Saturday, 20 February 2016

On Deadpool and How Creative Risks Pay Off

One of the joys of this week - apart from seeing Ryan Reynolds' hilarious anti-superhero movie Deadpool - has been watching Hollywood analysts try to explain its financial success.

"Nobody knows anything" has never been more apt, as a very adult movie about a wisecracking cult character made $265 million around the world in its first week. Studio watchers were left scratching their heads as moviegoers ignored safe bets like Zoolander 2 in favour of a film that begins with a joke about Hugh Jackman's testicles and gets progressively filthier from there.
I suppose that I, sitting here in my Deadpool t-shirt with Deadpool comic books on the shelf in front of me, was going to see this movie no matter what. But what persuaded millions of others to join me?

This is both the right question and completely the wrong one to ask. Wrong because Deadpool is an experience that defies intellectualization, a 108 minute appeal to the reptilian brain that only wants to make us laugh, cheer or wince. The fourth-wall-breaking main character is like an unstoppable id, stamping gleefully on the head of the superhero superego (oops, was I over-intellectualizing there?)

I think Deadpool taps into a strange paradox: people are both dumber and much smarter than we think. Dumber because they enjoy sex, violence and jokes about genitals. Smarter because they know when films are homogenised, packaged and targeted by corporations towards some dry "demographic group." Deadpool takes a whole raft of creative risks, diverging from the superhero template to deliver something far more bonkers and flat-out fun. While it seems odd to accuse anything as ribald as Deadpool as being "lovingly made," the team behind it are all big fans of the comics and that is very clear in the finished product. Perhaps audiences (when they weren't laughing or covering their eyes) responded to those genuine qualities.

The creative industries were built on risk and uncertainty. Sadly, as corporations have moved in, that appetite for risk has gradually drained away. Twentieth Century Fox even slashed seven million dollars from Deadpool's budget just before filming, so worried were they about its financial prospects. Let's hope that the blank cheque they're probably now writing for the sequel doesn't limit the creative team's ability to shock and amuse us all over again.



  1. Darn. Now I've got to watch it because of your great review!

  2. Darn. Now I've got to watch it because of your great review!