Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds) is an odd character to have his own film. He’s on the outskirts of the main Marvel universe and rarely read by the casual comics fan. His antics and foul mouth might appeal to the supposed main demographic of Superhero stories (I say supposedly, as I and most of my female friends all love this stuff – we are also, sadly, getting past the point of ‘young’), but they don’t allow for his film to be both true to the character and available to that audience at the cinema. Will this hurt the film’s earnings? Potentially. But at the same time, the childishness of Deadpool’s behaviour mixed with innuendo, bad language, and gross-out violence has a certain charm and appeal to the adult market as well. And most importantly, the film has its own distinct personality. With the number of superhero films around these days, finding a way to make any of them stand out is more than commendable, it’s practically miraculous.
For those of you unfamiliar with the ‘merc with the mouth’, don’t worry, you don’t need a good grounding in the comic book in order to appreciate this puerile masterpiece. Just make sure you bring a good sense of humour with you.
You’re probably thinking ‘This is a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kebab.’ Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story.
It would have been easy for the filmmakers to throw all the rules out the window when approaching a Deadpool film. But they did something better – they have kept a fairly traditional narrative structure for a superhero film and used the standard tropes in new ways. Even more impressive, this is director Tim Miller’s first feature-length film – and what a debut it is! Deadpool is an origin story, but we are thrown into the middle of Deadpool’s insane nonsense without any context, dropping us right in the middle of it. Flicking between the film’s present and past keeps the energy levels high and allows for small breaks in Deadpool’s incessant prattling (which, admittedly, can get a bit grating at times in the comics, so this approach was a stroke of genius). Like his previous on-screen mutant pal, Wolverine, Deadpool’s story is rather tragic, propelling him on a mad drive for revenge. If there were such a genre as ‘Revenge Comedy’, this would be one of the archetypal narratives.
The film is so meta-textual that it starts feeling more realistic than some supposed real world dramas I’ve seen in recent years. The dialogue involves breaking the fourth wall – talking directly to the audience and even referring to the fact that this is a film – and nods to various geek-culture moments as well as previous (terrible) superhero films Ryan Reynolds has appeared in. This wink-wink-nudge-nudge style tackles subjects as lewd as anal sex to Ryan Reynolds’ pretty face and acting ability. Very little, it seems, is out of Deadpool’s range for lampooning. And why should it be?
Like many a film of its genre, there is a moment in Deadpool where the audience can clearly go ‘right, this is where he gets set on his path.’ These moments are always glaringly obvious and feel so forced as to be laughable. So what does Deadpool do? It makes belabours the point of plot McGuffin, having one of the characters say straight out that they agree the event is weird, but that it might move the plot along. And low and behold, it does!
Bad ass. Smart ass. Great ass.
The film’s weakest aspect is also potentially its… ah… greatest asset. And by that, I mean the divine and delectable Morena Baccarin as Deadpool/Wade Wilson’s ex-girlfriend. She is a cardboard cut-out figure, something the film specifically calls out (‘It’s like I made her in a movie’). They give her nothing much to do other than create motivation for the protagonist – but hey, she looks good doing it! Like many modern superhero films, Deadpool has a serious gender issue. The women are so relegated they are barely secondary characters. Outside of the perfect girlfriend character (who is a prostitute/exotic dancer, by the way), Deadpool features only two other women: the baddie’s ‘muscle’, who has barely a handful of lines (played by Gina Carano) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who Deadpool points out has ‘The coolest name ever!’ But neither of these characters has much in the way of characterisation, screen time or impact on the overall narrative.
You look like Freddy Krueger face-fucked a topographical map of Utah.
While the film might be light on screen time and agency for the female characters, it makes up for it in almost every other respect. From the humour to the acting, everything is covered, despite the obviously relatively small budget for a superhero film. At its core, obviously, is Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of the titular Deadpool. And he is bloody brilliant at it. Many may have worried after his previous role in the below average X-Men: Origins and the completely dire Green Lantern, but they needn’t have worried. Reynolds has always shone when given great comedic material. This role hearkens back to his successful comedic roles in Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, Waiting…, and Van Wilder: Party Liaison, with Reynolds being a bloody joy to watch.
Verdict: Great film. Fun, frenetic, and foul-mouthed. A tongue-in-cheek approach to the rather stale superhero genre.