Deadpool comes along at a key moment in cinema. Entering an increasingly crowded market of superhero movies, not to mention an era of comic book adaptations straining to keep themselves kid-friendly, Deadpool comes in swinging his crude, throbbing ego for all to enjoy. Don’t like it? Well, then he probably doesn’t like you either.
Ryan Reynolds was born to play Deadpool, who we meet right in the middle of a chaotic high-speed pursuit. It isn’t long before our antihero breaks the fourth wall and begins to take us through the story, bringing us up to date with why we’ve arrived at this particular juncture. In flashbacks, we’re introduced to Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces operative turned mercenary for hire. When he is diagnosed with cancer, he sees no choice but to leave behind his love, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and take part in a mysterious rogue experiment led by the sadistic Ajax (Ed Skrein), who relishes in torturing the test subjects until they show results or simply die. Wilson shows results, losing his cancer and acquiring superhuman abilities, including the power of accelerated healing. It’s all good, apart from the scarring that has left him looking like “an avocado had sex with an older avocado.”
20th Century Fox has managed to make good with the X-Men rights they hold (let’s ignore Fantastic Four). While X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Origins – Wolverine failed to provide the X-Men cinematic universe with anything of quality, X-Men: First Class came along as a fantastic reboot of sorts, The Wolverine proved itself as an okay Logan adventure, and X-Men: Days of Future Past was an energetic and entertaining entry that pushed the reset button. Which paves the way for Deadpool, the studio’s gutsy move to bring us a non-PC outing that aims to not only tickle the adult funny bone, but to comfortably place itself in their still-developing X-Men universe. Deadpool is well and truly part of this world, and there’s enough pokes aimed at the studio, other X-Men characters and past endeavours to solidify this as fact.
Zombieland and G.I. Joe: Retaliation screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick clearly have love for our titular Merc with a Mouth. They’ve taken what they need from the character’s source material and crafted us an antihero that, magnificent marketing aside, feels unique and refreshing almost as soon as we’re introduced. The second the amusingly self-aware opening titles hit the screen, the film confidently ties itself in with the lead character’s persona. Speaking to camera and breaking the fourth wall is a narrative technique that is harder to pull off than it looks, but the energy, tone and, most importantly, the storyline never stutters, firing on all cylinders while Deadpool incorporates us throughout the film.
If there’s a reason the breakneck speed and gusto works so well, it may come down to the ultimately very simple plot. Apart from what many would know going in, there simply isn’t very much else here. As the opening titles poke fun at, the genre’s tropes are all present, and slightly frustrating – even if they are knowingly used well. And a few plot points, such as Deadpool not wanting to see his girl only due to his aforementioned new look, don’t quite add up when placed under scrutiny. In other words, Deadpool‘s modest tale hits comfortable, basic marks without much effort, leaving the stakes at a height that doesn’t suggest risk. Then again, it’s not that kind of picture. Hilariously crude humour, a parody-esque tone, and slickly-produced action is the name of the game, and if you’re up for that, you’ll get what you paid for.
It’s hard to imagine who else could play this character. Reynolds aligns himself so tightly with Deadpool that it becomes more than just acting per se, but an extension of himself, if you will. Think Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man; sure, it’s a performance, but there’s a tangible enough link between actor and character that ensures charm and humour are driven home directly.
Director Tim Miller, who’s been credited on the visual effects side of video games such as Mass Effect 2 and who worked as creative supervisor on Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, seems to be very comfortable at the helm. There’s a welcome enthusiasm behind the material, with Miller’s spirited direction keeping sharp performances, crafty visuals and an infectious tone working in sharp unison.
All in all, Deadpool delivers a seriously fun time at the movies. Despite a thin narrative, the film’s naughty disposition and unrestrained violence places it apart from the cinematic Marvel adaptations of late, serving up a superhero origin film with unabashed enthusiasm. If this is the type of Deadpool picture Fox wants to deliver, we’re in for a great franchise and -hopefully- even better X-Men films.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10