I said something similar to last year when Fury Road came out, which after seeing this movie begs repeating: “The fact that this movie even exists is a triumph.”
Not to get lost in the history of the project, but I’m very confident some of you may not even remember the fact that Ryan Reynolds has played the foul-mouthed, psychotic, Marvel comics mercenary Wade Wilson/Deadpool before - in 2009’s X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. The main problem there was that the geniuses behind that film took a character whose most evil weapon is his mouth and literally sewed it shut… Then poor Reynolds had another shot at superhero stardom a couple years later with GREEN LANTERN, and the less said about that the better. (Yes, he acknowledges both of those movies in Deadpool.)
Whether it be by sheer fan demand, the leaking of a test reel, or by the selling of his first born, Reynolds has somehow wished this do-over into being. Every once in a while, an actor comes along and owns a role. You have Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Heath Ledger as Joker, etc. You can now add Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool to that list. Few people could have pulled off this role as a wise-cracking mercenary, yet he does. He throws out one-liners non-stop. Some work, some don’t. But he throws out so many, he eventually gets a few to stick. And he handles the action as adeptly as he does the humor.
To set the stage, Wade Wilson was a happily retired Special Forces operative who had turned to a less-than-lawful life to stay afloat. One day, he meets the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin of “Firefly” and …cough “Gotham” cough), and it appears that his life is on the right path. But not long after meeting Vanessa, Wade discovers he has cancer throughout his body, and coincidentally he is met by a recruiter (Jed Rees) who promises a way to rid him of his cancer and give him super special powers. It turns out the nasty piece of work known as Ajax (Ed Skrein of THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED) and his sidekick Angel Dust (HAYWIRE’s Gina Carano) actually want to turn Wade into a super-powered slave.
Right off the bat, it's very clear DEADPOOL is trying to be something different. With the R rating, Miller and Ryan Reynolds have free reign to do anything… and that’s exactly what they do. We see Deadpool decapitate villains while wise-cracking. We see Deadpool break limbs and comically wave the broken appendage around. We see bad guys killed in ways that would make Wyle E. Coyote proud. Deadpool even kills a man with a Zamboni at one point and even he laughs at the absurdity of it in the process. This comic violence generates a lot of laughs and is a real crowd pleaser, and it’s definitely something you don’t see done in other superhero films. I could name one other film, but my love for Punisher: War Zone is for very different reasons haha.
Although the origin story and subsequent first adventure/mission tale might feel familiar, the way first-time feature director Tim Miller structures the film — cutting back and forth between present-day fight sequences and recent-past backstory — is a rather fascinating and fast-paced manner. The film transitions from its raunchy comedy framework to something darker and more emotionally rooted. As part of the process of giving Wade his powers, he is also horribly disfigured, which forces him to abandon his life, including Vanessa, leaving her thinking he’s likely dead.
Ryan Reynolds embraces the Deadpool persona with both gloved fists. He breaks the fourth wall with such regularity; I hesitate to call it a wall…more of an open window. He not only addresses and narrates for the audience but he calls attention to the fact that what we’re watching is a movie. He even comments on how the studio couldn’t afford more than the two X-Men (Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) that were featured in the trailers, and don’t even get me started on his intense fan boy love for Hugh Jackman (less said the better haha).
I have to make quick mention of how much I loved the music in this as well. Music is a big part of Deadpool and it easily sets the overall carefree tone of the film. The original music is written by the amazing Junkie XL, fresh off of his amazing score for Mad Max: Fury Road. This will be a movie score I’ll pick up and listen to more.
Sadly, this is not the be-all end-all perfect film and I do have a few problems with it. Here’s my main problem: On the internet a couple of years ago, the pre-visualization of a fight scene leaked online and ultimately ended up helping the movie get made, thanks to the positive reception. But it also ended up being one of the (two) main fight scenes of the film and the centerpiece of the story. Between that scene being leaked and the trailers and commercials, a significant portion of this movie has been spoiled. I think the less of this movie you’ve seen going in, the better off you’ll be.
As I previously mentioned, Ryan Reynolds takes the shotgun approach to his jokes. If he throws out a lot of them, he improves his odds of some of them hitting. But that means he also has a lot of jokes fall flat, and that’s definitely the case. Reynolds constantly crosses the line from funny to annoying and back again. Such has always been my feeling of not just the Deadpool character, but Ryan Reynolds. He is a character that works best in certain doses. You can only drive the point home so many times before you finally say, ok enough, I got it you're making a penis reference - MOVE ALONG! This might not be the case for some of you, but I’ve always seen Deadpool as a solid supporting character and not someone who needs to be front and center for 100 plus minutes. Fingers crossed that the rumored X-Force movie becomes a reality. Or better yet, sign me up for a Time Travel buddy-buddy movie with CABLE.
Finally, the ending was a bit weak. It didn’t really match the cynical, snarky, unexpected nature of the rest of the story. I’m not sure what else I would suggest, but it didn’t feel consistent in tone with what came before.
My critique aside, not since IRON MAN, The Dark Knight, or Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 can I think of a superhero work that so completely captured my sense of what a character was in the comic books. Taking Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s creation (adapted by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick), DEADPOOL is sassy, excessively bloody, twisted, very funny, and strangely moving on a couple of occasions. Hell, some of my favorite moments don’t involve action at all. I already plan to see this film again, due to me laughing so much at certain points that I easily missed about 10 other jokes in that time frame. Good job Ryan Reynolds. I’ve always said you were the best thing in that god-awful Wolverine prequel, and now 7 years later you finally get to show everyone what this character is capable of.