Today’s comic book movies are pretty much defined by the different approaches that their respective studios have taken with each property. Marvel has found success by taking a more lighter and comical route with their super hero characters (especially with Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy) which fits well within the standards of the Disney Studio that owns them. DC on the other hand has managed to bring their characters to the big screen, under the guidance of parent studio Warner Brothers, by taking a much more grittier and darker route, inspired by the direction of Christopher Nolan’s hugely successful Dark Knight Trilogy. Despite some naysayers on both sides, the different formulas have worked pretty well for both Comic Book giants. No one is ever going to be able to say that one is purely following the other’s formula, since they’ve both managed to carve out their own style in the cinematic realm. But, that’s a luxury that has mostly benefited the ones that have a secure home within their own respective studios. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of Marvel’s shaky early years in the movie industry, they had to make due by selling off the rights to their characters to many different production companies, making it impossible for them to control the creative decisions involved in the adaptations of their characters. Thankfully, after the purchase of Marvel by Disney, the publisher has managed to gain back most of the screen rights to the characters, save for the few that still belong to one studio; Fox. This has created an interesting little niche of Marvel Super Hero movies that are unconnected to the larger Cinematic Universe that Marvel has created; resulting in some good (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and bad (Fantastic Four) results. And standing out even more than these is this special little oddity known as Deadpool.
Deadpool is a lot of different things that you normally wouldn’t find in a conventional Super Hero movie. It’s irreverent, crude, amoral, full of meta humor and fourth wall breaks, and unapologetic about it. The alias of mercenary Wade Wilson, Deadpool is hyper-violent and merciless in the execution of his duties, but he conducts them with an often sophomoric and carefree sense of humor. Not only that, but just as in the comics, Deadpool will constantly stop in the middle of the action to address the audience directly and crack a few jokes. This makes him far and away the most irreverent Super Hero in the entire genre, and that has given him a special little niche of his own that belongs entirely to him. Created by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Rob Liefeld for Marvel in the early 90’s, Deadpool has long been used as a tool by the publisher to slyly mock the conventions and icons of the comic book world and get away with it. Deadpool is the desperately needed cynical voice that helps to keep the other comic book series in check, and that’s what has made him an especially popular character among many readers. His popularity naturally led to his appearance in other mediums, including a highlighted role in the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), where he was played by Ryan Reynolds. That movie unfortunately made the huge mistake of revamping the character and removing all the quirky aspects of him to create a muted monstrosity by film’s end, who inexplicably had his mouth sown shut. Needless to say die hard fans were not pleased. But, one such fan turned out to be Reynolds himself, who spent a lot of effort in the following years to re-revamp the character and do Deadpool justice on the big screen, and this new film is the result of that.
The new Deadpool movie is your standard comic book origin story, but one that’s self aware of the formula, and it takes some rather novel liberties with this kind of story. We meet Deadpool in the middle of a planned hit where he must take out a whole convoy of armed security in order to reach his target; a diabolical scientist named Ajax (Ed Skrein). Over the course of this hit, we flash back to Deadpool’s past life before he took up his Super Hero (or more appropriately Anti-Hero) identity. We see Wade Wilson meet the love of his life Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who shares his taste for the wild side, but his happy courtship hits a hurdle when he learns that he’s got an incurable cancer throughout his entire body. Desperate to find a cure, Wade takes up an offer given to him by a mysterious organization that promises to keep him alive. Unfortunately, he finds himself in the clutches of Ajax, who is seeking to uncover the dormant mutant genes in Wade’s DNA and turn him into a super soldier under his control. After numerous torture treatments, Wade’s body does mutate, making him indestructible, but also heavily scarred with burns across his entire body. After surviving the destruction of Ajax’s lab during his escape attempt, Wade seeks revenge against the man who ruined his life, and to do that he creates a masked identity for himself called Deadpool. Back in the present day, Deadpool puts his plan into action, and finds help from his bar-tending friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) and a couple of lesser known X-Men; Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). But, when Ajax discovers the identity of Deadpool’s lost love Vanessa, that plan soon hits a snag.
So, is Deadpool worth seeing or not? It really depends on what you’re looking for in the end. If you just want a straight forward superhero or action movie, then you might be put off by the constant irreverent humor throughout. But, if that is exactly what you’re looking for, then you won’t be disappointed. I for one highly enjoyed this movie from beginning to end, albeit with a couple reservations. The best way I can sum up my reaction to the film is that I thought it worked better as a comedy than as a super hero action movie. Was the action bad? No, but the movie clearly put more effort into the jokes than the actual staging of the action. The action was just okay overall. It’s comically over the top in many points, especially in the gruesome highway scene near the beginning and also one point where Deadpool decapitates one guy and then kicks the head into another guy’s head like a soccer ball, but most of the ridiculous bits seem too familiar. Honestly, I was more impressed with the over the top silliness of the action scenes in last year’s Kingsmen: The Secret Service, and that might have been due to the creativity of it’s staging. This movie has some creativity, but not nearly as much. But, despite being on par as an action movie, the movies is definitely above average as a comedy. A lot of credit goes to the writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick for packing every minute with one irreverent gag after another. The comedy does take shots at pop culture in general, but it’s often at it’s funniest when it turns self-defacing. I especially love the many digs at the X-Men in this movie, especially the constant running gags directed at that franchise’s star Hugh Jackman. Also, Reynolds poking fun at his disastrous turn as the Green Lantern are also hilarious.
And the comedy is a life saver for this film, because if it wasn’t there, I honestly might not have liked this movie. I don’t know if there was a disconnect with some larger inside gag about the super hero formula, but some of the plot motivations and tonal shifts in the film tended to not make a lot of sense; at least for me. At times the movie abruptly shifts gears and turns serious and tense, only to break that tension again with a gag. I don’t know if those tonal shifts were intentional or not, making the humor feel more unexpected (which at times worked) but the seismic shifts tended to be a little distracting for me and prevented this from being a purely sublime experience. Not only that, but I felt that the movie had this overall cheap look to it. Maybe that was intentional, and it does fit the character of the tacky and self-deprecating main hero, but it’s a punchline that I never felt the movie fully developed. Overall, the movie just looks washed out and basic, never really taking advantage of the flashiness that we usually see in superhero movies and poking fun at it. But, at the same time, the movie does give the gags the full attention. Honestly, you will never see a better love-making montage than the one in this movie. Also, despite the low rent look of the movie, the film never fails to deliver on the fourth wall breaks, which has become the character’s trademark from the comic books. When it comes to being self aware, this movie manages to make it work and it’s where the humor really shines through. Some of those moments even look like they are straight out of the comic book, like when Deadpool makes exaggerated gestures with his hands. You’ll know them when you see them in the movie. Despite the flaws, the movie does land it’s hits more often than not.
But, the primary reason this movie works overall is because of it’s main actor. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is the sole reason why you should see this movie. This was a passion project for the actor for many years and it shows. He completely sinks into this character, relishing every moment. This is probably the best marriage of comic book character with actor that we’ve seen since Robert Downey Jr. first stepped into the Iron Man suit, and it’s great to see Reynolds let loose as the character for once. This movie makes a considerable effort to right the wrongs made by X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Reynolds makes that abundantly clear. This version of the character is intended to be 100% faithful to the comic version and it’s the kind of care given to a character that you’ll only find from a performer who’s a genuine fan. The best superhero castings have always found this to be true, and Ryan Reynolds proves that here. But, what he also brings is his impeccable comedic timing as well, which is something that is integral to the character. Deadpool is exactly the kind of character that embraces a sillier, irreverent side, which Reynolds wears like a glove. He’s definitely reaching back into his Van Wilder days playing this character, and you can bet that he takes full advantage of the R-rated freedom that the studio has given him. I especially like the points in the film when Reynolds plays around with some of Deadpool’s more childish reactions to what’s going on. There’s a hilarious bit in the middle where Deadpool confronts Colossus and takes a few shots, leaving him with some broken limbs; a bit that reminded me a lot of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and it’s great.
But, Reynolds isn’t the only worthwhile actor in the film. Really, the entire cast is excellent here. Morena Baccarin manages to make Vanessa more than just another damsel in distress by giving her an equally twisted sense of humor that compliments Deadpool’s perfectly. T.J. Miller is also hilarious in his brief moments on screen; his deadpan delivery bouncing off of Reynolds’ more madcap performance very effectively. I also liked the inclusion of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (a name that Deadpool especially goes crazy over) into the film. They serve no other real purpose in the movie other than to connect Deadpool with the X-Men franchise, but their inclusion is still welcome. I especially like how Colossus is characterized as the straight-laced boy scout of the group (or as Deadpool calls him, the Teacher’s Pet) because of how it contrasts Deadpool against all the other comic book heroes. Ed Skrein is also effective as Ajax, filling out the role that the movie jokingly refers to as the stereotypical “British villain.” He’s a suitably intimidating force in the film, but not one that feels out of place in the movie. One of the best running gags in the film actually centers around Ajax’s real name, which Deadpool playfully mocks the whole way through. Also, apart from the performances, there are some great parodies thrown around that make fun of other superhero movie tropes, including Deadpool getting gleeful when one of the villains makes what he calls a “super hero landing.” Also, the movie opens with a spectacular opening credits sequence that not only mocks ones from other Comic Book movies, but all movies in general, saying that the film stars “God’s Perfect Idiot” and was directed by “Some Overpaid Hack.” All of this of course makes this one of the genre’s funniest entries and one of the best comedies in recent years.
So, overall, I would definitely say that Deadpool is absolutely worth seeing, especially if you want to have a good laugh. Just don’t go in expecting to see the greatest Comic Book movie ever made. I would still say that movies like The Dark Knight (2008), The Avengers (2012), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) still represent the high points of the genre, but you could make an argument for Deadpool as being the funniest Super Hero movie ever made. It’s especially pleasing that Ryan Reynolds and crew managed to get the movie made the way that they wanted it; without any studio interference. If only Fox had learned that lesson when they were making Fantastic Four last year. Though I would like to see all of Marvel’s properties returned to it’s parent company eventually (Deadpool included), I think it was better at this time for Deadpool to be made outside of the more restrictive standards of the Disney company. There’s no way that Disney would’ve allowed for an R-rated superhero film, especially one with the content that this one does, so it was probably for the better that Fox made this one instead. My hope is that when Disney and Marvel eventually gain back their characters from Fox, that it’ll come with the proof of success depicting this character in all his filthy glory and that it will lead them to maintain that tone in the future. Certainly, if there was a way to make Deadpool work on the big screen in his own movie, they certainly found it here. My hope is that when they make a sequel that they improve the aesthetic look of it and work out some of the tonal issues. For what it is, it does do a good job of bringing the character to life and it’s a well-needed piece of parody in a genre that can sometimes get a little full of itself. And in between these two giant Comic Book companies, Marvel’s bad boy has earned an enviable place in a category all his own.