As the big guys and gals of superhero legend wind down their cinematic reign, more obscure characters are now being tested for multiplex domination. Deadpool, which, according to the film, takes place in the X-Men universe, is perhaps the most daring comic book adaptation yet, with the red-suited antihero a troubling figure of cynicism, sarcasm, and murder.
His journey is very different from the troubled but noble titans audiences are used to. Instead of soberly working through yet another origin story, Deadpool spices up the norm with a freewheeling sense of humor and loads of R-rated mischief, jazzing up the genre with a blast of unexpected energy from an unlikely source.
Photo courtesy of Marvel Enterprises
Deadpool’s debut adds some
needed filth to the superhero routine.
A mercenary with a military background, Wade (Ryan Reynolds) makes his living doing odd jobs for people in need, reporting back to his only friend and Sister Margaret’s Bar employee, Weasel (T.J. Miller).
Falling in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Wade finds a true connection in his lonely world. However, a late-stage cancer diagnosis cuts the party short, putting him in a difficult position of commitment.
Leaving Vanessa, Wade signs up with a shadow group dedicated to human experimentation, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano) put in charge of the new recruit’s mutant evolution.
When Wade is betrayed and fried by Ajax, he begins to plan his ultimate revenge, testing out new self-healing abilities as he works his way up the criminal ladder, followed closely by X-Men members Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who want the new crime-fighter, rechristened Deadpool, to consider a life of heroism.
Deadpool isn’t an honorable guy, joining the ranks of comic book characters in a visual medium that always has trouble with shades of gray when it comes to costumed heroes. However, instead of another sullen war machine in the vein of The Punisher, Deadpool is largely known for his irreverent sense of humor—as quick with a one-liner as a weapon.
This shift in tone benefits Deadpool tremendously, especially after Wade’s last screen appearance in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine treated the goofy brute as a mad science project, scraping off his personality and gluing his lips shut. Deadpool rights the big wrong, returning the mercenary to his roots of ultraviolence and pop culture references, giving fans of the comic series (which debuted in 1991) an adaptation they deserve.
Despite a substantial amount of CGI, Reynolds is the true visual effect of the movie, gamely going wherever director Tim Miller leads. The character is an improvisational machine, with a stream-of-consciousness delivery that gives Deadpool an impish wit to go along with devastating finishing moves. The picture earns its restricted rating; this is no family film.
While there’s an agreeable supporting cast, the effort belongs to Reynolds, who makes Deadpool not only palatable (no small feat), but a real candidate for a franchise that may one day collide with the X-Men all-stars.
Deadpool isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is, but select moments are executed perfectly. Wade/Deadpool breaks the fourth wall (even messing with the camera), references his own tattered screen history (and Reynolds’s People magazine covers), and messes with everyone, including roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggam), an elderly women who shares a fetish for IKEA products.
Deadpool feels big as it jumps around in time, interrupting an opening freeway showdown with flashbacks to Wade’s once semi-peaceful life with Vanessa. It’s an anarchic movie, but there’s something resembling an emotional core. Wade’s shock at his death sentence gives the film a touch of sensitivity to go along with all the sliced limbs, sexual humor, and self-referential jokes.
Deadpool goes for the big-bang-boom finale, ordering up a showdown of mutant powers, an accidentally exposed breast, and some medium-scale heroics. It carries on longer than it needs to, but bloat doesn’t keep the picture from becoming pure entertainment, down and dirty to the end, but never mean-spirited.
Deadpool may not be known to a wider audience, and he’s certainly not a courageous figure, but his debut is one of the better ones in the Marvel universe, adding some needed filth to the superhero routine.