Remember when the prospect of a “Deadpool” spinoff movie felt like a fun idea?
That was before April’s super-zero non-event “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” belly-flopped into theatres, figuratively treating the character like Ned Beatty in “Deliverance” and violating him like a parking meter.
Recall, if you will, those sun-streaked, carefree days of yore, when rosy-cheeked, cheery-eyed fans frolicked gaily amongst the spinner racks, lovingly cradling armfuls of crisp, glossy tales featuring a certain jumpsuit-clad soldier-for-hire, blissfully oblivious that a grim, pitiless future would reward their buoyant spirits and dedication with only sewn-up mouths, impractical arm-blades and laser eyes?
Apparently Ryan Reynolds – the unfortunate actor saddled with portraying the walking one-dimensional fanboy punchline in “Wolverine” – still does.
Over the last few days, he’s been chatting up a veritable storm with MTV News about the Merc with a Mouth, voicing his enthusiasm for the character, fawning over the famous red-and-black suit and pontificating on the difficulties of bringing such an inconsistently founded creation to the screen. Also, in a separate piece, Reynolds stated that he wanted Quentin Tarantino to direct! Tarantino and Deadpool, together? You could almost hear thousands of fanboy heads explode in unison with unadulterated orgasmic delight.
Of course, entertaining reads as they were, both articles were little more that pleasant fluff pieces. Reynolds is currently weighed down with emerald-hued tights and power rings as Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern” prepares to launch into production, and Tarantino, who was apparently offered the chance to direct “GL,” told Latino Review that he has no interest in helming a big-budget comic adaptation. The reason? Besides preferring to generate his own material, the “Inglourious Basterds” auteur admitted hesitancy towards having to “fight fight with geeks’ memories” over how a character should be portrayed.
Now, usually, I would proceed from this point with a buzz-killing proclamation declaring that the “Deadpool” project is still stuck in creative limbo — possibly never to escape — and to wait for a solid, studio-backed announcement before quitting your job, buying the domain name www.countdown2________.com and constructing an obscenely expensive cos-play outfit.
However, a breaking rumor over at CHUD.com today has forced me to dejectedly bite my cranky tongue. It seems that, fresh off the success of their hit “Zombieland,” writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are allegedly being eyed to put the words in Wade Wilson’s ever-flappin’ trap.
The potential hiring off these two scribes — remember, nothing official yet — makes an insane amount of sense from a creative stand-point. Decimated undead aside, “Zombieland’s” greatest strength was its irreverent, razor-witted dialogue which beautifully spoke to each of its leads’ individual personalities and quirks. These guys understand character-based writing and that, dear friends and foes alike, is exactly what an odd-ball, motor-mouth protagonist like Deadpool needs — no, scratch that, demands! — to work on-screen.
Additionally, Reese and Wernick have also previously spent some considerable time in the Marvel trenches, slaving over that other in-development villain-spin-off “Venom.” Regardless of my feelings concerning that Sony project — though, I’m sure I’ll end up blithering on about it ad nauseum in this very column eventually — it’s semi-reassuring to hear that 20th Century Fox is at least interested in putting some screenwriters with actual experience in comic-book antiheroes on the payroll.
But therein lays the most alarming problem with “Deadpool”: 20th Century Fox is running this production and, as the past — rife with Galactus clouds, Brett-Ratner-directed third “X-Men” films and PG-13-rated “Alien/Predator” and “Die Hard” movies — has shown, the studio honestly doesn’t care a lick whether the final product is up to snuff, as long as its profitable. From a pure business stand-point, it makes little sense to put that much money or effort into a “Deadpool” movie. It’s a niche character, with a relatively small cult of loyalists, who was horribly established in “Wolverine” and made little-to-no impact on audiences (after seeing the film, my friend Kris turned to me, brow furrowed, and asked “Who’s Wade?” — a line which became a running gag for the next few months) and is unlikely to draw the general public en masse to the multiplex. It seems more likely that Fox would just be tempted to save their money and just go the “Elektra” route; cranking out a quick, cheap, disposable product which can recoup its low cost in a weekend or two and then eke out a few million bucks profit on DVD and in TV and foreign sales.
This attitude may sound overly cynical, but also take into account that, while Ryan Reynolds has big dreams of a top-notch director coming on board, the majority of Hollywood’s prestigious helmers are well aware that Fox is an artist-unfriendly studio, notorious for creativity-killing micro-managing practices and disastrously interfering with their talent’s projects. Just ask “I, Robot’s” Alex Proyas, “Babylon A.D.’s” Mathieu Kassovitz or even “Wolverine’s” Gavin Hood, who purportedly butted heads repeatedly throughout his movie’s shoot. Historically speaking, unless they’re giving heavy-hitters like James Cameron or Ridley Scott — who still saw his “Kingdom of Heaven” butchered by the studio in the editing room — occasional free reign, they prefer to utilize easily-controllable, barely competent hired-guns over skilled professionals. This truth doesn’t speak well to Reynolds’ desires for a unique visionary behind the camera.
There’s also the nagging issue that villain-led spin-offs are a tricky proposition that has yet to be done even remotely well. “Catwoman” and “Elektra” were as noxious as swamp water, while other attempts have usually become mired, if not lost, in Development Hell — “Venom” has been in the works since 1994, and David S. Goyer’s “Magneto” prequel(s) seems to have gone the way of “Fantastic Four 3”. The fact of the matter is that, when divorced from their original narrative, the majority of these characters simply aren’t suitable or compelling enough to headline their own gazillion-dollar franchises, no matter how cool they were on the paneled page.
I firmly believe that Ryan Reynolds has the passion and personality to give fans the Merc with a Mouth they’ve always dreamed of — quick-wit, costume and ass-kicking physique intact — but will anyone let him? In his current position in the power-player hierarchy, he still lacks the resources and A-lister box-office muscle to ensure that whatever ends up on screen is what’s currently dancing mischievously inside his head. Maybe “Green Lantern” will change this reality but I fear that, when push comes to shove, it’ll be 20th Century Fox giving “Deadpool” its voice, not Reynolds.
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.