Making a film of Deadpool has been something many of the character’s fans would have said was a no brainer for years. If you’re a fan you just know the character could work really well on screen. He could also be done terribly… and I’m not even referring to whatever that was at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Deadpool has to traverse a very fine line where excess is required but go a little too far, or not far enough, and you’ll have something that feels inauthentic. Well, the Deadpool Movie starring Ryan Reynolds straddles that line perfectly. Prepare for a semi-large number of words on why Mr Pool’s movie is really very very good.
Quite smartly, Deadpool’s narrative for the first half is a fractured one. You could tell the origin of the character chronologically, for sure, but when the character is as ridiculous and fourth wall breaking as this i’s probably best to just jump straight in like you’re ripping a plaster off… or a Hugh Jackman mask stapled to your face. The opening 10 minutes should be enough to sell you on the character if you have no prior knowledge of Deadpool. The film opens with a great genre spoofing title credits that manage to set you up for the silliness you’re about to witness before leaping head-first into what is, essentially, a remake of that Deadpool proof of concept footage from a few years back. The action is extrapolated to a more over the top level though, so don’t expect this first sequence to be something you’ve seen before.
The film jumps back and fourth between this highway sequence and the story of how Wade (Ryan Reynolds) fell in love, got cancer and took a risk to cure it that led to the exact moment the film opens with. Basically Wade Wilson was offered a cure that would give him superhuman abilities. Whilst he was cured and did gain super strength, agility and healing, he also acquired a a full body skin blister that looks like he went swimming in a pool full of boiling oil. Deadpool is out for revenge then, and also to be reunited with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The man responsible, known as Ajax (Ed Skrein) is quite a sadistic piece of shit that has abilities of his own and a bodyguard in the form of Angel Dust (Gina Carano). Deadpool is helped/hindered in his quest by the only 2 X-Men the studio could afford in the forms of actual Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and (a film re-imagining version of) Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Colossus and Negasonic essentially play the straight men to Deadpool’s fool with Colossus trying his hardest to guide Deadpool towards the safe world of PG-13 super-heroics. It’s adorable how hard he tries.
Humour and violence are the two languages Deadpool the character, and the film, understand best and there’s pretty much no letting up on either. This film is a comedy and violent action film in equal parts. That’s not to say it fails to create decent characters or that it doesn’t allow you to empathise with Wade Wilson prior to him becoming Deadpool. Those origin scenes are actually done pretty well. The scene where Wade discovers that he has cancer is very well done in fact and almost feels like something that should have been in 50/50. There really isn’t many serious moments though. If there were the film would probably have started to feel a little un-Pooly. The humour is crude a large amount of the time and there’s a handful of jokes that fall a little flat but we’re talking a few jokes in a film with the comedic pacing of a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker flick. There’s also a lot of nudity, which is always welcome, and we see Ryan Reynolds getting bummed with a strap-on… so that’s good.
Action sequences are creative and take full advantage of Deadpool’s range of powers, minus his teleporter which doesn’t appear in the film. I’m sure it will in the sequel though. In the comics Deadpool’s combat abilities are displayed as being somewhere beyond acrobatic and with the deadly precision unmatched by any other comic character. Possibly only Bullseye from Daredevil is a better shot, for example. An early action sequence manages to inject a little bit of tension by having Deadpool dispatch of his enemies with just 12 bullets, which he has numbered so we can count down with him. This is a smart way to give your character some sort of limitation for the fight whilst allowing him to showcase his skills.
One thing I really appreciated, and you’d be amazed how rare this is in modern action and comedy films, was how often Wade is made to look weak, foolish or be the butt of a joke. There’s a slightly gross trend in modern comedy where most of the jokes stem from the main character, always a white male, mocking anyone that isn’t him. Adam Sandler “films” (I hesitate to acknowledge them as actual films now) are a prime example of this. There’s a little of that in here, such as one dodgy transphobic joke and an Indian cab driver named Dopinder (Karan Soni) who’s little more than a stereotype. Although Dopinder is responsible for some brilliant humour and I hope he gets to return in the sequel. Mostly because I need to know what happened with his beloved Gita. Other than a few transgressions into humour that laughs at rather than with Deadpool is so often the butt of the joke that it makes up for this. Like I mentioned, he gets butt fucked with a strap on in one scene. Ya’ll ain’t seeing Adam Sandler do that in his films.
So overall I really liked Deadpool a lot. On it’s budget which, whilst not small, is way below the usual superhero expenditure, director Tim Miller and his crew pulled off a few miracles. Colossus looks more right than he ever has. Whilst there’s really only a small number of major set pieces they’re certainly used to their fullest. The film never feels like it’s dragging on for the sake of the artificial epic feel every other superhero film goes for these days. Seriously, fuck 2 hour 30 minute plus films these days. This feels as fresh to me as Blade did back in the 90s, which is arguably the film that really kick-started this nearly 2 decade long superhero craze. Deadpool is the bloody breath of fresh air and I get the feeling the upcoming Batman/Superman and X-Men films are going to feel oddly stale by comparison. I honestly think Captain America Civil War stands a chance of matching this film’s action energy. Deadpool has nailed it and hopefully it does well enough that we can break out of this sanitized PG-13 world we’re stuck in. There does seem to be a resurgence in R rated action over this last year. Deadpool has the chance to be the one that truly kicks that barrier down.