Directed by Tim Miller
Breaking the fourth wall as often as necks, whilst making blowjob jokes aplenty, it’s safe to say Wade Wilson (aka Deadpool) is not Marvel’s most conventional superhero. Think of him as a super anti-hero, with every kill more violent than necessary and dealt with an ironic wink still detectable beneath his red and white mask. With great power come great irresponsibility etc. After premiering this role in the pitiful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds has waited another 7 years to be back in the spandex. And fortunately, save for a couple of meta references, he’s willing to forget that and Green Lantern ever happened.
What he’s not willing to forget is the (very British) villain Ajax (Skrein) who left him looking ‘like a testicle with teeth’. You see, two years ago Wilson was a hardened mercenary until he fell in love with tart-with-a-heart prototype Vanessa (Baccarin). Sadly this blossoming romance got shaken up by a fatal cancer diagnosis that saw him turn to illicit channels to get a cure – the plot advancing sequence where he finds out about this option is a highlight. But shock horror! The shadowy organization operating on him weren’t all they seemed and he was left heavily disfigured and hungry for revenge. Fortunately the same experiment-gone wrong equipped him with an arsenal of superpowers to help him on the way, along with the reliable (and unwanted) support of X-Men Colossus (Kapicic) and, erm, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (a fantastic turn from Hildebrand). Under his new guise of Deadpool, Wilson aims to win back the woman he loves and return his ‘butter-face’ to its former glory.
Right from the opening shot – a stunning freeze-frame that’d look great spread across pages 2 and 3 – there’s a lot to like about Deadpool. Miller has a great eye for bringing small boxes to the big screen, showing himself to be far from the ‘douchebag’ his credit implies. His quirky soundtrack, tasteful use of bullet time and generosity with gore will entertain throughout. Furthermore, Reese and Wernick exhibit the same snap and snide they peppered Zombieland with. The script yields raunchy laughs coming from nowhere. With well-judged irreverent humour, and more bad language per scene than every X-Men film combined, it earns its adult rating. Furthermore they make frequent use of time-jumps to keep up the pace, feature a genuinely hilarious Stan Lee cameo and even break a fourth wall within another fourth wall breaking moment (“16 walls!”). Sure, not all of the characters are well pronounced – in particular Baccarin has little to work with outside her hilarious introduction – but when Deadpool is onscreen (particularly with Colossus) it’s very often ear-candy. Speaking of which, Reynolds is at his best here – having been let off his leash to fully deliver on the wise-cracks with a manic, charismatic turn not dissimilar to a mean spirited Ace Ventura. Though maybe more interestingly he’s also able to communicate the pathos it’d have been so easy to see go botched in a movie that often feels like it exists solely to entertain prepubescent boys. Because make no mistake – despite the movie’s promise of leaving no boundaries un-pushed, the Merc with a Mouth undergoes a surpriginly emotional arc that the lead’s thankfully able to sell.
Unfortunately this arc is also a major source of weakness for the film. Similarly to how its protagonist wears a mask to hide his scars, much of Deadpool’s irreverent packaging feels a flimsy disguise for a by the numbers comic-book movie. There’s the usual tortured backing story, damsel in distress and vengeance narrative that sees our protagonist learn to trust etc. Unfortunately, attempts to unironically satisfy the very tropes it tries to distance itself from highlight just how insufficient some of the core elements are. Likely owed to the small budget (that the film also nods towards), there are very few memorable set pieces. And those it does have are frustratingly low scale, with the final conflict feeling like an anti-climax. Most of the publicity has focused on the opening highway chase, and it’s difficult to see such a strategy reflect choice as much as necessity. I know it’s not trying to be this year’s Avengers – though it’s hard to be especially riveted when Deadpool and co finish by facing off against 2 handfuls of disposable soldiers and one of the most characterless villains I can think of. I hesitate to rubbish this movie further, as I think Reynold’s turn and many of the gags will satisfy an audience willing to go along with it. Moreover, fans of the comic may want to add a star, given how good a job it does of bringing the character to life without watering him down too much for mainstream appeal. Yet I’m left thinking that whilst it can be fun to see a film that makes light of its mold, it’s always better to see one that breaks it.
p.s. The version released to the public will allegedly feature some post credit scenes, so do stick around after.