The Catholic Geek Review of Deadpool

DeadpoolI did not plan on seeing Deadpool this weekend. I did not plan on seeing Deadpool next weekend, or the weekend after that, or basically any time. I’ve rarely enjoyed a moment of one of his appearances in print or cartoon. I have friends who love the character, but I just don’t. I figured I would see it eventually, but it would take a friend sitting me down and insisting that I watch it, just like with other crass/stupid comedies I’ve seen (like Pineapple Express or Tropic Thunder). After all, I have several friends who were extremely excited about the movie, and I figured it was a matter of time.

Instead, I went and saw it this morning, at a 10:00 AM showing at the Alamo Drafthouse. In a snowstorm. On little to no sleep. Why? Because there’s now a controversy over whether or not you can see it and be a practicing Catholic. No, really. So it was time for me to take advantage of a federal holiday, see a movie I didn’t really want to see, and then blog about it — so you don’t have to.

Also, the Alamo is an amazing theater. You should visit one if you can, particularly if you like the idea of pub food and drinks being brought right to your seat during the movie. Just be prepared to spend a little extra money as a consequence!

Okay, on with the review. No spoilers at first, then spoilers after the warning graphic.

First, the nudity. That’s what I keep hearing about: nudity, nudity, nudity, some crass stuff, and omigosh full frontal nudity! Male and female!

I expected there to be more nudity as a result. There’s more in half an episode of Game of Thrones than there was in this whole movie. Sure, Game of Thrones brings its own argument, but I think it’s a valid comparison.

And almost all of this was what Ross described as bad nudity, though I can’t say it was particularly evocative. And I’m not some super-resistant monk who never looks at women, either (though some of my non-Catholic friends seem to think I am, and I frequently joke with them about my high Will save). The sex between Wade and Vanessa (one scene, but supposed to be several instances over the course of a year) were . . . well, I was bored. The scene when the characters go into a strip club to find someone had a lot more, but as background — actually, rather furthering the plot, and avoiding what Ross calls the “fig leaf effect.” (Click through on that link to read about why.) The women there would be attractive in another setting, a different movie; as it was, I was far more interested in my hot wings.

(Did I mention I like going to the Alamo? Hot wings, delivered to my seat. They’ll even make them hotter than normal if I ask them to. I actually felt a bit of a burn today.)

The crass humor? Oh, that’s all there. And yes, they went out of their way to bring in the shock value humor. The interesting thing — well, the other interesting thing, besides how surprised everyone was that an R-rated movie actually had R-rated content — was that this was the best crass humor I’ve encountered in an actual movie. Still not my cup of tea, but if you’re able to make me laugh out loud because of that kind of humor, it’s done well.

And yes, I did laugh out loud. It was a very mixed reaction; parts of the movie were completely boring to me, because it’s just not my thing, and other parts were completely hilarious. For those who can enjoy this sort of thing the whole way through, it’s almost perfect. If we were to compare films to paintings, this one would never hang on the walls of the Louvre; but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a work of art in its own way. I may not be a fan of that kind of art, but I can see the skill of the craftsman behind it, in a way that doesn’t normally shine through for comedy movies of this type.

All in all, looking at the body of objectionable material, it doesn’t seem much beyond the sort of “true” R-rated films out there (not just the ones who try to hit the minimum necessary for that rating because they want to seem edgy). You can argue for ratings-creep all you want, but I remember movies almost as old as I am (which means we’re talking mid- to late-80s) that had more gratuitous nudity. The violence is the only thing that’s grown in that regard. You might even be able to draw a comparison there (that we’re just as obsessed with sex as always, it being a vital human drive and not a bad thing per se, but we’re increasingly desensitized to violence), but it easily falls apart (since we’re also in a culture that’s talking about “safe spaces” and thinking it’s a serious subject).

Really, the reaction of the people who are going hysterical over the movie can be summed up in the words of Amanda, in a Deadpool discussion on our Facebook group: “It’s like they went to a movie titled ‘Porn and violence and blood and dismemberment!’ and are shocked it’s all of that.”

If you weren’t planning on going to see the movie, you’re probably not missing anything you’d regret not experiencing. You can safely avoid it. If you’re already planning on seeing it, you’re not going to violate any moral codes from this movie alone; I don’t think anyone really can, without bringing it in to the theater with them. (Always a possibility and danger even with non-R films.) For those of you on the fence, well, you can make an informed choice now.

Okay, on to spoiler territory. This won’t bother anyone who doesn’t want to see the movie, so this is for the rest of you.

Spoilers

I knew this was a Fox film, not Marvel Studios; but I was still surprised to find two X-Men characters in it, as well as the Xavier Institute itself. Despite seeing the Institute twice, we only ever see those two X-Men (Colossus and Negasonic), leading Deadpool to remark “It’s like the studio only had enough money for two.”

Oh, yeah . . . if you’re reading these spoilers without having seen the movie or really have any knowledge of the character, Deadpool is aware of the audience.

Deadpool little yellow boxes

He’s not just breaking the fourth wall; he’s actively aware that he’s a fictional character. At one point, he even reaches out to pus the camera away so the audience doesn’t witness something gory; at another, he matter-of-factly refers to “them” (meaning us) when talking to Colossus.

For me, as a non-Deadpool fan, Colossus and Negasonic steal the show . . . especially Negasonic. Her full name is Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and she was a bit character in some of the comics, given a different set of powers in the movie. I seriously want a Negasonic movie now.

 

 

Deadpool Negasonic

In fact, I’ll say this. I will willingly see any movie at least once if the character and actress are in it. I don’t care how bad the reviews are. She’s fun. I don’t think I’ll see Deadpool again, at least in its entirety; but if it comes out on Netflix streaming I’ll watch her scenes just because.

Colossus is a bit more naive than he’s usually portrayed (and he’s already a goody-two-shoes as it is), but that’s played up so that he’s Deadpool’s polar opposite, and it’s done very well. He also has a relevant part for the nudity discussion; if you’ve read Ross’ essay, you know he talked about how character reactions can show insights into those characters like nothing else. In the climatic battle, Colossus is going head-to-head with a super-strong villainous mutant named Angel Dust, and he’s reluctant to go full-bore on her because she’s a woman and he doesn’t want to hurt her. It turns out she’s almost as tough as he is, and stronger, so he eventually lets loose; but after she’s tossed into a pile of junk, she comes out with her top slightly off.

Nothing is seen; Colossus, like the Hulk in the MCU, is a full CGI character, and there’s no issue with keeping his hand firmly between her exposed breast and the camera, no matter which way she moves. Colossus looks away, warning her that she’s showing, and stammering over the words. She looks down, surprised, and thanks him, remarking “that’s very sweet” and re-adjusting herself before doing the obvious: hitting him while his head is politely turned. Colossus has always been a gentlemanly character, even back when he was originally a communist from the Soviet Union and supposed to eschew such behavior as non-egalitarian. It’s a perfect example of what Ross talked about.

It also shows something interesting from an artistic standpoint. Though the characters are using language that wouldn’t normally be used in a superhero-type movie, and though Colossus’ scrupulous boy scout nature is played for laughs, Colossus also shows something else about the film. The writers and director used Colossus, and sometimes other characters, to comment on how some things just aren’t normal. As if, though they never said it outright, the movie wanted to show us that Deadpool’s perspective is colored by his insanity, and that there is such a thing as objective morality.

For example, in the strip club, we hear the next dancer (though we never see her) is named “Chastity.” One of the characters remarks that a more accurate name would be “Irony.” It’s a small point, but the movie didn’t have to have it; it would have been a lot easier and more self-fulfilling to act like morality is for idiots.

Space Balls Good is Dumb

In fact, Deadpool goes out of his way to tell the audience that he’s not a hero, and even further out of his way to avoid sounding like Dark Helmet. It’s interesting, since his otherwise-most-recent appearance (on Ultimate Spider-Man) was almost the exact opposite. A bit more kid-friendly when it comes to the R-rated stuff, but not so much when it comes to the choice between the kind of good and evil that isn’t necessarily a problem with the ratings board.

So, again: not the moral travesty that we were promised, from either side. In my considered opinion, while I can’t exactly “recommend” the movie, that’s almost entirely due to my personal tastes, and not any kind of moral judgement. I can only assume that the nay-sayers acting like this is the death of morality thought that “superhero movie” meant “family-friendly.”

Seriously, people. Always check the ratings, okay? They’re there for a reason. And there’s a specific set of criteria for each, so NC-17/X may not mean what you want it to mean. Please exercise appropriate caution with movies, and don’t take your kids to see R-rated films unless you already know what’s in them.

About Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman is a traditionally-minded Catholic convert and freelance science fiction and fantasy editor, which means that he's in high demand in a small population. Fortunately, he loves talking about stories. And Catholicism. And history. And philosophy. And lots of other stuff.
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16 Responses to The Catholic Geek Review of Deadpool

  1. Andy says:

    Cool review! Honestly leaves me a little more interested than I previously had been. The trailer made it seem not-my-thing, and some of the talk about the sexuality also left me disinterested, but it sounds like that’s a good bit less rampant than it was hyped as being. And Colossus sounds like a really great fit.

    Fun fact: apparently the reason they used Negasonic was because they were flipping through lists of characters that Fox was allowed to use, saw the name, and decided it sounded so awesome that she was going to be a character.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. *SPOILERS* Cradle Catholic here, an old comic fan (sounds like we are close to the same age, mid-30s?), and a fan of Deadpool since his first appearance in New Mutants. I don’t care as much for the way they’ve turned him into such a “cartoon character” in recent years, almost a spoof of himself, but I was excited to see Reynold’s “re-take” on the character since I think that’s as perfect casting as any Marvel produced movie (notice I didn’t say Fox-Marvel movie….). I absolutely loved it. I loved the humor, action, characters, and even (surprisingly) the story. I really thought this would be a one-trick pony type of movie. Shock value and vulgarity but not much else. Man, was I wrong. It was actually engaging. I was heartbroken when he found out that his sacrifice to walk away from his true love was only to walk right into a villain factory. He might not have been a classic “good guy”, but he wasn’t a bad guy either. That look on his face when he discovered the truth after enduring all that torture actually made me unexpectedly sympathetic for the character and truly hoping he gets free to shut down this operation. While personally I relate more to Colossus (my friends all make fun of me for being the epitome of Lawful Good!), I still found myself rooting for Deadpool. And talk about laugh out loud! I love reference and pop culture humor and greatly enjoyed trying to “catch” all the little one-liners, quotes, and pop culture references. And the sex scenes were not only rather “clean”, they were hilarious! Incorporating the current holiday was made all the funnier when they “celebrated” Lent by sitting in opposite chairs from each other clearly indicating their 40 day abstinence. I could go on and on but I’ll stop it here. I went in with expectations of a vulgar, superhero version of The Hangover, but left ranking it right up there with my top fav comic based movies. Now I can’t wait to see how they bring CABLE to the big screen!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Also saw it this weekend with the wife. First of all, I thought it was genuinely funny, absolutely, 1000% NOT for kids, but fortunately I don’t recall seeing anyone that looked younger than say 14 or 15 at the theater (I still think that’s questionable, but parents ought to know their children). As far as the nudity, sex and violence goes…you know, I agree it was actually _tamer_ than a lot of R-rated fare I’ve seen over the years. The first thing that came to mind, regarding the Catholic “controversy” over seeing this film, is that it was less violent, and less gratuitously a “B” movie than say John Carpenter’s Vampires, which has explicitly religious characters and involvement of the Church as a plot point, or even From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, which for some reason this also reminded me of. I do think people who are raising a religious objection to the film doth protesteth a little too much. As you also noted, there are some surprising messages about morality present, even if played for laughs, but in humor the truth usually comes out (same with wine, but I digress). What we saw was essentially, a well-down superhero B movie; right up there with the original Blade, Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy (not in terms of impact, but in terms that the characters aren’t “A” list characters in Marvel’s “stable.”) – I didn’t go into it expecting Mary Poppins, no one should have. Part of the reason this worked well as a movie is because it was Ryan Reynold’s movie; he finally found the character that he was born to play, much like Robert Downey Jr. “owns” Tony Stark/Iron Man. They basically gave Van Wilder mutant powers, guns, and swords and a genuine mental condition. I’ve never cared for the character that much, but Ryan Reynolds “nailed” it.

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    • Yeah. I may see the sequel, but most likely to review it; that’s entirely because Reynolds did make the character more than just the gimmick I’ve seen before.

      Though if Negasonic is in it, I would see it regardless.

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  4. shamrock31girl says:

    I really appreciate how at the end of this review, you bring up that many of the naysayers 1.probably think “superhero movie”=”family friendly movie” and 2. don’t think about the ratings seriously. When I first saw the trailer and rating for Deadpool, I knew that I wasn’t interested in it and also that it wouldn’t be appropriate for kids. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, so I was really surprised when the internet started becoming flooded with this controversy! But a lot of people have probably gotten used to the lighthearted Marvel fare that has been flooding theaters over the past few years, and have started to think that anything superhero must be fine for all ages. Which it obviously isn’t-I would sit down with an 8 year old to watch “Ant Man,” but I wouldn’t show that same kid “Daredevil.” ~AnneMarie

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    • And definitely not Jessica Jones. I’m still amazed at myself that I could sit through a full season of Sense8 but not a Netflix Marvel show. I still think it’s just my hangups over the subject matter (I was the first person my sister-though-not-related Catherine Siobhan called after her rape, and I can still hear her voice nearly a decade later, so the subject makes me twitchy), but it’s still not what I expected my reaction to be. I don’t get creeped out easily. I was creeped out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You know, it’s interesting that you mention Jessica Jones, because I’ve seen both Jessica Jones and Deadpool and the levels of profanity, violence and explicit sex are actually quite similar, and one could argue that with the darker themes and promotion of abortion that Jessica Jones is actually the show that Catholics should be more concerned about despite it generating less controversy/resistance among the Catholic community. Sure, Deadpool is crass and vulgar, often for its own sake, but there was never really any attempt throughout the movie to make Deadpool out to be any kind of hero. He is a sympathetic anti-hero due to his cancer and his separation from his fiance, but even when he was doing things for “good” reasons, such as scaring away the stalker at the beginning of the movie, nothing he did was regarded as “good” at all. One just has to look at Colossus’ constant reminders and pleadings to Deadpool to not go through with his plans for revenge and to turn to the “good side” and join the X-Men to see that. The dichotomy is clearly held up. On the other hand, even though Jessica herself insists time and again that she is no hero or role model to look up to, her actions, good or bad, are held up as “good” or at least having some “good” effects, intentional or not, throughout the series. One could say that this is a nice little lesson, as we learn through what happens when good people do bad things throughout the Bible and salvation history, that good things can come of the worst disasters or actions, the show forgets that bad actions are still bad and aren’t to be imitated. In this regard, and of course in its anti-life message, Jessica Jones is the more morally objectionable feature over Deadpool, even if Deadpool throws its morally objectionable items out there more clearly for all to see.

        On a related subject, though, if you want a more mature, darker superhero series or movie from Marvel, Daredevil is an amazing show, easily the best among that, Jones and Deadpool, its themes are explored extremely well, morality is upheld in that Murdock is constantly wrestling with whether what he is doing is right, that struggle has realistic consequences for good and bad, the fight scenes are awesome, the acting is superb, and the writing and production are top-notch. It inspired me to read a bit of the Daredevil comics, which are also quite good.

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        • Yes, we’re all very much looking forward to the next season of Daredevil! We loved all the elements you mentioned, plus the fact that Catholicism is used as a good force for the hero rather than there as an obstacle or joke, and yet not simply there to bless whatever the hero does. The priest shows Matthew (which, of course, is a great name for a hero, wink wink nudge nudge) not just compassion and understanding, but also a higher standard. It’s a recognition that the end does not justify the means, but that the pursuit of the greatest good is not the same as choosing the lesser evil.

          We may have an article on that topic as we get closer to the new season.

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        • JD Cowan says:

          Speaking of Daredevil: the new season 2 trailer is out. Warning for the squeamish, it can be a bit bloody.

          It looks better every time I see it!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, there was a little behind-the-scenes discussion about that yesterday!

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        • Oh man, watch “Jessica Jones” at your own risk. That show is well done feminist propaganda – I mean admittedly, I’m not just assuming this – but feminist propaganda nonetheless.

          It’s quite well done but it is MESSED UP, and extremely disturbing at times. I only recommend watching it if you know going in what type of show you’re getting into (extremely explicit sex scenes – multiple – torture, murder, suicide, abortion, and some seriously hardcore horror movie stuff).

          I enjoyed it for a lot of reasons (though the massive, game-breaking plot holes in episode ten nearly killed me), but go in at your own risk.

          “Daredevil” is terrific and the trailers for season two make it look amazing.

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  5. Pingback: Updates: Deadpool, Originality, and Dresden | Novel Ninja

  6. Therese P. says:

    Saw the movie, and basically you hit the nail right on the head. This isn’t supposed to be a movie that’s like every other single superhero movie where the protagonist has an impeccable honor code and a chiseled chin you could split logs on (I’m lookin’ at you Capt. America).

    Deadpool is..well supposed to be the exact opposite. Does no one else remember that Deadpool is in fact a parody character from the very beginning? If I’m not mistaken (and this is the internet people so feel free to leap upon my ignorance and virtually stone me with facts if I’m wrong) but
    didn’t Marvel cook up Deadpool as a parody of DC’s Deathstroke? (my uber nerd is showing here but I’m just gonna go with it ’cause this seems like a safe space). So right from the outset Deadpool is not going to be a “safe” “family friendly” all around normal super hero…he was never developed that way from the very beginning…so why try to make him anything other than what he always has been? So maybe everyone who is up in arms about the film being completely and totally in line with the Deadpool character should all put down the torches and pitchforks and go watch something more their speed…like Spiderman 3 (y’know…the emo one).

    The movie is exactly what it’s supposed to be, it takes every superhero convention that we’ve gotten sick of in the glut of masked leotard wearing hero flicks and basically completely turns them on themselves for comedic effect. And it’s done purposefully. There are a lot of…elements to the film that prove this over and over and over again (I’m phrasing carefully for minimal potential spoiler slips). But no spoilers in saying that…the film actually earns it’s R-Rating (crazy I know… gosh, something that IS what it says it is…someone please stop the presses).

    I’m beginning to believe that the world as we know it is always looking for the next thing to sustain their state of perpetual outrage and suspiciously vacant common sense. Unfortunately Deadpool’s just the flavor of the week.

    Like

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