This is the second attempt at the Deadpool character, after the unfortunate X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Where Deadpool serves as one of the antagonist, although the backstory was so radically changed it barely even resembled the character in the comics. While the solo movie has always been in the works, it languished in developmental hell for years. Until now.
Deadpool is a superhero action movie based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, a fan favourite for his penchant for unadulterated violence, vulgar humour and for breaking the fourth wall. Deadpool starts of simple enough, like all superheroes, with an origin story. Wade Wilson is a mercenary in New York City, protecting teenage girls from creepy stalkers; he is also in a relationship with a stripper. Classy.
Unfortunately, Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer. With all hope lost, he takes up an offer to join an experimental government program that promises to cure him of his cancer, headed by Ajax/Francis, played by Ed Skrein. While his cancer is cured, the result leaves him horrifically disfigured. And Wade now attempts to hunt down Ajax for to find a cure for Wade’s disfigurement under the guise of Captain Deadpool.
The plot is surprisingly generic and while it does come across run-of-the-mill, Deadpool’s novel use of flashbacks, narration and 1980s and 90s pop and rap music lifts the plot from its mundane foundations. You’ll never listen to George Michael the same way again.
Deadpool sets itself apart from other superhero films with the above creative choices, but when it comes down to it, its title character is the reason for this film’s success. Deadpool is a character who isn’t known for his villains, or his themes. There isn’t anyone to stop from blowing up half of New York and there definitely isn’t any of the ‘great power comes great responsibility’ philosophical musings. Deadpool the film works because of Deadpool the obscene, ugly character. Through sheer force of personality, Deadpool doesn’t just infused the film with his filthy flavour, he is the film. Without him, the film threatens to devolve into a ‘hero saves the day and gets the girl’ regurgitation of the superhero genre.
Much credit must be given to the casting of Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds is born to play the character, with his fanboy wit and natural comedic timing; Reynolds nails Deadpool’s non-stop meta-humour. Literally, he is the comic book character come to life.
Reynolds literally does not shut up but you do not ever want him to. While most of it is crude dick and sex jokes, they are still true to the character. He also takes it up to meta levels. Taking stabs at Green Lantern, a failed attempt by Reynolds at the superhero genre to wondering which Professor Xavier he is going to meet, James Mcavoy or Patrick Stewart. While these attempts at meta-humour do get repetitive, or due to the energizer rabbit delivery of the dialogue, one would miss a few references, most of the quips do not disappoint and a refreshing change to superheroes who take themselves too seriously.
However the film does come perilously close to self-parody at times, but director Tim Miller offers up two other supporting heroes, Colossus and the spectacularly named Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who are able to the task of grounding the film and story, both play the straight man (and teenager) to contrast with Deadpool’s clowning around. Thus, allowing the film to maintain its suspension of disbelief, something that Deadpool gleefully lights on fire and throws out the window.
Yet, the villains are the opposite side of the coin. Ed Skrein as Ajax/Francis, unfortunately does not offer much up as a villain. While he is serviceable, scowling at anyone’s general direction and delivering his lines in a raspy English accent, there is nothing that stands out that would mark him as a worth adversary for Deadpool. Watching the film, one would get the feeling it was only a matter of running time before Ajax/Francis gets what’s coming to him from the Merc with a Mouth. Likewise with Gina Carano in her role as Angel, the muscle for Ajax/Francis, who gets to throw a few mixed martial arts moves she is known for but that’s about it, her role is simply to punch things.
Props to the cinematography, especially for the action scenes, rejecting the shaky cam style that has been overused since the Bourne films, instead, we are given the opportunity to witness Deadpool ply his bloody trade through a variety of mid shots and wide shots. Heads fly and bodies battered but we get to see everything from a front row seat with no confusion of what is actually going on.
In many instances, it does feel a tad too similar to the massive glut of superhero movies that we have already experienced. Deadpool is still a dirty good time at the movies, due to its willingness to set itself apart through depravity and its inclination to take itself less seriously.
Though its reliance on formula threatens to weigh it down on occasions, its originality shines through, this is the best possible movie one could make with the Deadpool character.
Perry Lam is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review. He is the director of the documentary short film BLACK RAT has been selected for numerous film festivals both in Sydney and overseas. https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/02/02/welcome-perry-lam-rochford-street-review-associate-editor/