Reynolds slips into a character he was born to play and provides the Deadpool film its fans crave: full of violence, crude jokes, and drive-by fart attacks.
Whilst sitting in the cinema waiting for the Deadpool feature to begin, we were forced to sit through trailers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse. Seeing these trailers back-to-back in this way spotlighted a growing problem for the genre: its endless scenes of numbing comic book destruction framed within an ever darkening and weighty seriousness, and the genre is creaking beneath this swelling mass.
Deadpool knows this, and is way ahead of the curve in its departure from this trend, seeking in fact to smash that trend by renovating the superhero movie genre with the fullest extent of the humour born in comic books. That humour splashes the screen the moment the opening credits begin, with taglines like “Produced by Ass-hats”, “Written by the real heroes here” and “Directed by an overpaid tool” indicating exactly what we were about to be served, and the film perfectly delivered on that promise, carrying its obese self-awareness through every aspect of its gratuitous violence and juvenile profanity.
Ryan Reynolds (Pssst, we’ve never liked him much until now) is Wade Wilson, an ex-special forces soldier turned muscle for hire, who meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), his female equal, and falls in love. But a cruel twist of life drags Wade away from her and puts him on a journey to becoming the red-suited Merc with a Mouth.
But the story begins near the end, with Deadpool causing a huge pile-up on the freeway as he acrobatically battles dozens of machine gun-wielding goons in order to finally catch his nemesis Ajax (Ed Skrein), whose superpower gift is that he doesn’t feel pain (we’ll let that one hang for a while before we tackle it).
Deadpool finally has Ajax where he wants him when two X-Men crash the celebrations, metal mountain Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and proceed to lecture Deadpool about morality and the nature of being a hero.
Deadpool actually takes much joy in playing its lack of morality for laughs.
This is where the film begins to bust those genre conventions, because far from being the story to moralise that with great power comes great responsibility, Deadpool actually takes much joy in playing its lack of morality for laughs. Even in the climax of the third act showdown when Deadpool has Ajax pinned, gun to his head, about to blow out his brains, Colossus once again intervenes to give his upbeat and patriotic speech about the nature of good over evil, morality and heroism, in an effort to talk Deadpool out of committing murder. Does Deadpool listen and learn? Yep, you guessed it…
Yet for all its self-deconstructing ravaging of its genre and fourth wall-breaking wit, Deadpool does fall short in a number of areas. Its structure, far from reinforcing its genre remodeling, relies heavily on the most generic of all superhero architectures, chopped and shaped Tarantino-esque to give the impression of something more worthy.
When you couple this with the bad-guy antagonist Ajax, whose only superhero mutation is that he doesn’t feel any pain (that’s actually a real condition called congenital insensitivity to pain, or CIP, and is responsible for massive amounts of oral disfigurement in children as they unknowingly and continuously bite through their tongues and lips), the broth dilutes even more. Ajax comes across more like a henchman, the muscle that the hero must overcome before finally facing down the true antagonist – Goldfinger’s Asian hat thrower Oddjob, or the Sith Lord Palpatine’s Darth Vader. But Ajax fails to elicit anywhere near the menace and conflict that the aforementioned adversaries managed, although he is better looking…
But it’s Reynolds who carries the Deadpool show, matching his honed wit and comedy timing to the comic book hero perfectly, rather like Urban’s Judge Dredd, or Ledger’s Joker (we never thought we would ever write such a thing!). His passion for the character and the project colours every pixel Deadpool uses on screen, and more than makes up for the shoddy characterisation of his opposite number.
If you’ve never seen the hero in a superhero film decapitate bad guys, shoot three goons through their heads with one bullet, or masturbate with a My Little Pony doll, but would like to, then Deadpool is the film for you.