Deadpool is the first superhero movie to feature a scene in which its title character gets anally penetrated by a strap-on dildo courtesy of his prostitute-turned-girlfriend, I think. It’s the first superhero movie to do a lot of things; most notably breaking the proverbial fourth wall, a trait of the character in print that remains intact here and allows for much of the uber-meta humor to exist. Longtime fans will be ecstatic to see a movie that stays true to the character, whilst outsiders should find plenty to chuckle at within Deadpool’s sardonic quips. Deadpool, the movie, is a crowd-pleaser of the highest order. There’s a reason it broke opening weekend records for both R-rated movies and February releases.
Deadpool is a very thin movie in terms of plot. It tells its basic origin story in a very rushed, nonlinear way. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), whom we know very little about other than that he’s ex-military, falls in love with an escort, Vanessa (a never-better Morena Baccarin). Before they can get married, Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Wade then takes part in a mysterious experimental mutation program headed by Francis/Ajax (Ed Skrein). In order to trigger the mutation within Wade, thus curing his cancer while making him superhuman, Francis tortures him. The final method of torture, the one that turns Wade into Deadpool, involves some oxygen chamber mumbo jumbo that disfigures Wade’s face. Afterwards, Francis claims he can cure it. Sometime after that, Francis kidnaps Vanessa and Wade Deadpool goes to get her back. That’s the story. It’s broken up in a way to disguise how insignificant it really is. Though I must say it’s nice to have a superhero movie that doesn’t really on some moronic “end of the world” scenario for conflict.
Deadpool cares not for narrative heft because it’s so concerned with mocking the conventions of its own genre. To an extent, this works. There are some genuinely sidesplitting moments. The opening credits alone pack more humorous power than many full movies that bill themselves as comedies. Deadpool, fully aware he’s a fictional superhero, loves to continually remind us how foolish we all are for taking these movies seriously. When he visits the Charles Xavier’s mansion to enlist the help of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, he says, “What? The studio couldn’t afford another X-Man?”. When Wade finally reveals himself to Vanessa post-mutation, he has a picture of Hugh Jackman’s face stapled to his real one. Deadpool is a very funny movie littered with in-jokes that folks who watch superhero movies will appreciate. It’s also important to note that Deadpool stops short of making fun of its actual audience.
While the humor is the films greatest strength, it’s also what holds it back from being truly great. The tone for 85% of the movie makes it impossible for the more serious 15% to resonate. I felt nothing when Wade was being tortured, and the characters are too one-note to make the love story work. Wade is witty and, that’s it. This makes him a great narrator, but not a great protagonist. The success of the film virtually guarantees a sequel and Deadpool’s appearance in future franchise entries. My question is; how exactly are they going to throw Deadpool into an ensemble movie without in turn making everyone else in the movie seem comical? Deadpool is a breath of fresh air in 2016 amidst a dearth of superhero movies. But fast forward to Deadpool 3 or X-Men featuring Deadpool; is that something we actually want to see? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a movie holding more singular value than franchise value, but Fox plans to make Deadpool into something bigger. I’m hesitantly on board, I suppose.
Back to this actual movie. Ryan Reynolds does a fine job as the character he tried for so long to get right on screen. Maybe this brash and overtly sexual Reynolds is the best Reynolds. It’s certainly a better Reynolds than rom-com Reynolds or struggling action star Reynolds. He’s always been charismatic, but it’d be hard to argue that he’s proven himself a great dramatic actor. He’s an exceptional Wade/Deadpool because the role is 99% charisma, 1% dramatic acting. What this role does for Reynolds is very similar to what the role of Iron Man does for Robert Downey Jr.
The other players do admirable jobs with the little that they’re given. Morena Baccarin makes for a fine love interest. She’s seductive and capable of matching Reynolds joke for joke. Fans are surely well aware that her character eventually becomes the hero Copycat. I for one certainly hope that this is the path Fox intends to go down. I want to see more of her. Ed Skrein as Ajax or what the credits call “A British Villain” is fine. Skrein is a capable actor but the character has no clear motivations. He’s just a dick, really. TJ Miller plays Weasel, Wade’s best friend and proprietor of a dive bar. The movie is so out-there that there’s no need for Miller’s comedic relief, but his scenes are still welcome. The X-Men we do see are also fine, but they serve little purpose other than to confirm that this movie exists in the universe we’ve grown accustomed to.
This movie marks the directorial debut of Tim Miller, the talented visual effects supervisor responsible for the infamous opening credits sequence in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Miller did a great job handling what is a pretty small budget for a superhero movie. At no point does it appear he had to compromise his vision. The CGI making up Colossus looks great. The action sequences are stylized so to fit the film but are never distracting. The fight choreography is perfectly sloppy. It doesn’t look graceful, nor should it. It’s hard to comment too much on Miller’s directing style because so much of the films style comes from the script, but by no means did he do anything wrong here.
On a technical level, Deadpool doesn’t lack much. Junkie XL’s score perfectly complements some of the movies soundtrack choices. Editor Julian Clarke had a lot on his plate given the jumbled narrative, but the film moves briskly with the exception of the torture sequence. The look of the film is very urban. Certain locales accentuate the roughness of its world. There’s a scene (or scenes) on a highway overpass that feels so closed-in due to the way it’s shot. That’s a necessity because the viewer needs to feel as if Deadpool’s only way out of this scene is to fight. This isn’t a gigantic movie that really gets to show of its effects work or cinematography, but it’s easy to spot the craft that went into it.
Deadpool lacks self-seriousness, and that’s what allows it to work despite some of its plotting flaws and character shortcomings. It’s basically the anti-Zack Snyder movie. I have concerns over its repeated value and overall future, but I can’t act as if wasn’t laughing for much of the movie. I don’t think its success signifies anything larger than it just being an enjoyable movie that had a brilliant marketing campaign. It makes for a fun two hours. In the cold early year months that see endless crap put in theatres, you can’t ask for much more.