The new Deadpool movie doesn’t so much as stick the landing as put a stick of dynamite into the superhero genre and blow up the entire notion of a landing with big, bloody aplomb. This is a movie that is exactly what it wants to be, and sets itself apart straightaway with a slow-motion, wrap-around, close-up journey through an ultra-violent showdown in a car, featuring jokey credits and Juice Newton’s early ‘80s ballad “Angel of the Morning.”
The opening credits establish the tone of what will unfold in the next 106 minutes of this R-rated flick. It isn’t really an origin story (except in the strictest definition); it doesn’t set up a movie a few years down the road involving galactic gems; there isn’t a big superhero-vs. superhero conflict that will inevitably involve them fighting alongside one another.
Instead, director Tim Miller’s Deadpool is about wisecracking former special forces soldier turned muscle-for-hire Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, of course), who falls in love with a sex worker, finds out he has a bad case of the cancer (everywhere), accepts a shady invitation to be turned into a “superhero,” undergoes a torturous process that unleashes his latent mutant genes (and flash-fries his body), becomes a wisecracking antihero with a super-healing factor and seeks revenge against the British baddie who turned him fugly. Also, there are two X-Men.
There. That pretty much sums it up.
There are jokes about balls, there are breasts, there are beheadings, there is brain matter, but there isn’t much substance or character development. Deadpool is a predictable movie where it hits the expected beats, and the plot’s entire purpose is to set up the next gag or over-the-top blood-soaked action sequence. OK, and it kind of is a love story – with ball jokes.
In short, this is certainly the nothing-is-sacred, fourth-wall-breaking ‘Pool fans have hoped for, and the one a savvy social media publicity campaign has promised us for some time now.
And yeah, it is damn fun.
The entire movie has a freshness about it that is needed in a genre increasingly burdened by shared universes and stories that require several movies and TV shows to play out – all within the safe space of a PG-13 rating.
By and large, comic-book fans benefit from a movie environment where many of our revered characters are brought to life with a special eye toward honoring the source material. So, when a sacrosanct character does something like snapping the neck of his nemesis, it draws the ire of some circles, and is seen as contrary to the hero's roots.
Deadpool doesn't have this problem. It breaks the current mold of the super-genre because the character never fit it in the first place. The crasser the movie gets, the more it is actually honoring the comic character's roots. And instead of falling victim to the temptation of treating super hero business very seriously, the movie toys with it. It does not shy away from tossing around meta insults on the superhero genre (including more than a few targeting Reynolds’ Green Lantern and X-Men Origins: Wolverine misfires), and it is even entirely comfortable using the term “superhero.” Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) is a big Russian boy scout from the X-Men who basically shows up to preach to Deadpool, and generally screw up an otherwise perfectly good killing spree. Instead of a young, excitable sidekick, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) is a moody, texting teen. Even the obligatory cameo breaks the rules by putting a beloved figure in a seedy setting.
As for Reynolds, he has a blast in the role, finally getting his wish to play the comic book Wade Wilson created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza in 1991. Despite wearing a mask for the majority of the film (and the costume just looks great, by the way), or being concealed by burn prosthetics, he embodies the character so much that it’s hard to figure out where RR ends and WW begins. Meanwhile, in his directorial debut, visual effects artist Tim Miller brings ridiculous comic action to life without being held hostage by the laws of physics.
Additionally, while Deadpool plays into more than a few tired sexist ideas, it features one of the more enjoyable relationships we’ve seen thus far in the genre. The story of Wade and Vanessa (played by Firefly alum and Gotham costar Morena Baccarin) is told through a montage of sex-positive scenes over the course of a year in their life. It is reciprocative and fun, and I’m willing to bet money it’s the first time a pegging scene has made it into a capes-and-tights flick. A sex worker turned damsel in distress (yawn), she isn’t given a lot to do, but that’s made up for with their healthy relationship. On a similar note, Gina Carano as Angel Dust -- the brawny sidekick to villain Ajax (Ed Skrein, doing what he can with a bad guy role defined simply by his Britishness and sensitivity about his name) -- gets to kick some significant butt. Even though she doesn't get a character arc, it's refreshing to see a movie let a woman be the strong, silent muscle who takes on hero heavyweight such as Colossus.
Did I sit down in the theater thinking I needed a comic book movie involving strip clubs, a bullet passing through multiple bad guy heads, and a joke about fornicating avocados? Not precisely, but I’m kind of glad this type of movie now exists.
Unless you’re an adolescent boy, you’re not likely to view Deadpool as a perfect film, but it is a pretty kick ass movie.