Comic books get comic in R-rated superhero parody
Directed by Tim Miller
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller
Deadpool, based on the cult fave Marvel Comics character, arrives just as the viewing public is on the verge of superhero overload. Television (particularly The CW) and movies (thanks largely to Disney/Marvel) are simply chockablock with men and women (a couple anyway) in tights. But just as it did in comic books, Deadpool serves as a snarky antidote to all those all-American do-gooders. While it’s likely to retain its cult status even in movie form, Deadpool is a welcome blast of satirical energy and the perfect antidote for people who are getting just a little tired of the same old comic book origin stories. Make no mistake, Deadpool is an origin story—and a fairly standard one when you boil it down. But the character is so off-the-wall it allows the film to feel fresh even when it’s going over familiar territory.
Ryan Reynolds stars as the titular character, a wisecracking former mercenary also known as Wade Wilson. This isn’t all that surprising, since Reynolds played the same character in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That film got a lot of flack for, well, sucking—but also for messing up the character of Deadpool so badly. Fans can breathe a sigh of relief. This second stab at the character corrects all of the flaws of the previous outing and delivers a version of Deadpool that comic book readers will instantly recognize. Non-comic book readers? Well, they may not warm as quickly to the raunchy, violent, proudly preposterous shenanigans on display here.
The film begins on an incredibly high note with one of the most entertaining opening credits sequences ever. Amid the most chaotic freeze-frame moment imaginable, Deadpool bills itself as being produced by “some asshats” and directed by “some pretentious douche.” (It also stars “God’s Perfect Idiot,” “A Hot Babe” and “A British Villain.”) In truth, it’s the work of first-time director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who gave us the tonally similar Zombieland). Flashbacks strung throughout the film’s propulsive action sequences spell out who and what our man Deadpool is.
Having been dishonorably discharged from Special Forces, Mr. Wilson ends up working as a soldier of fortune—although his somewhat upstanding set of values makes it hard for him to work for bad people (or to accept money from needy folks). One day, while hanging out at his local mercenary bar (I guess that’s a thing), he meets the gal of his dreams, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin from “Firefly” and “Gotham”). Unfortunately, just as his life is becoming a blur of domestic bliss and raunchy holiday sex, he runs into a string of very bad luck. The upside is that he winds up with near-immortal healing powers. The downside is that he’s transformed into a hideous, scarred wreck of a man.
Already unstable to begin with, he dons a mask, starts talking to the camera and goes gunning for the man who did this to him, evil “British villain” Ajax (Ed Skrein from The Transporter Refueled). It’s a familiar tale of revenge and girlfriend rescuing. But it’s enlivened by some manic action and a whole bunch of fourth-wall-breaking humor. Deadpool is perfectly aware of the fact that he’s in a movie and scores some big laughs handing digs to Reynolds’ previous superhero failures (the previously mentioned X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the 2011 adaptation of Green Lantern). The film also earns its R rating with plenty of rude humor, a decent amount of sex and some completely over-the-top violence.
The film’s studio, 20th Century Fox, does its best to tie the film in with the franchises it owns by folding in a couple of X-Men characters, the obscure Negasonic Teenage Warhead (newcomer Brianna Hildebrand, adding some teenage sass) and the metal-plated Colossus (who has only appeared briefly in the previous X-Men films and shows up here in a much more “comic”-like version). They aren’t the most well-known characters. (And as Deadpool wisely muses, it’s almost as if producers didn’t want to shell out for the more popular characters.) Fans will be ecstatic to see them, but it could be another element that puts off more mainstream viewers. Although they appear in a lot of the film, the two X-Men are basically glorified cameos—given no backstory or any real explanation as to why they’re there. If the idea of a CGI Colossus fighting MMA queen Gina Carano gives you half a chubby, this is definitely the movie for you. If not, well ...
It does raise the question of who this movie is aimed at: hardcore fans or average moviegoers? Deadpool has been blowing up the internet in the last few months, and that could bespeak a massive reception for the film. It would be great if movie studios got the message that they can be more adventurous with their comic book properties, bringing in lesser-known characters and giving them differing treatments (such as this “adult” comedy). But past internet sensations (Snakes on a Plane and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, for example) haven’t exactly translated into boffo box office. Deadpool will definitely find a dedicated audience for whom the sarcastic humor and bloody mayhem are pure, goddamn catnip. But this ain’t your parents’ superhero movie. If your only introduction to comic books is watching the Avengers movies, chances are Deadpool will not be your cup of chimichangas.