“And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24.
People who say money doesn’t matter are people who’ve never needed something and not had enough money to get it. But it is also true that money can create more problems than it solves. This is as true in Hollywood as anywhere else and this edition of KIMT’s Weekend Throwdown takes a look at the issue of money in filmmaking, what it means to not have as much as you want and what it means to have more than you can use. It’s “Deadpool” (2016) vs. “Deadpool 2” (2018) to see how the Merc with a Mouth still cracks wise when his pie hole is stuffed with dollar bills.
As motion pictures have become ever more corporatized, with tent pole projects that exist to service production schedules and merchandizing tie-ins more than audiences, it’s easy to forget that movies have been and occasionally still are labors of love. “Deadpool” is one of those labors. Yeah, I know we tend to apply the phrase to art house flicks about one-legged lesbians with dyslexia or 3 ½ hour meditations on melancholy by European directors who really need to be introduced to mood stabilizers, but it still fits a raunchy and violent comic book flick that went on to become one of the biggest box office successes of all time.
"Why am I holding two guns when I've only got 12 bullets in one? Because it looks cool, numbnuts!"
Planning for a Deadpool movie really started in 2004, survived a disastrous use of the character in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009), only became a reality after some test footage was “leaked” online and sparked a firestorm of anticipation, with filming beginning in 2015. The people who wanted to make “Deadpool” spent 11 years beating their heads against studio walls. That’s longer than many marriages and any Presidential administration since FDR. The people who wanted to make “Deadpool” were practically different people by the time they finally got to make it.
And what they got was a budget of $58 million. That’s a hell of a lot of money most places in the world but for a super-hero flick from a major Hollywood studio, it’s virtually a pittance. Marvel spent $130 million to make “Ant-Man” (2015). Columbia Pictures spent $150 million to make “Hancock” (2008). Adjusted for inflation, Universal Pictures spent $87 million to make “Howard the Duck” (1986). That’s right. Hollywood was willing to spend more on a little person in a duck costume in the mid-80s than they were on an X-Men spinoff in the midst of the greatest super-hero cinema boom we’ve ever seen.
Then they took that relatively paltry $58 million and made a damn good motion picture. “Deadpool” is about an irreverent soldier of fortune called Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who meets the girl of his dreams (Morena Baccarin) and then gets the cancer of his nightmares. Seeking a cure (for the disease and not the love affair), Wade turns to a mysterious project headed up by a relentless douche named Ajax (Ed Skrein). With a process that involves a little drugs and a whole lot of torture, Ajax succeeds in giving Wade the regenerative ability to heal from any injury or wound. He also horribly disfigures Wade from head to toe. Escaping efforts to turn him into a slave-warrior, Wade launches a bloody campaign to find Ajax and get his disfigurement fixed in hopes of reuniting with the woman to whom he’s afraid to show his cream-cheese-hit-by-a-blowtorch complexion.
"Let's see Aquaman top this!"
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and director Tim Miller all deserve gold stars because they had about a third as much money as they needed to tell that story in any kind of way that met audience expectations in the early 21st century. This isn’t 1989, where viewers were willing to accept a few fight scenes with Michael Keaton in a Batman costume where he couldn’t turn his head. The level of action and special effects that are now virtually mandatory in super-hero flicks was financially beyond “Deadpool.” But by ingeniously taking the big fight scene that should have taken place in the middle of the movie and instead moving it to the beginning, then breaking it up with expository flashbacks, “Deadpool” cleverly disguised its budgetary limitations while simultaneously exceeding viewer expectations. Even then, the filmmakers still didn’t have enough money to do the final battle on the end-of-the-world scale for which every super-hero flick strives. So they turned the reduced level of carnage into a joke…and a pretty good one at that.
Proving that limits can be an artist’s best friend, “Deadpool” is frickin’ brilliant. It is legitimately hilarious in unexpected ways with wonderfully executed action scenes and tremendous performances from the cast. Ryan Reynolds is amazing and the only complaint you can make about the entire film is that it was made when Reynolds was 40 instead of 30, so there’s so much less time he can keep playing this kind of physically demanding role despite all the nutritional and exercise miracles Hollywood can offer. Hugh Jackman was 32 when they did “X-Men” (2000) and he had to tap out on playing Wolverine after 17 years and seven films because he simply can’t get in that kind of shape anymore.
There’s like a kajillion super-hero flicks out there now and more coming every day. “Deadpool” is one you really need to see…as long as you don’t mind super-heroes who swear like sailors with Tourette’s.
"You'll never believe how happy I am to get this final rose!"
I’m not sure what kind of success they expected for “Deadpool.” I’m sure they hoped for the best and they put their all into marketing it, though with some of the same financial limitations they had in production. I’m almost certain they didn’t dream it would make $783 million worldwide. It did and that meant they were handed a blank check to make a sequel as soon as possible. Two years and $110 million later, we’ve got “Deadpool 2.”
First, if you’re a fan of the original, you can relax. The sequel is damn good. It’s kept the same kind of humor, upped the level of action and special effects, and still held onto the “I can’t believe they actually did that” edge. In this one, a time-traveling mutant from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) comes back to the past to kill a troubled young mutant (Julian Dennison) and Deadpool assembles his own motley crew to save the kid. “Deadpool 2” actually manages to be funnier at times than its predecessor, which I wouldn’t have believed was possible, and delicately bridges the gap between Wade Wilson being a nihilistic killer-who-kills-other-killers and being an actual heroic character who can appeal to people beyond snarky teens and aging fans of Rob Liefeld.
"You Uber your way. I'll Uber my way."
“Deadpool” didn’t need a sequel. It was a near-masterpiece for what it was and we would have all been fine if it had remained this weird little singular entity. However, that’s not how show business works anymore. We were going to get a sequel and not only that, the sequel was going to have to set the stage for future entries into the franchise. “Deadpool” was a labor of love. “Deadpool 2” is the start of an assembly line which 20th Century Fox hopes will continue cranking out movies long after Ryan Reynolds is reduced to using a mobility scooter to get around. Which means that, in a way, “Deadpool 2” being this good is as impressive as what they accomplished with the original.
You may have read the stories about the director of the original getting booted off the sequel over disputes with star/co-producer Reynolds. Watching the sequel, you can understand why. “Deadpool 2” is still profane and violent but it’s much more a traditional super-hero flick than a subversion of them. And it’s very much a product that exists to service the franchise almost as much as viewers. Matching the ultra-serious yet inherently ridiculous character of Cable with Deadpool is comedy gold that remains largely unmined in the sequel because of all the other stuff that gets included. It’s easy to imagine Tim Miller conceiving of “Deadpool 2” as a buddy comedy with less room for the return of Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) or the additions of Domino (Zazie Beetz) and the rest of X-Force. I would have probably enjoyed that film even more than I did “Deadpool 2” but I’m not sure that’s true of others and such a film definitely wouldn’t have primed the pump for a threequel or fourquel to come.
"I sure hope I remembered to wear my cup today."
“Deadpool” is what you get when people who’ve been dreaming of making a movie finally get their chance and get it right. “Deadpool 2” is what you get when those people did such a good job they could make another movie however they wanted and they still get it right…but not the same kind of right as when they couldn’t do whatever they wanted. So while I’d give this Throwdown to the original, your mileage may vary.
Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for the next one.
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
Directed by Tim Miller.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin, Karan Soni, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Style Dayne, Kyle Cassie, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggams, Rob Hayter, and T.J. Miller.
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds.
Directed by David Leitch.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic, T.J. Miller, Julian Dennison, Rob Delaney, Bill Skarsgard, Lewis Tan, Jack Kesy, Terry Crews, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, and Mike Dopud.
"So, I'm thinking the next one should be 'Deadpool and Cable meet Frankenstein. Let's make it happen, folks!"