2016 is a year that is loaded with superhero movies, and the best one might have already been released. Deadpool, a long awaited, long demanded stand-alone movie for the irreverent Marvel character has been in development hell for most of this century. The character first appeared in the awful 2009 film X-Men Origine: Wolverine. Known as a wisecracking mercenary, that film stupidly decided to mute him and effectively ruin him in the ending of the film. Portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, who had been linked to the character for years, the chances for Deadpool to get his own spin-off seemed unlikely when Reynolds decided to take on the role of Green Lantern for DC in 2011. Thankfully, that film bombed, any chances of it spawning sequels were soon dispelled, and grassroots internet interest began in earnest again for a Deadpool movie to be done right with Reynolds involved. It finally got the green light and, despite a significantly smaller budget than most comic book movies, is a genuine treat and a legitimate star-making turn for Ryan Reynolds.
Deadpool is Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a fast-talking mercenary living in New York City who does various odd-jobs for well-paying customers. He spends his downtime in a bar run by his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) and frequented by other mercenaries, all of whom are involved in a “dead pool” where people place bets on who will be the next person to die. He meets and falls in love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), an escort who shares a similarly demented sense of humor as Wade. After a year together, he proposes, and soon after finds out he has terminal cancer throughout his body. Not wanting to subject her to the nightmare ahead, he leaves her. He is recruited to join a secret program that promises to heal him and make him invincible, but it turns out to be a false bill of goods as the people running the program intend to make him a mindless super slave. Subjected to intense pain and torture in order to release his dormant mutant genes, he is physically deformed but becomes invincible in the process, able to regenerate and heal. He manages to escape, presumed dead, and soon begins scheming on how to get back at the people who did this to him, mainly two people: Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano). In the process of getting his revenge, he also crosses paths with two X-Men in the form of Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).
As far as previous superhero films go, this one feels most similar to 2010’s Kick-Ass, an indie black comedy of a superhero movie that also had a R-rating, and earned its R-rating. Also, both movies have a similar tone of being self-referential to the superhero genre and while also trading frequently in the tropes of standard superhero movies, particularly the origin stories. They also share a predilection toward highly stylized and graphic violence and reveling in profanity. There are several scenes where Wade and Vanessa or Wade and Weasel enter into back and forths of verbal one-upmanship trading insults or talking about how bad their lives are. All of this is entertaining, despite the story being completely generic.
Ryan Reynolds is an actor who Hollywood has tried through various means to make a big time star, with disappointing overall returns. His best roles have always been the ones that best utilize his sarcastic wit and likeable charm. Because of this, Deadpool is a character that he was born to play, as the defining characteristics of Deadpool feel tailor-made to Reynold’s strengths. It is obvious that he is right in his element and completely comfortable in the role. The rest of the cast is more of a mixed bag. Baccarin is able to trade barbs back and forth with Reynolds with ease. They have believable chemistry together. There is also very good banter between Deadpool and the X-Men representatives in this film, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who are trying to convince him to join the good guys. The villains are the weakest part of the story, as their organization is never fully sketched out. While Gina Carano is fine in a supporting villain role, the lead villain is not particularly compelling. What carries this is Deadpool’s singular focus in tracking them down and getting them to reverse what they have done to him. Leslie Uggams is also fine as the blind old lady who Wade lives with in a twisted Alfred Pennyworth kind of role.
What distinguishes Deadpool from other superhero movies that have as generic a story as Deadpool, though, is that it is raunchy and riotously funny and is an obvious labor of love by director Tim Miller and those involved in making it. It earns the R-rating it receives, and it’s the only way to make a Deadpool movie that is faithful to the source material. Deadpool is constantly cracking wise at people who are shooting at him. There’s also a lot of self-deprecating, self-referential humor about the disastrous first incarnation of Deadpool in the first Wolverine movie, as well as meta winks and nods to the audience about Reynolds, Deadpool, Wolverine, the X-Men, and even Reynold’s Green Lantern stint. There’s also some great breaking of the 4th wall, as part of Deadpool’s appeal is as a comic book character who is self-aware that he exists in a comic book.
While I said Deadpool reminds me of Kick-Ass, it reminds of another Matthew Vaughn film, last year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, which was also irreverent, raunchy, and hyper-violent playful genre send-up. That film was the first of many spy-related films that got released in 2015, and it was one of the best at the end of the year, and stood out because of its uniqueness in mocking the genre and loving the genre. Deadpool does the same, openly mocking superhero movies (the opening title sequence is brilliant) while embracing the genre too. In a year that is filled with superhero films, Deadpool should be among the best of the bunch at year’s end, and it will stand out for the unique brand of fun it revels in.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars