yes, this was his debut on the big screen). Origins spends the majority of its time trying to get two hours out of a somewhat substantial rivalry between Wolverine and Sabertooth, played expertly by Liev Schrieber.

Granted, it’s a better set up than their conflict in the first of these movies, but it wasn’t interesting enough to sweep the film’s other side plots aside, a decision I suspect the writers were either forced to make late in production, or chose to in order to save the movie. The result ended up being all the same.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

While I don’t expect the upcoming Deadpool to be a revolution in superhero cinema, there’s little doubt that Fox has learned its lesson in spades these last few years, with nary a truly terrible X-Men film to be found. Some still find all of these later entries, even First Class, mostly generic, but there’s a certain level of effort being shown every time.

And for better or worse, that hasn’t changed with Reynolds’ next foray into the X-Men universe.

My Retronalysis grade for X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a D. 

Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

%d bloggers like this: