Ryan Reynolds slays in this blood-drenched, gabby superhero send-up.
What makes Deadpool a very, very special member of the Marvel Universe is that he rides that Bugs Bunny plane of existence where he has a direct, ongoing conversation with us, the audience, as he partakes in the same superhero escapades of his spandex-clad counterparts. For fans, the prospect of him hitting the big screen was an exciting one—a Deadpool movie, done well, has the potential to undress superhero movies in a spectacular, hilarious way. After years bubbling up to the surface of the cesspool of weirdo movie projects no one wants to finance, Deadpool is finally here, and it does (hooray!) walk through many of the creative doors a fourth-wall-breaking character like “The Merc With A Mouth” kicks down. What’s a disappointment is how surprisingly tame the comedy feels and how conventional the movie feels as a whole, but if it’s simple, off-the-wall entertainment you’re after, you’re going to leave the theater mighty happy.
The movie’s self-awareness is may be the biggest hook for those of us with previous knowledge of the titular character (played by a fiery Ryan Reynolds), but for mass audiences, its clear appeal is its free pass to show us hard-R, bloody, vulgar stuff you almost never see in superhero movies. Kick-Ass constitutes the “almost,” but Deadpool hits the anti-superhero-movie thing on the head much, much harder. The tone is firmly set in the funny opening credits sequence which, instead of sprawling filmmaker Tim Miller‘s name across the screen, cites the director as “Some Hack” and the writers as “The Real Heroes Here.” The jokes, which mostly take aim at studio-movie clichés, are well thought-out a lot of fun, though they never feel as smart or ahead of the fanboy curve as I’d hoped. Most of the laughs come from a place of recognition, like pointing out how shameless Marvel’s Stan Lee cameos have become or referencing the colossal blunder that was The Green Lantern (which also starred, as you probably know, Mr. Reynolds). The best gags are the ones that come out of left field, like when Deadpool slyly hints that the main reason the movie got financed was due to the support of Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman.
Reynolds (who’s been vocal about his desire to reprise the Deadpool character after the missed opportunity that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine) doesn’t shut his yap for virtually the entire movie, a difficult task for even the most seasoned onscreen comedians (Jim Carrey and the late Robin Williams took on many a gabby, cartoonish role in their respective careers, and even they had their fair share of missteps). That the Canadian heartthrob sails through the material so comfortably is super (pardon the pun) impressive, especially considering how much harder it is for uber-handsome leading men to get us to laugh at and/or with them (Cary Grant was one of the few actors who could be “the fool” and make us feel sorry for him despite his immaculately chiseled chin). Now, is Reynolds as funny and brilliant as the three legends I just name-dropped? That’s a big NO. But most actors of his generation and ilk would crash and burn in this kind of role, and he keeps his composure uncommonly well.
After the movie’s first scene, a quippy, brain-splattering freeway shootout in which Deadpool’s badassery and loudmouth personality are established, we flash back to learn about the life of Wade Wilson, a mercenary with a barkeep best friend called Weasel (T.J. Wilson) and a kindhearted, prostitute lover, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Setting Wade on his path to becoming the one-and-only Deadpool is the news that he has late-stage, terminal cancer. When a shady figure offers him a cure in the form of experimental therapy (which, as chance would have it, affords the patient super powers), he reluctantly seizes the opportunity. Bad move; the organization administering the treatment turns out to be totally evil. Wade’s cured alright (he even acquires super-healing powers), but he’s left covered from head to toe in Freddie Kruger-esque burns. In a word (his word), he’s “un-fuckable.” The dejected Wade can’t bring himself to return to Vanessa with his disgusting-ass face, so he instead sets out on a revenge mission in search of Ajax (Ed Skrein), the mad scientist who screwed him over in the first place.
Deadpool starts in a good place but eventually starts to skip to the same beat as all the superhero movies it pokes fun at, pitting our antihero against a sadistic bad guy in a CGI-heavy final battle, the fate of his love hanging in the balance. Some mutant sidekicks join the fray in the form of the Russian, steel-bodied Colossus (Stefan Kapacic) and the explosive Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). These two are mostly used to emphasize how much edgier Deadpool is than your everyday X-Man, though it’s pretty clear that, deep down, he sits comfortably on the good-guy side of the larger spectrum—what’s more heroic than risking life and limb for your lover? Take away his potty mouth and murdering addiction (he only kills bad guys, after all), and he’s just like the rest of Professor Xavier’s gifted students. That’s the movie’s biggest issue: bells and whistles aside, it feels like just another superhero story. The irony stings. Still, it’s entertaining throughout and the laughs are well-earned and rival those found in the excellent Guardians of the Galaxy . That’s a win deserving of a lifetime supply of yummy chimichangas.