It's official; the producers of debutant director Tim Miller's Deadpool, are 'asshats'. And that's not this writer's opinion, but what the opening title sequence of the film says.
Deadpool, the film, is cheeky, irreverent, outrageously funny and thrillingly violent. It plays out like an extended version of 'honest superhero movies', with constant self-referencing, self-deprecation and, constant digs at the Marvel Cinematic Universe (with particular affinity towards the Australian-accented Wolverine we so love). Which is why the opening credits of Deadpool are a work of art that match the entirety of the film itself.
Never have we seen this kind of brutal honesty, coupled with the ability to laugh at oneself, in the credits of a film before. No names, just hilarious descriptors for the cast and crew. So obviously, the writers are 'The Real Heroes Here', while the director is 'An Overpaid Tool'. And haven't we all, at least once, felt that Ryan Reynolds is 'God's Perfect Idiot' or suchlike?
It's the shortest, sweetest roast in history, that opening title sequence. (In the course of the film, Ryan Reynolds refers to his female lead as, and I paraphrase, 'shorter person used as a sex object'. It's the role that women are assigned to in most films, so Deadpool just says it as it is.)
The cheese on the chimichanga (watch the film and you'll understand this metaphor) is the visual imagery that accompanies the credits - one high-octane moment from the narrative of the film, frozen so we can travel across it intimately in three-dimensions, discovering every pore of that moment, before we pull out to see just what it looks like from a distance. Of course, we know for a fact that at some point in the film, that moment will explode and be taken to its logical conclusion.
Deadpool is actually, at its core, a cute little love story. No surprise, then, that the opening sequence is set to Juice Newton's rendition of 'Angel of the Morning'. Because romance.
Movie opening credits are seldom paid attention to, because the audience is busy with more important things, like figuring out if the corner seats are in a suitably dark corner, or if each kernel of overpriced popcorn has enough air within to at least pretend to be bang for the buck.
Consequently, filmmakers hardly pay attention to them either, treating them as a minor formality to be done with, before 'the film' begins. And what we usually end up getting is text over black (or even more blasphemous, text over the opening scene.) We don't get an iota of information about the film from the opening credits, which amounts to a wasted opportunity to set context.
We, the cinema audience, submit ourselves to a world that envelops us, blocking out our real lives for a couple of hours. It takes some time for us to get accustomed to this new, temporary world that we have to inhabit. It's the reason behind that nagging sense of curiosity coupled with confusion that we often face when films begin. We're settling in. (Of course, some folks are genuinely confused all the time, so they're not under consideration here.)
But then, there are filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Vertigo) and David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club), who've always understood the essence of what movie opening credits must do - create that context, without introducing the characters directly. You know a film's title credits have done their job when you've forgotten all questions that you had about the film, and you're ready to submit yourself to the experience before you.
In Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the eponymous girl with the dragon tattoo is a stunningly complex woman named Lisbeth Salander. The title sequence of that film is a bizarre, grotesque, gorgeous animated montage of what looks like molten metal forming and destroying different aspects of Salander's character. It was memorable, because it sets you up for precisely that kind of bizarre journey in the film.
Guess who directed that title sequence? Deadpool director Tim Miller. So clearly, Deadpool's credits being the way they are isn't really a surprise. What it does, though, is raise the bar. Some would insist the film does that for superhero movies in general, but that's not true.
Deadpool is great fun but not perfect. It’s a one-off film that is fun because it doesn’t follow the regular template. Its style will become weary if repeated by future films belonging to other franchises. But it certainly raises the bar for the thought that goes into title sequence design. Now if only those asshat producers would let filmmakers spend some money on opening credits.