Deadpool is the wise-cracking, sarcastic but ultimately enlightened teenage son of superhero movies that will happily do impressions of its parents.
This is Wade Wilson.
Wade is a mercenary with a loving girlfriend and a terminal illness who struck a deal to cure his illness while at the same time getting super powers.
Wade wound up with a disfigured complexion, a thirst for revenge and red costume with guns and swords galore.
Wade goes by the name Deadpool and breaks the fourth wall a lot.
Be more like Wade.
The first thing you notice abut Deadpool is that director Tim Miller has solved a problem that constantly plagues suerhero origin stories. If you have to spend a god portion of the movie explaining where the hero comes from, you risk leaving the audience waiting for some action the ieces are all carefully positioned. Wth Deadpool our first look at Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson is in red spandex beating the stuffing out of some henchmen while inside a totalling car. All it takes is some well placed flashbacks and we get the full picture of the character without having to wait 40 minutes for the costume to come on.
A big part of this film’s success is a suspension of over-explanation. With comic book movies certain beloved elements are so ridiculous that in order to keep them in directors and script-writers have to craft streams of cause and effect to justify that weird costume or the ridiculous catchphrase. Nothing in Deadool is over-explained. Not the costume (tries two others in a quick montage), not the signature swords (they just appear) and not the decommissioned battleship that’s used as the final battle scene (battleships are cool and don’t leave port much).
What we’re dancing around here is that 50% of Deadpool‘s charm is its sworn duty to take the superhero genre to task. Be it templates, traditions or plot devices, Deadpool holds them up to a very bright light and asks “Is this still good enough?”.
But it’s not a complete roast of the genre. There’s as much understanding of what makes a superhero movie good as there is criticism. The action, the character dimensions, the subversion of expectation and the faithfulness to the subject matter – these are high points of any good superhero movie that are hard to articulate and even more difficult to get on the screen. Deadpool not only manages it, but does so without relying on the standard fatty bits.
It isn’t all about the staples of other films – this isn’t Scary Movie. Deadpool spends as much time putting the genre on trial as it does carefully crafting its own lean, mean style. Anyone who knows the character well knows that breaking the fourth wall is the name of the game. The film has this in ready supply without relying on it too much for comedy.
The self-awareness is also in perfect balance with the other key part of Deadpool’s character – ridiculous violence. Again, there’s no shortage of it and the laughs come thick and fast – but it’s not the be all and end all of the movie. It would’ve been so easy to overindulge either of these two devices to squeeze a few more laughs out of the story. Fortunately, there’s no violence for the sake of violence – the action and fight scenes are deliciously put together and painstakingly organised. In the same vein the joke quality isn’t sacrificed for quantity, but there still manages to be a huge comedy volume.
Let’s talk about Ryan Reynolds. Hi last few films have been a blur of a few highs and an awful lot of lows. What we can learn from the quality-range between Self/Less and Mississippi Grind is that Reynolds is at his best when he plays himself and has permission to indulge his personality. Deadpool gives Reynolds this freedom and more, with a lot of scenes clearly based around ad libbing and razor-sharp improvisations. His back and forths with TJ Miller are a reliable source of chuckles throughout the film.
On the subject of other characters, there was a lot of dubiousness about how the X-Men characters would feed into Deadpool’s solo debut. Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) are as comedic as they are ass-kickingly action-packed. They’re also used in controlled doses which is a difficult job to pull off with this breed of cross-over. As a result, Deadpool remains remarkably self-contained.
One final good word without spoiling anything. Watch the end-credits sequence. You won’t be disappointed.
As you may have guessed there’s very little bad blood running through this review. But for the sake of balance we’ll poke a few holes. Suprisingly Deadpool has a fairly standard happy ending. If you peel away the sex jokes you’re still left with the hero kissing the damsel (Morena Baccarin) who accepts the hero for who he is. So what does that mean for the fans now desperate for a sequel? Will Deadpool have a girlfriend in the future when it clearly doesn’t suit his unhinged character? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to tie a bow on a standalone film, but how likely is it that we won’t see a sequel?
The second and final fault is the use of pop culture references throughout the film. Mostly they hit the nail on the head, especially when it’s to do with the X-Men franchise. However there are a few references like the Subway Jared scandal that may not stand the test of time, and might wind up showing Deadpool’s age as the years go by.
For a long time now there’s been no real call for superhero films to be innovative. Sure, Marvel is getting darker and DC is starting out dark, but all the set pieces are still as clear as day. Deadpool goes out of its way to change the game and carve out its own path.
From the moment the test footage was leaked, Deadpool promised a lot to superhero movie fans. In terms of setting a new standard and proving its worth in a saturated genre Reynolds had a lot riding on him and he delivered spectacularly.
The most valuable point that Deadppol has proved – whether it set out to do so or not – is that you can be an adult-rated hero movie without having to be The Punisher or Blade. Violence doesn’t have to go hand in hand with darkness and grit, and when you sever that tie and throw some comedy and entertainment into the mix, people will come and they will stick around.
At the end of the day, Deadpool plays a key part in the superhero movie lifecycle. It’s the wise-cracking, sarcastic but ultimately enlightened teenage son of superhero movies, happily doing impressions of its parents and lovingly poking fun at them when they mess up.