When we sat down with Peter Jackson to discuss Mortal Engines, we had to ask about the talked-about restoration of his first three feature films, the cult curios Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and Braindead.
Aaaah, what this could have been. Deadpool 2 trimmed, repackaged, and reheated as, um, a family film? The foulmouthed Merc With A Mouth forced to keep it clean? A tourniquet applied to the film’s eye-popping levels of bloodletting? That’s one bizarre experiment we’d like to see! If only that’s what Once Upon A Deadpool was! Sadly, this is even less of a “new film” than fans may have been led to expect…it’s literally Deadpool 2 with the F-bombs deactivated and the moments of supremely nasty violence excised, and then wrapped in a new – and admittedly brilliant – framing device.
In the film’s mega meta conceit, Ryan Reynolds’ fast-talking, pop culture quoting super-anti-hero, Deadpool, kidnaps the now adult Fred Savage, tapes him to a bed, and forces him to re-enact his famous framing device scenes from Rob Reiner’s much-loved 1987 cult classic, The Princess Bride. But this time, it’s Deadpool reading the story of Deadpool 2 rather than Peter Falk trotting out that family favourite’s far more genteel fairy tale. The scenes between Reynolds and Savage – which are cut throughout the film – are snappy and hilarious, delivering sneaking gut-punches not only to the Deadpool films themselves, but to the superhero genre in totem. We won’t spoil any of the gags here because, well, they’re the only things that can really be spoilt in Once Upon A Deadpool.
If you’ve already seen Deadpool 2, then you’ve seen Once Upon A Deadpool too…it’s basically an old-style “in-flight entertainment” bowdlerisation of the film, and what’s the appeal in that? If the makers had actually gone all the way and literally turned Deadpool into a family film (by, say, incorporating footage and outtakes from both Deadpool movies, and then messing with the dialogue to Frankenstein it into something “new” altogether), that would have been a true metafictional feat. As it is, this rehash sits in a tedious no-man’s-land: the retained gags about child molesting, rape whistles, and prison sex mean that you can’t safely take the kids, while the cleaned up action is far less enthralling than the balls-out slug-fests of the original. A Christmas bauble for only the most hardcore of fans, Once Upon A Deadpool is a massive disappointment, and a major pop cultural misstep for one of the savviest franchises around.
“New York is in every way, shape and form, the complete opposite of Tasmania,” says actress and writer, Jordan Fassina, who left home at age 18. Five years later, her debut piece as a screenwriter, That Thing I Had One Time, which follows her personal story, is a few months away from its release date.
In a world of nuanced, compelling narratives like Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War, there’s something almost quaint about a game like Darksiders III. Whereas GoW deconstructs ancient stories and superstition to try and ground the more esoteric elements of mythology in emotion, Darksiders III unapologetically leans into the goofiness.
You, the player, inhabit the role of Fury – third horse person of the apocalypse after Darksiders’ War and Darksiders II’s Death. Fury is a bit of a cranky moll, to be honest, wielding an acerbic wit and a powerful whip, she flits about the screen causing bulk carnage paired with nimble acrobatics. For reasons too convoluted to enter into without spending 45 minutes explaining the dense, silly backstory, Fury has to go to Earth – which is a total shitfight due to a war between angels and demons – and defeat creatures that are the literal personification of the seven deadly sins. To help her on the quest, Fury loses a horse but gains a spirit friend, and the mysterious Lord of Hollows assists her rise to power for reasons known only to him.
Darksiders III brims with style and goofy enthusiasm, and as a medium-budget hack and slash adventure there is fun to be had. Unfortunately, it lacks the depth of the previous entry, Darksiders II, and ugly framerate issues persist even when not much is happening on screen. This third entry seems more in line with a Dark Souls-esque experience, with challenging bosses all the way through, but never feels precise or tactical enough to wear that mantle comfortably.
Fury, also, is kind of a dickhead, offering snark and edgy witticisms that feel ripped straight out of a comic from the early 1990s. She’s fun to play, mind you, physically weaker than Death but faster and more agile, and the whip is a grand weapon/swinging device.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of Darksiders III is going to depend on your ability to adapt and accept. You’ll need to adapt to the new direction the series takes here, ignoring your love for the previous entry and focusing on what’s in front of you. You’ll also need to accept that the game has technical issues. Nothing like the bewildering mess of Fallout 76, but enough that you’ll notice it and it may break the immersion.
Darksiders III isn’t quite the sequel fans of the series have been waiting for, but it’s engaging enough that you’ll want to see another, probably final chapter down the road. Hopefully next time they’ll keep the bloody horse!