Movie Review: Deadpool
By Matthew Huntley
February 17, 2016

How's the weather up there?

Prior to Deadpool, my only encounter with the titular character was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and like most people who saw that film, I was hoping to clear it from memory. But, as it turns out, Wolverine may have served a purpose after all: it seemed to get the ball rolling on the studio giving Deadpool a movie of his own, and that was a good decision.

Deadpool, I’m happy to say, took me by surprise, although I didn’t really know what to expect other than a standard superhero movie. Research tells me this adaptation of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s comics is more loyal to the character than Wolverine, especially in regards to Deadpool routinely breaking the fourth wall and having a frank discussion with the audience about anything and everything, including real-life pop-culture such as, well, Wolverine. Of course, many movies have employed this strategy and are cheerfully self-aware of what they’re doing, making viewers active participants instead of just simple observers. But it’s rare to see this practice carried out in the superhero genre, and that alone gave Deadpool a fresh spin. Luckily, though, that’s not the only reason to see it.

Like the comic book character, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is a crude, crass, vile, politically incorrect, and highly sexual S.O.B. He pulls no punches when it comes to violence or insults and it was refreshing to watch an antihero consistently behave as one without eventually falling back on traditional acts of kindness and heroism. The screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick paints him as unabashedly vulgar and bloodthirsty, which makes him that much more interesting and appealing.

Not that the story isn’t traditional in other aspects. In many ways, Deadpool is, in fact, a standard superhero movie, complete with a protagonist who develops superhuman abilities and who embarks on a personal quest to take down a diabolical villain. He’s also in love with a beautiful woman who’s eventually kidnapped and therefore must be rescued. Plus, he teams up with other heroes (in this case, two X-Men: Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand)) during a big, explosive climax where lots of stuff blows up.

The difference is that Deadpool is already aware of such conventions and explicitly lampoons them. Its opening credits even tell us to expect them. And by getting the superhero movie formalities “out of the way,” so to speak, the filmmakers ask us to enjoy it not necessarily as a superhero movie (although we do) but rather as farce. This is an adult-themed comedy more than anything else, although Deadpool himself calls it a love story, even a horror movie. Whatever its genre, it breaks a lot of rules and we marvel in its audacity to do so.

The plot upon which it does all this centers on a mercenary named Wade Winston Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a rude, hedonistic loner who’s almost devoid of all morals but not quite. For instance, he makes an effort to protect young women from creepy stalkers, but most of the time he’s self-indulging, either with alcohol or by touching himself. When he’s not out threatening people, he frequents a New York City groggery run by his pal Weasel (T.J. Miller), who’s started a pool to see which one of his customers is going to die first.

One night at a local strip joint, Wilson meets an escort named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and their first date, or appointment rather, finds them playing Skee-ball. After that, it’s nothing but love and credit must be given to the filmmakers and studio for giving Deadpool an R-rating so that we might actually see the hero and his girl naked and having sex (too often superhero movies are shy about this sort of thing).

Wilson and Vanessa eventually exchange the “L” word but soon after he proposes marriage, Wilson collapses and learns he has terminal cancer. A mysterious recruiter (Jed Rees) shows up and offers him the opportunity to take part in an experimental procedure that could cure him. Wilson concedes and meets Francis Freeman, a.k.a. Ajax (Ed Skrein), who injects him with a serum that triggers a mutation, leaving Wilson permanently burnt and disfigured, although the other side effect is that it renders him immortal, with fast-acting healing powers (essentially the same power as Wolverine; it’s just not applicable to his skin). After discovering Freeman’s true intentions were to turn him into a slave and sell him off to the highest bidder, Wilson blows up the laboratory and embarks on his mission to carry of revenge and decide whether or not he can face Vanessa in his current state. Weasel tells him to get a mask, which results in one of those classic montages in which the hero makes a variety of different costumes and tests out their efficacy while hunting bad guys.

While I’m sure Deadpool will become yet another longstanding superhero franchise (Weasel makes a point of saying so), I doubt its silly and flippant nature will ever make us really care about its plots. We’re more interested in the characters and their droll, irreverent behavior, not to mention their interaction with the audience. And as long as the filmmakers can continue to develop them and maintain the derisive humor without allowing it to grow stale, this could turn into a formidable “anti-superhero” superhero series, one that’s more dependent on wit than events.

With that said, anyone looking for a superhero movie will still get their money’s worth. Despite its subversive attitude, Deadpool delivers everything typical of the genre, including car chases; fight scenes; the hero jumping off bridges; and one of those “hanging on for dear life” endings. It’s a superhero film, yes, but a radical one that serves to be light and funny instead of serious and melodramatic. I’m grateful to director Tim Miller, Reynolds (who also serves as producer) and the studio for not caving and trying to make it deeper than necessary. And even though it won’t be taken as seriously as, say, Spider-Man, The Dark Knight or The Avengers, what the film accomplishes isn’t any less easy. Comedy is just as difficult to pull off as drama, but Deadpool comes together sensationally, and it’s wickedly entertaining.