May 1, 2020
Deadpool (2016): A love story
Deadpool, the opening salvo in a 2016 that promises to be full of superheroic entertainment, is the movie that fans of the indestructible merc-with-a-mouth have been waiting for. Like, a lot. Over a decade, I mean. Seriously, this thing was first announced back in 2004, got stuck in development hell (particularly following the awful interpretation of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as well as Reynolds’ other superhero flick Green Lantern failing to satisfy cinemagoers) and only got off the ground due to the combo of a massively successful social media campaign and the soft reboot that was X-Men: Days of Future Past giving the studio the opportunity to ignore “Barakapool” and do the character justice.
And justice they do. Deadpool is a fun, funny, action-packed splatter-fest with some surprisingly tender emotional drama spliced in between shootouts. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) might be a rude, violent borderline sociopath with a potty-mouth who drops more F-bombs in the first 20 minutes of this movie than all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Fox-Marvel movies combined (honorable mention to the Blade movies, which I’m not counting), but he isn’t (completely) lying when he calls this film “a love story”, since a notable chunk of the movie is devoted to the romance between him and his soulmate Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), a fellow Miss Swears-a-lot who shares his love for sex games, ‘80s geek culture, and arguing over who had the most screwed-up life.
It’s hardly the most original comic book movie romance ever seen, but it’s convincingly done, and we completely buy that these two characters are genuinely in love, not least because the movie goes out of its way to show that they’ve been in a (very kinky) relationship for over a year and it’s not just another one of those “love at first sight” clichés (I mean, technically, they are, but it’s developed from there).
I also liked how they handle both Wade’s cancer diagnosis and his subsequent search for a miracle cure that turns into a particularly brutal and drawn-out torture sequence where the bad guys try and succeed to active his latent mutant genes (this movie retaining continuity with the Fox-owned X-Men franchise, but more on that later) by tormenting him physically and psychologically via savage beatings, freezings, and eventually sucking the oxygen out of his environment. This is followed by Wade setting himself on fire and blowing the evil lair up before being savagely beaten, impaled, buried alive, then crawling his ugly and scarred ass back to civilization. This highlights that beneath his audacious and immoral sense of humor and contempt for the fourth wall, Deadpool is a character with at least some depth to him, not to mention genuine fortitude and badass credentials. This is essential given his superpower is basically “not dying”, since we know that the guy can both give and take a lot of pain.
Naturally, a movie like this will live or die on the strength of its lead, and Ryan Reynolds pulls it off in spades. He is Deadpool, and is clearly having a blast finally playing the role he waited over ten years for, both in the movie and also in its excellent and hilarious marketing campaign. Whether he’s giving interviews in-character or raising public cancer awareness, he quite simply loves and embodies the trigger-happy lunatic, and it’s hard if not impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.
That’s not to say that the film is perfect, however. Unfortunately, while Reynolds is brilliant and everyone else is solid in their parts, Deadpool isn’t exactly filled with memorable or well-written characters, something of which it is suitably self-aware, of course.
The villain Francis/Ajax (Ed Skrein) is introduced to us in the opening credits as “A British Villain”, and unfortunately, his characterization doesn’t really go beyond that, except that he’s sadistic and doesn’t like that Deadpool knows his real name (something Deadpool mercilessly taunts him with). His right-hand woman Angel Dust (Gina Carano) is similarly underdeveloped, and both they and the film as a whole suffer from a fairly weak plot—Deadpool wants revenge and a cure for his face… and that’s most of the movie—and a questionable structure: The flashbacks are interesting and well-executed, but they make up at least half of the movie if not more, and most occur during a single lengthy bridge scene in the present.
It’s the same with the rest of the supporting cast. Baccarin is fine as Vanessa, and she and Reynolds have great chemistry together, but there isn’t much to her character beyond being the (anti-)hero’s love interest and eventual damsel in distress, which is especially jarring given that the comic book version of the character is a shape-shifting mutant (though, it’s possible they’ll go there in the sequel).
We get extended and welcome cameos from the X-Man Colossus and his young protégé Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), but while they’re enjoyable, and Colossus is better handled here than in any of the previous X-Men movies, they’re still pretty thinly characterized and exist to establish continuity, be made fun of (amongst other things, Deadpool notes that they’re the only two X-Men in the mansion because the studio wouldn’t pay for any more cameos), and it isn’t exactly made clear just how and when he ever met the X-Men in the first place. It’s established they already know each other, which is a bit confusing, given that it’s also established that he’s only been Deadpool for a year and we’re treated to a montage of his revenge spree, but not once are we shown him crossing paths with them.
In short, it feels like a movie that the studio didn’t have much faith in, yet rushed to capitalize on when fan pressure came bearing down on them, resulting in a script that’s smart and funny and perfectly captures the essence of the character, but doesn’t exactly come across as solid. It also feels awfully familiar at times, even borrowing stuff from Green Lantern and other generic comic book movies (e.g., the part where Wade shows his scarred face to his friend Weasel comes off a bit like the anti-“I know, right?” scene from Green Lantern, basically Reynolds trading “how awesome this is” for “how awful this is”). We’re not expecting Oscar-worthy writing here, but the movie still feels very much by-the-numbers nonetheless.
I can’t help but also feel that had this movie come out a few years earlier, it might have felt a bit more fresh, as Deadpool is a little too similar to the likes of Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy and other heroes (if, again, much more violent, swear-y, and audacious), although this is more a fault of the studio’s timing, since this is 100% faithful to the character.
Nevertheless, while Deadpool seems more like a intro to the character than a full movie in its own right, it’s still a brilliant and enjoyable outing. The action choreography is up there with the best (well, as far as comic book adaptations go, at least), the CGI is well-done and (mostly) barely noticeable, the soundtrack is awesome, and the (literally) self-aware humor is hilarious—at least, if you’re a fan of Deadpool’s brand of humor. The film is doing fantastic business at the box office, so it looks like a sequel (which Deadpool promises at the end of the credits) is all but guaranteed.
And as a side note, it’s nice to see that Stephen Lang from Avatar is up for playing Cable, since everyone and everyone wants him for the role. Seeing this tweet after watching the movie just gave me good feels.
— Stephen Lang (@IAmStephenLang) February 14, 2016
So yeah, Deadpool: go see it. It isn’t exactly Shakespeare, and it isn’t a perfect movie, but it gets more right than it gets wrong, and it does its job of being a highly entertaining and long-overdue outing of everybody’s favorite merc-with-a-mouth. Roll on Deadpool 2, and roll on this year of superhero movies.