Review by Douglas Waters
Edited by Sam Hughes
Directed by: Tim Miller
Composer: Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL)
Sound Design: Warren Hendriks, Craig Henighan, Ai-Ling Lee & Others
What a year of superhero films this is shaping up to be! This year cinema goers will be able to see, among others, the likes of the third instalment of the Captain America series with the hotly anticipated Civil War. Watch Batman and Superman battle things out in Dawn of Justice, and see new characters to ongoing series such as those soon to be seen in Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange. And in keeping with such an impressive line up, the first one to hit the big screens is the ‘merc with a mouth’, Deadpool!
Although he may share a name and actor with a character featured in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Deadpool Tim Miller presents, many fans will be pleased to hear (if they didn’t know already) is much closer to the comics! But let’s be honest, compared to Origins’ Deadpool, that wasn’t going to be hard!
Many fans may remember having seen the Deadpool teaser footage featuring the voice of Ryan Reynolds released online a little under two years ago. At the time I recall this sparked much debate about the film, was this CGI footage fan-made? Was this for a film? Or perhaps even a game? Thankfully I can say it was worth the wait!
Much in the same way as was done with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool features a number of classic 80’s and 90’s pop songs including the likes of ‘Careless Whisper’ from 1981 album ‘Make It Big’ by WHAM! and ‘Shoop’ by Salt-N-Pepa from their 1993 album ‘Very Necessary’. These tracks seem perfectly juxtaposed against the occasional violence of the visuals in a way that seems to tell us how Deadpool himself views said violence. In some ways this might seem to make the violence more graphic in nature as it appears to make light of the fact, in a way very similar to the classic torture scene from Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film, Reservoir Dogs. Despite this, I feel it rather shows us Deadpool’s comedic, mentally unstable and over the top nature, whilst also playing to the nostalgic, ‘cult-classic’ history behind the character’s rise to fandom.
But of course the soundtrack isn’t wall-to-wall pop classics! Other moments in the film are punctuated by original music penned by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL or just JXL). Some may recognise Holkenborg’s work from other films such as Mad Max: Fury Road and additional music for The Dark Knight Rises, upon which he collaborated with Hans Zimmer. Not limited to just films, his work has also featured on a number of video games including the likes of The Sims, Need For Speed and Darkspore.
Along with traditional orchestral instrumentation, Holkenborg also chose to use a lot of classic synthesizer sounds, and as he’s stated in interviews, used these synth sounds from the 80’s that at the time were considered serious, but now seem quite funny to listen to. However, despite this, these synth lines never seemed to jump out at me in a way that might’ve seemed matching to the character’s over the top nature. I personally would’ve liked to have more synthetic elements than orchestral, but in certain moments perhaps Holkenborg and Miller felt this might be too distracting?
It’s worth noting, Deadpool is not a comedic film all the way through, the funny moments always seem balanced with the backstory behind the character’s origin and the struggles he faces. The music in these moments is incredibly poignant, the scenes in which Wade is told about his cancer and when he leaves home behind make for some of the most emotional moments; emotions only heightened further by elegant and touching legato string melodies.
Interestingly Deadpool doesn’t seem to have a main theme, instead his ‘theme’ is defined by the use of the aforementioned classic pop tracks. However, the film’s antagonist (played by Ed Skrein) has a clearer theme, although not melodic, but defined through the use of instruments played in a lower register, synths and orchestral elements alike. The dark and brooding music perfectly characterised the antagonist in a way that visuals alone couldn’t achieve. This difference between the ‘themes’ seems to be made to show how these two contrasting characters are complete opposites, the two distinct musical styles seems to rival each other in much the same way as the characters do.
Whilst Holkenborg’s original music is good I found myself walking out of the cinema not being able to remember any discernable melody, this of course isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the first role of music in a film is to support and create emotion to match the visuals and narrative. Instead, I found myself humming Wham!’s ‘Careless Whisper’ all the way home, much to the annoyance of those that accompanied me to the cinema!
I found there wasn’t all that much to comment on with the sound design, overall the sounds and quality shown is much what we’ve come to expect from Hollywood superhero films and is very comparable to other features in the genre such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Dark Knight.
Some of the best sound design moments in the film were those made by the film’s X-Men characters. The metallic sounds as Colossus’ skin was struck gave him a greater sense of size and strength, whilst the charging sounds of Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s (played by Brianna Hildebrand) ability made for one of the more special moments. I personally found the sound of NTW’s ability a little repetitive at times, however this may well be to reflect her rookie and ‘in training’ status, perhaps showing how limited her current skill set is, with still much to learn.
One of my favourite sound design scenes was shown towards the beginning of the film, in what was shown as the teaser footage back in July 2014. In this scene in particular the sound design seems somewhat over the top in places, not in a bad way though. Glass smashing sounds intense, you can hear the squeaking of the leather as Deadpool’s head is pushed into the seat, the searing cigarette lighter burns and sounds as the scene goes slowmo is incredible!
Editor’s Note by Sam Hughes: I actually thought the sound design mix was incredible, and had to add a little note here to emphasise this fact. The Foley and combat sounds were fantastic. All the little subtle details in his suit movements and fumbles throughout were excellent. So yeah there’s my little cameo ;). Excellent Foley, great mix, and weirdly enough this one will stick out in my memory for sure as not just a cliche superhero mix.
As the trailers have shown and true to the comics Wade Wilson spends most of his time in his Deadpool costume sporting the classic red and black mask. Of course this might’ve caused an issue in showing any emotion in the character, although some of this is done through the facial expressions in the mask, however Ryan Reynolds completely delivers a hilarious and convincing performance. Despite Deadpool’s mask covering his entire face, the over dubbed dialogue doesn’t at all sound muffled in anyway and was completely intelligible throughout. I’d be curious to learn whether this was achieved purely through the use of digital signal processing or if Reynolds was made to/chose to wear a mask during the ADR sessions!
Another little touch I felt was nice, but needs further examination, was whenever Deadpool broke the 4th wall and spoke to the audience directly (another quality the character is famous for doing in the comics). In these moments it felt like something in the mix changed, the sound effects and music was certainly quieter, at times it was also like Reynolds’ voice was no longer muffled by the mask. This however will require a second viewing to definitively determine!
I did feel however that Colossus’ Russian accent was overdone a little, yet, although I wasn’t entirely convinced this might be the case, this might’ve been an attempt at a comedic poke at seemingly overdone Russian accents in other films!
There was very little that disappointed me in the 108 minutes, on a minor point maybe the flashbacks were a little predictable, but they were thankfully used as a unique way to tell an origin story. Don’t expect anything out of this world for the sound design or music, it might not be as memorable as other films, but it certainly feels satisfying in the moment!
Overall the film was an incredibly enjoyable watch! If you’re a fan of superhero films and are after something a little different then this is a must watch for you! There’s emotion, action and well, the laughs are certainly there!
Yet another Editor’s Note: Even if you’re NOT into Superhero movies I’d recommend this film, it’s not your stereotypical one ;), enjoy!
The Sound Architect