Release Date(s)2016 (May 10, 2016)
Studio(s)Marvel/Kinberg/The Donners/TSG (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: As Ultra HD Blu-ray is a new format, much is yet to be settled in terms of establishing a proper display calibration baseline for evaluating UHD content. What follows is our best attempt to offer specific impressions on the format’s A/V quality improvements given those constraints. Note that the display used for this review is Samsung’s UN65JS9500, which is compliant with the full HDR10/Rec.2020 “Ultra HD Premium” specification, driven by Samsung’s UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.]
So... there’s this guy. Wade Wilson. He’s a chatty and nihilistic former U.S. Army Special Forces operator and Canadian mercenary with a heart of gold (not sure how that works, but go with it), who finally meets the girl of his dreams just as he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer. But while he’s chasing a cure, Wade crosses paths with the same batch of twisted military scientists that cooked up Wolverine. The tortured experimentation that follows leaves Wade cured of his cancer and essentially un-killable, but with a serious complexion problem, the shame spiral from which leads him to abandon his girl. Taking on a new identity as the costumed anti-hero Deadpool, Wade’s desire for revenge creates such a brazen trail of destruction that he soon attracts the attention of X-persons Colossus and Teenaged Mutron Stegosaurus (er... something – just go with it), who are there to stop him but would like to recruit him to join The X-Men, as well as his nemesis Ajax (one of the aforementioned twisted military scientists, but don’t call him “Francis”). Carnage and laughs ensue. 'Natch.
Now, this is a damn fun movie. I’ll be honest with you: I’ve gotten a little sick of superhero films over the past couple years. I’ve certainly enjoyed most of the Marvel and DC films thus far and have my share of favorites (Guardians of the Galaxy, Man of Steel, Ant-Man, the original Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier). But growing up in North Dakota, I didn’t have access to a comic book store. I spent my childhood reading classic science fiction novels from the library instead and only came to comic books later in life. (My favorites are Dredd and Marvel Epic’s The Alien Legion – yeah, it’s obscure, but read up on it here.) Without that childhood attachment to superhero stories, watching film after film full of self-important guys in tights fighting other self-important guys in tights has, for me, become tiresome. Thus, the very things that make Deadpool who he is – his rural Saskatchewan origins, his give no fucks attitude, his comic book self-awareness, and his gleefully vulgar irreverence – have a strong appeal for me. Deadpool takes the piss out of the whole superhero genre, just when the genre needs that most.
Ryan Reynolds is exactly the right actor to play the infamous “Merc with a Mouth” and his performance is all the more savvy for his having twice played less than successful superhero characters on film (Warner’s Green Lantern and Deadpool 1.0 in Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Tim Miller’s direction is ruthlessly deft and efficient here, making the absolute most of the film’s relatively meager (by today’s standards) $58 million budget in a way that truly benefits the character and the story. The screenwriters take the comic book’s style and run with it, lacing the film with snappy dialogue, smart jokes, fourth wall-breaking banter, and dozens of references and call-outs (a hip shot at the confusing X-Men film timelines is particularly amusing). The supporting cast is solid too, including T.J. Miller and genre favorite Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Homeland). And, come on – Leslie Uggams as Blind Al? That’s a stroke of genius. The film’s action is brash and muscular, the cinematography has just the right sort of gritty, tarnished-steel look, and the pop-infused and pulsing Junkie XL score keeps the proceedings nicely lively.
Fox’s Ultra HD presentation of the film is gorgeous. Presented in full 4K from a true 4K DI (with raw footage shot on ARRI Alexa XT cameras), this disc is sure to be your next reference title on the format. Deadpool features a cool, somewhat subdued and metallic color palette, full of exactly the kind of textures and chromed highlights that pushes a film towards a heightened sense of reality... and that just so happens also to be perfect for High Dynamic Range treatment. There’s an incredible amount of detail visible in the image, from the various fabric and leather materials in Deadpool’s costume, to the nicked-steel sheen of Colossus’ skin. The HDR only add to his, showing even more detail in the film’s overcast cloudy skies and firely billowing explosions than is visible on the Blu-ray version. The film’s audio is delivered in a blistering Dolby Atmos mix that does a fine job of immersing the viewer in a dense and swirling soundfield of audio effects – particularly true during the car chase sequence and subsequent overpass shootout. Dialogue, effects, and music are expertly blended, with great clarity and satisfying dynamic range. Even without Atmos-ready equipment, the core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD experience is satisfying too, and the disc’s additional audio options include 5.1 English Descriptive Audio (which is amusing as hell given the nature of the film), and Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles include English (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French.
Let me now just take a moment to extend a hearty hats off to the folks at Fox for creating a nice little special edition for this film. The 4K disc itself offers a pair of audio commentaries (which have optional subtitles of their own), while the rest of the extras are found on the included Blu-ray edition. But it’s a damn fine batch of material. It starts with an excellent 5-part From Comics to Screen… to Screen documentary (80:00 – includes Origin… ier!, Peoples and Muties!, Stylin’!, ‘Splosions!, and Magic!) that covers virtually every aspect of the production you could want in some depth, from the character’s origins to the recording of the score. The audio commentary with Ryan Reynolds and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is funny as hell and well worth a listen. Also worth your time is a second commentary with Miller and Rob Liefeld, who co-created the character in print. (I’ll let you discover the pleasures of these tracks yourself.) Next up is a batch of Deleted/Extended Scenes (19:14) with optional Miller commentary. There are some great scenes here – suffice it to say that perfectly good laughs got left on the cutting room floor. There’s a cute Gag Reel (6:12) and a Gallery that includes concept art, costumes, storyboards, pre-vis, and stunt-vis. There’s Deadpool’s Fun Sack (23:54) that includes the film’s clever TV spots, teasers, PSAs, and trailers (including the playground spot and the Red band trailers), as well as a few promo images and poster art. Finally, there’s a preview trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse and the package includes the usual Digital HD code on a paper insert. I guess Christmas came early this year.
[Editor’s Note: Given that nearly all 4K releases are multi-disc sets, with the extras often included on separate BD discs, our extras grades for these 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews will reflect the bonus content across all discs in the set.]
As a movie experience, Deadpool is a good-natured middle finger to the whole Hollywood comic book industrial complex, yet it manages to remain true to its comic book source material – a neat trick indeed. Sure, some of its trademark foulness is occasionally pushed a bit too far, but never so much as to be off-putting (unless you’re faint of heart, in which case why would you ever choose to watch this film in the first place?). I must say, there’s something damn refreshing about a superhero film that, straight up, isn’t meant for kids. ‘Cause screw them. The little bastards already have enough to watch for now and, when they’re old enough, this will still be there for them. Deadpool isn’t for everyone, sure, but the film gets better with each viewing and it earns a big damn thumbs up from me. Better still, the 4K disc looks fantastic. You know what comes next.
- Bill Hunt