By Chaz Lipp
Deadpool has taken the global box office by storm, bucking conventional wisdom that big budget, major studio superhero films only succeed with a PG-13 rating. First-time director Tim Miller’s gleefully R-rated outing includes rampant graphic violence, as much wall-to-wall profanity as an early Kevin Smith comedy, a fair bit of nudity, plus some generally adult-oriented sight gags (involving stuffed unicorns, a tiny hand, and International Women’s Day, to name a few). Deadpool belongs to Twentieth Century Fox’s stable of Marvel characters (the studio first introduced the character via the much-maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine). In other words, while Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) might hobnob with the X-Men in future films, you won’t see him mingling with Marvel Studios’ Avengers crew.
The raunchy subject matter in this cleverly-structured origin story isn’t thrown in for gratuitous shock value. Jared Fogle references, crass gags involving an elderly blind woman, and every manner of sexually-oriented joke imaginable are all part of the film’s fabric. Miller, with screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, have chosen to focus on the aggressively profane, sexually-charged, and often gory details of Deadpool’s existence rather than standard ‘comic book movie’ tropes. In fact, the genre skewering begins almost immediately. The opening credits eschew actual names, with title cards like “co-starring a CGI character” and “moody teen” cueing us that Miller and company will be winking at us the entire way through.
When metallic behemoth Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapičić) tells our injured antihero he’s being taken to see Professor X, Deadpool asks “Stewart or McAvoy?” That’s the kind of self-referential humor that helps distinguish Deadpool from the recent glut of superhero flicks. Just as the character breaks the fourth wall in the Marvel Comics series, addressing readers directly, Deadpool turns to the viewer numerous times (including a killer post-credits sequence that directly spoofs an ’80s comedy classic).
Some have carped about the arguably formulaic plot, which finds Deadpool pursuing Ajax (Ed Skrein, much better here than in the recent Transporter reboot) – the psychopathic Weapon X member who tortured Wade Wilson (Deadpool’s real name), resulting in his gnarly, full-body burn victim appearance. But however simple the story itself may be, the fun in Deadpool is how the story is told – flipping back-and-forth between Wade’s happy-go-lucky days with girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, living up to her “hot chick” opening billing), his disturbing torture experiences, and ‘present day’ attempts to rescue Vanessa from Ajax’s clutches.
Amidst all this, Deadpool manages to work in some rather sobering reflections on terminal illness. After all, it’s stage-four cancer that puts Wade in his predicament in the first place, sending him to the deadliest of all snake oil salesman (a Weapon X recruiter creepily portrayed by Jed Rees) for a “cure.” Ryan Reynolds makes the most of his role, relishing the opportunity to give Deadpool an off-kilter spin in the same way Robert Downey Jr. redefined his career in Iron Man. The action scenes are visually inventive, mostly (the dilapidated carrier finale huffs and puffs a little too much, eventually feeling a little like a rote ‘F/X-driven’ climax). Side characters like Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played with appealing restraint by newcomer Brianna Hildebrand) and Wade’s bartender buddy Weasel (Silicon Valley‘s T.J. Miller) are used sparingly, maximizing their impact. Fox has already greenlit a Deadpool sequel. With the origin story behind us, it’ll be interesting to see if they can meld the satirical zaniness with a more inventive adventure.
Deadpool Images: Twentieth Century Fox
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