by Philip Price
The current cinematic landscape couldn't be more primed for a character like Deadpool. Audiences in general are all rather jaded when it comes to the superhero genre even if we don't care to admit so. That doesn't mean I think the genre and its success is going anywhere anytime soon, I don't. What I mean is simply that the genre is evolving and right now we're at the stage where we're all well aware that things have taken a turn into overdrive and are bordering on the ridiculous. That said, I kind of can't help but love it as the interconnected universes and team-up movies are everything I wanted the movies to be as a child. Even the TV platform is being invaded as super heroes are becoming just as present on the small screen as they are at the cineplexes. The market is saturated. There is no avoiding that truth and as we grow largely more self-aware of what each of these comic book adventures will hold we expect our heroes to do the same thing. As the genre grows and evolves we expect our heroes and their movies to grow and evolve as well. That is why, given his penchant for simultaneous self-aggrandizing and self-degrading humor, Deadpool is able to get away with being both a narcissistic degenerate yet inviting sympathy for his plight and pulling the audience to his side despite the fact he may not be that great of a guy. He's different. He's fresh, but it goes deeper than that. Much has been and will continue to be said about the self-aware nature of the character and his vulgar, R-rated humor that isn't inherent to the comic book movies that have allowed for the genre to become as mainstream as it is now, but the language, violence and sex presented here is not solely for the sake of undoing every expectation set up by every super hero movie prior, but instead is simply part of who this guy is and the type of environment he was nurtured in. Deadpool AKA Wade Wilson (played by Ryan Reynolds as what I can only imagine is really just Ryan Reynolds) is simply a product of his environment in the same way Thor and and Captain America are fantastical products of theirs. The difference being what these environments stipulate as appropriate and in Deadpool's world there is no excuse to not let it all hang out and that's exactly what Reynolds along with director Tim Miller do here.
Going into the film I'd never read a Deadpool comic with my only reference to the character being that of the ill-handled version Reynolds also portrayed in 2009's “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” All I knew of the character was the he was intended to be something of an antihero with a talkative nature that was used for comic effect in such instances as when he would break the fourth wall. Obviously, none of these characteristics were used in Wolverine's movie as that version of Reynolds' Deadpool had his mouth sewn shut so the movie could be kept at a pleasant PG-13. Cut to seven years later and we now have a version of the "Merc with a Mouth" that is apparently much closer to his comic book version. In doing some not too in-depth research I also came to find out that in the 2004 series Cable & Deadpool, Deadpool refers to his own scarred appearance as "Ryan Reynolds crossed with a Shar-Pei." It feels like something of a preordained fact that Reynolds was the rightful actor to portray this character as even the character in print referred to himself as being like the actor. And so, while that prophecy wasn't exactly fulfilled in Reynolds first go-around he is making sure that doesn't happen again and seems to genuinely want to do right by fans of the character by delivering what he has here. As the titular antihero Reynolds lets his improvisational wit fly as he slings insults and jokey commentary with no such thing as a second thought entering his mind. Reynolds is as one with a character as he has ever been and believe it or not the guy has delivered some excellent performances (go ahead and check out last year’s “The Voices” because I know you haven't already). In many ways, “Deadpool” will signal something of a career rejuvenation for Reynolds as the guy hasn't actually produced a hit since “The Proposal” in '09 and “Safe House” in '10 both of which were hits due to his co-stars with nothing depending on his presence. That being said, it's nice to see Reynolds hitting a stride with the character he will undoubtedly become most synonymous with as he truly owns the role like no one else has owned a role in quite some time.
Having only a vague understanding of who the character was meant to be, but knowing this version intended to go all out I wasn't exactly sure what story writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were going to tell or how they were going to structure what was clearly something of an anomaly in comic book movie world. And so, when it became clear this was going to be something of an origin story I was slightly reassured and disappointed at the same time. We've seen countless super hero origin stories, but what immediately becomes evident with “Deadpool” is that its structure will set it apart that. While the film blatantly and shamelessly relies on many tropes of the genre it never feels dull or worn out. In fact, given the energy of the title character infused by a Reynolds dynamic performance and the obvious fact the rest of the cast is having a blast “Deadpool” feels very much the opposite of stereotypical as it puts a fresh, transparent spin on everything.
We begin by catching up with Wilson in full costume as Deadpool as he catches a cab to a freeway intersection where he knows antagonist Ajax (Ed Skrein) will be passing through soon. In what is a rather stunning piece of action directing Miller constructs a single set-piece that was previewed in the leaked test footage a few years back where Mr. Pool (as he is so earnestly referred to) handily dismantles an entire squad of henchman in ultra-stylized fashion. From here, Deadpool takes us back in time explaining how he, who was once a bad guy stopping worse guys from doing worse things, came to be disfigured and dressed in red spandex. Naturally, things revolve around a girl, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), with whom Wade finds true love and plans to spend the rest of his giddy life with until he finds out he has late term cancer. Approached by a shadowy figure portrayed by Jed Rees Wilson is promised the opportunity to cure his cancer and become a super hero in the process. Wilson cautiously proceeds, but it becomes clear quite quick that Skrein's Ajax, who runs the facility that Wilson is taken to with the help of Gina Cornano's Angel Dust, is not all it's promised to be and ends up being more of an experiment than a patented surgery in which Wilson is indeed cured of his cancer and imbued with the ability of accelerated healing and a wider physical prowess, but is also left with the disfigured exterior that makes him unwilling to return to Vanessa and set to seek revenge on the man that did this to him.
From the word go “Deadpool” is a blast. I was worried that, despite the genius marketing campaign, the film would be trying too hard for the laughs it wanted to earn. While I've always found Reynolds to be appealing he is the kind of comic actor who knows he's funny and his delivery is always with that tinge of cadence that says, "I'm saying this a certain way because it's obviously funnier if I say it this way." Such ego can take away from the genuine side of the humor. Funny has never been easy to pull off and with “Deadpool” I was concerned things would resort to juvenile humor and mean-spirited jabs that were nothing if not easy targets and lazy writing. Instead, the film never feels forced. It's just the opposite actually as Miller (who's never directed a feature film before, but is known mainly for his visual effects work) keeps things moving at such a brisk pace the jokes fly by just as fast and never feel vulgar in the sense of being gross, but more playful and light with the simple hope of making you, the audience our hero's well aware of, crack a smile. I became slightly worried when the film got caught up with itself in one of the extended flashback sequences as the jokes slowed slightly and the tone became more serious, but by the time the film reaches the end of its first hour and we're brought up to speed on the events that have led Deadpool to the freeway intersection things pick back up and once the obligatory costume montage hits (set to a ridiculous Deadpool rap by Teamheadkick) we're back at full throttle. More impressive than any of the humor, the violence, or the truly involving action sequences though is that Miller and his team are able to find the line between the type of outlandish comedy they're relaying and the genuine human emotions involved. Reynolds and Baccarin have legitimate chemistry and because we understand that the main character doesn't care about anything, but rather approaches it all with a cocky indifference it makes us take things all the more serious when he is indeed emotionally affected. Sure, we could nitpick and say the story is thin as is the villain (nothing new there), but such minor complaints are balanced out with major contributions from the likes of T.J. Miller and Leslie Uggams making this unconventional heroes movie just the same despite some natural shortcomings.
All of that said, I look forward to catching up with Deadpool again and again with the hope that the many references to this being a low budget super hero movie with no ambitions to be a franchise prove false as our constant concern over super hero fatigue could use the kind of wake-up call Deadpool provides from time to time. Speaking of franchises, sequels, and things of the sort “Deadpool” does involve two X-Men from Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters that clearly exists in the same universe as the other X-Men films, but they are admittedly low-key characters as even Deadpool himself confesses they were the only X-Men the studio could afford to feature. Collossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) show up here and there mostly with the intent of trying to recruit Deadpool to be an X-Men as well, but to no avail. It's unclear how Deadpool might eventually intertwine into the larger X-Men universe, but for now it seems best to keep him on the outskirts, allowing him to do his own thing and completely succeed at being the outsider, the total aberration, oddity and downright rarity that he is.