Poor Ryan Reynolds. Why you ask? After all, the man has a lot going for him; he’s a hugely known actor, is handsome as hell and probably makes more money acting in one movie than most of us will in our entire lives. Still, as far as A-list actors go Reynolds has had it pretty rough lately. His troubles can be traced back to 2009, when he got the chance to play his favorite comic book character, Deadpool, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Sadly, not only was the movie a complete piece of garbage, the producers mutilated Deadpool into an abomination that in no way resembled his comic book progenitor. But, Reynolds got another chance to get a superhero franchise when he was set to headline the cinematic debut of Green Lantern in 2011 which also turned out to be one of the worst superhero movies to have ever been released. No wonder Reynolds’ career led him to star in such abysmal and forgotten schlock as R.I.P.D. and Self/Less. But, there was a light in the darkness, a chance to redeem Deadpool and bring him to the screen the way he was meant to be: vulgar and violent as hell. Thanks to a huge promotional campaign led by Reynolds, which included the leaking of some pretty great test footage, Deadpool became a reality. Teamed with director Tim Miller and Zombieland scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Deadpool picked more and more steam as the fantastic trailers and promos made it clear that fans were in for an authentic Deadpool experience. Now, the movie is finally out, and Reynolds can breathe a sigh of relief, because he just finally won, big time.
Foul-mouthed Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is your average everyday mercenary, taking on jobs during the day and hanging out at a mercenary bar at night with his bartender friend Weasel (TJ Miller). But one day, he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a woman who matches him in wit and vulgarity and the two fall madly in love with one another. Unfortunately, just when it seems like they’re going to get their fairy tale happy ending, Wade gets diagnosed with untreatable cancel. Afraid of what his death will do to Vanessa, Wade voluntarily signs up to participate in an illegal experimental treatment designed to awaken the dormant mutant genes in his DNA. The experiment is a success, but leaves Wade horribly disfigured. Angry and armed with his newly acquired super-healing ability, Wade adopts the name Deadpool and sets out to take revenge on the man who is responsible for his condition, the villainous Ajax (Ed Skrein). Along the way, Wade teams up with lesser known X-Men Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Will Deadpool learn what it truly means to be a superhero? Probably not, but he sure will kill a lot of baddies and spew jokes like a machine gun.
What I loved most about Deadpool, is that it focused first and foremost on being a raunchy comedy rather than a superhero movie, and that’s something we’ve been in desperate need of. I remember a time in the mid 2000’s when great R rated comedies would come out almost every month. From 2004 onwards, cinematic gems such as The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder and The Hangover would have me busting a gut laughing in theaters with what some people may call childish humor. Sadly, that storm of comedic gold died out, and the last film that truly made me laugh consistently was 2013’s This is The End. That is, until Deadpool came out and rekindled my appreciation for crass humor. Deadpool certainly isn’t the first R rated superhero comedy to make its way to the big screen, and in fact, I’m certain it owes at least some of its existence to the Kick-Ass franchise’s success. But what makes Deadpool different from the latter is that it’s not content with simple dick and fart jokes, it has something important to say about the genre. It’s fitting that the writers of Deadpool are the same guys who wrote Zombieland, one of the great comedies of the past decade. What worked about Zombieland was that it was simultaneously making fun of cliché zombie movies, and being a great, fresh zombie movie in its own right. That’s exactly what Deadpool does. It takes some pretty heavy jabs at modern superhero movies, and while it itself does fall into some of the more repetitive aspects of the “superhero origin story”, it does it in a fresh, introspective way. One of Deadpool’s biggest gimmicks is that he routinely breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience, something the movie takes full advantage of, and those are definitely among the movie’s best moments. From the movie’s hilariously altered opening credits, to the less-said-the-better post credits scene, Deadpool is filled with gags that lampoon not only superhero films, but movies in general. The X-Men movies in particular are the subject of many gags, as Deadpool does technically fit into Fox’s universe of superhero films.
However, it’s because Deadpool is so successful at pointing out and mocking the flaws of modern superhero stories that its biggest weakness is that much more inexcusable: Bad, underwritten villains. They are commonplace these days in superhero films, and not only does Deadpool have two of its own, it fails to get any humor or satire from their inherit lameness. Ajax is just a typical stone faced villain, with little motivation or depth, who is only there to give motivation for the hero. Sure, Deadpool does crack a lot of jokes at his expense (including a pretty funny recurring joke about his real name), but none that turn the trope on its head like so much of the movie does with other clichés. Even Ajax’s henchwoman Angel Dust (played by the intimidating Gina Carano) has very little to do except look mean and punch people. I’m also concerned with how well the film will play on repeated viewings, given how much of it’s appeal rests on shock value and jokes that will probably get less funny the more times you hear them.
But these small gripes can be easily overlooked when considering how much Deadpool does right. It’s important to note that, relative to other superhero movies, Deadpool was made pretty cheaply. All told, the film’s total budget is estimated at about 58$ Million (compared to the traditional 200$ Million of films like The Avengers), but Deadpool looks great nonetheless. Colossus is flawlessly brought to life and looks better here than he ever did in his brief X-Men appearances, and the final action sequence is blockbuster worthy, if not a little underwhelming when compared to the much better bridge sequence featured in most of the trailers. Because Deadpool is R rated, you can expect a lot of violence, which is necessary when you consider Deadpool’s power is that he can regenerate from ANY wound, and the film has a lot of fun with that. I can just imagine the writers cackling as they came up with all the ways they were going to mutilate Deadpool, and have him come back from it.
Ryan Reynolds is unquestionably the best thing about Deadpool, the ringleader to the film’s cast of oddballs and wackos. I have rarely seen an actor have this much fun with a role, as Reynolds is behaving like a kid in a candy store at all the obscenities he gets to say and visual gags he gets to pull off. He doesn’t shy away from self-deprecating humor. You can tell that this movie means everything to him, and that enthusiasm is infectious. As far as I’m concerned, he is Deadpool, no one else could have done the role better. Morena Baccarin holds her own as the gorgeous and droll Jessica, and T.J Miller offers some great deadpan humor as Wade’s sort of best friend Weasel. But the most surprising performance came from newcomer Stefan Kapici, who is fantastic as the boisterous and happy-go-lucky Colossus. Colossus acts as Deadpool’s conscience throughout the film (not that the anti-hero listens to him) and his attempt at delivering the obligatory morality speech in the film’s conclusion is an absolute highlight.
Deadpool is an oddity, it’s very existence defies everything I have come to expect from Hollywood producers and the fact that it is currently breaking Box Office records speaks to how eager audiences are to watch something offbeat and daring. After all, we are talking about a comic book character that most people haven’t even heard of before now. I am excited about the precedent Deadpool sets, and how its success will change the landscape of film in the future. I have no doubt that a bunch of baffled executives are helplessly trying to figure out the recipe for what makes Deadpool so special right now. But they won’t figure it out, because Deadpool is the labor of love and effort, it’s not something that can easily be replicated. I’m also happy for Ryan Reynolds, with this one movie he achieved a long-awaited victory, single-handedly revived his career from the lows of straight to DVD purgatory and made himself an actor we can expect good projects from again. Only question left is: What does he and the rest of the creative team have planned for the sequel?