Review: 'Deadpool' is an Entertaining Switch For Comic Book Movies
by Jeremy Kirk
February 12, 2016
Deadpool isn’t like any Marvel movie before. True, if you break them down, the same could be said for all the movies that make up the current subgenre of superhero films. Though the basic structures all resemble one another, the sheer number of new entries flooding theaters allows the fimmakers behind them to play around in different, cinematic territories. Captain America has become the paranoid thriller. Guardians of the Galaxy is the space opera. Deadpool nestles its way into a subgenre taking on all the characteristics. It’s the filthy, R-rated superhero movie comedy. Though it never reaches the height of vulgarity or subversion it intends, Deadpool offers an abundance of crude humor, edgy self-referentiality, and a huge amount of fun.
Technically a spin-off of the X-Men series and not part of the official MCU, Deadpool certainly has a few quips to drop about the mutant brigade, and what better voice – and attitude – to provide those quips than Ryan Reynolds? He stars as Wade Wilson, a mercenary living in New York who spends most of his time protecting young girls from stalkers. After meeting the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and growing the relationship for a year, Wilson discovers he doesn’t have long to live. Cancer has spread throughout most of his body, and the only possible cure comes in the form of a mysterious, experimental procedure. Sound familiar, X-Men fans?
Wilson goes through with the procedure, which takes care of the cancer in his body, but his face and body are horribly and irreversibly disfigured. There’s also the matter of his wounds healing and limbs reforming should they be cut off for any reason. Wilson swears vengeance on the people who transformed him, dons a red-and-black outfit and plenty of weaponry, and proceeds to take out the bad guys one bullet or sword swipe at a time. At least the procedure didn’t ruin his sense of humor.
That’s where Deadpool shines best. The cynical attitude made famous by the comic book character is always evident in the film. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (of Zombieland previously) don’t waste any motion delivering countless jokes and comical Easter eggs. It isn’t enough that Wilson continually mocks the villains he goes up against or that he seems to think there are cameras all around him, as if the whole thing were one, big movie. The breaking of its fourth wall provides Deadpool an avenue for comedy rarely seen in comic book movies, and it isn’t completely nonsensical to the story, either. Wilson isn’t exactly the most mentally stable superhero around.
He is probably the funniest, though. First-time director Tim Miller never lets up on the relentless humor dropped throughout Reese and Wernick’s screenplay. It’s never as subversive as R-rated, superhero movies of the past. Kick-Ass pretty much holds that throne, but this is still a nice change from the current slate of Marvel offerings to see a no-holds-barred action-comedy for adults, X-Men included. Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) accompany Deadpool on his mission, neither of them immune to his witty jabs. A warning to parents, though, that just because X-Men make an appearance does not make this a film for your children. You’ve been warned.
Funny as Deadpool is, the film hardly ever lets up on the action, either. There is plenty of bad-guy fodder for our "hero" to slice, dice, and riddle with bullets, his morals often in question as much as his mental capacity. The two main baddies, Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano), are never as interesting or as threatening as they should be, and the breezy run-time keeps it from ever feeling as grand as most Marvel movies. This doesn’t make it any less of a joy to experience. The fast pace and endless string of action beats forces your interest throughout the entire film, and it may just benefit the rewatch-ability factor. If for no other reason, you’ll want to watch Deadpool a few times just to catch all the jokes and references.
It helps tremendously that Reynolds takes on this role. The former Green Lantern made his first appearance as the Deadpool character in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Though that cinematic version of the character has been all but forgotten about, it’s both a blessing and a shock that Reynolds was allowed to fill the role once again. It needed to be Reynolds playing Deadpool here. The actor’s charisma and attitude seem completely at odds with one another, but he makes it work in his favor. The jokes slide out of him with a completely natural delivery, his sense of timing as perfect as the character’s aim with a gun. It’s taken a few tries for Ryan Reynolds to find the right footing as a superhero lead, but he and Deadpool are just the right fit for one another. You can’t imagine anyone else in the part.
Deadpool and what it represents are both a nice change of pace for the world of the comic book nivue. The superhero movie as it is in 2016 has been done to death, origin stories and relationship subplots becoming a paint-by-numbers kind of element. You don’t have to wonder much about why Green Lantern didn’t work. Deadpool has these similar elements. The origin story, though, takes little time here and is told mostly via entertaining voiceover, and the love story aspect to the film never feels disingenuous or forced. It’s just kind of buried by the mountain of filthy humor and bloody violence scattered within. Time will only tell if more comic book films take on the same, R-rated tone as many of the source books have done in recent years. For now, though, Deadpool is here, and it definitely scratches a particular itch for comic book fans.