I will be brutally honest with everyone and let you all know that my patience for Marvel films is beginning to wear thin. I like most of them, don’t get me wrong (I could live without the Thor films), but there have been so many in such a short span of time that it’s begun to wear a bit thin. Then along comes this movie. I had no knowledge of Deadpool before watching this film but people seemed to be hyped for it to the tune of $135 million for an opening weekend, which is the highest-grossing opening for a rated-R movie… well… ever. I heard from many people that the character was butchered in Wolverine and my answer was usually, “Well he didn’t do much so he seemed to be wasted.” I am not the one to tell you if the film is “true to the comic” or anything like that. All I can say is that this was one of the more enjoyable times I’ve had at the movies in quite a while.
Let’s start off with the plot, which is actually pretty simplistic: Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a mercenary-for-hire living with his beautiful girlfriend (Morena Baccarin) until he receives some awful news: he has a metric shit-ton of cancer… like, everywhere. Soon after he finds a strange man who offers some miracle surgery to cure him and also allow him to become a super-soldier in the process. However, it turns out that this is all a ruse and the surgery does in fact cure him but also severely burns his entire body and mutates him in the attempts to make him into an unstoppable slave. Wade breaks free, becomes Deadpool, and seeks revenge on his captors all the while attempting to fend off recruiters from the X-Men and reunite with his gal.
As I’m sure everyone knows by now, this is unlike any other superhero film made before this. First of all, Deadpool is definitely an anti-hero. He is not a good guy. I wouldn’t say he’s a bad guy either but he definitely doesn’t care about killing anyone who stands in his way (while making fun of them or shooting off a great quip, of course). In fact, the style of humour in this film is almost a character all on its own. When a film starts off with opening credits listing “The comic relief,” “the hot chick,” “the evil british dude,” and more instead of the actors and crew you know you’re in for a fun time. I also appreciated that the writing credits were listed as “the real heroes.” That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside that Reynolds et al consider the writers to be the most integral part of the creative process. The rest of the comedy for the most part involves things like Deadpool breaking the fourth wall (the freeze-frame action, wiping gum off the camera, and even moving the camera over at one point so we couldn’t see the horrific deed he committed on one particular villain) and lots of meta-references to Ryan himself, Hugh Jackman, Green Lantern, etc.
One thing I noticed though that I don’t see a lot of people mentioning is that Ryan wasn’t the only one along for the ride. I feared that this would be mostly Ryan quipping throughout the film with everyone else just reacting but we got some very funny Deadpool-style humour from other characters, particularly Colossus (a jem of a scene is when he shields his eyes after a busty female villain has a ‘nip slip’), his girlfriend Vanessa, and the main villain of the film, Ajax (Ed Skrein). The film doesn’t pull any punches with its humour, it is decidedly politically incorrect but it never feels like it’s going for cheap laughs or selling out in any way. In fact there is a scene in which I was afraid it would go a certain way but then Deadpool reacted in a very suitable manner ad I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
The acting is very solid across the board but make no mistake about it: this is Ryan Reynolds’ movie. He guides us through the whole thing with expert comic timing (no surprise there) and a rapier wit that is ten times ahead of the viewer at all times. He juggles between the funny and serious moments, giving each of them a serious weight and genuine appeal that just works on every level. We take him very seriously and buy into everything he’s feeling as he learns of his unfortunate diagnosis and then minutes later we are laughing at him making fun of his Green Lantern franchise. It takes a certain kind of actor to be able to pull that off so hopefully this gets Reynolds the respect that he deserves. There are some good performances from the other performers here as well. Colossus gets some funny moments with a combination of the CGI creation and the voice performance of Stefan Kapicic. Ed Skrein is the villain and may be the movie’s only weak-ish aspect as he feels a little under-developed. His performance is fine but he is nowhere near Deadpool in terms of being a strong character. Hopefully we get a more well-rounded villain for the sequel. Morena Baccarin does a solid job in the role of Reynolds’ love interest and has good chemistry with him while T.J. Miller has even better chemistry with Ryan and it’s probably the funniest I’ve seen T.J. in any movie ever. He’s kinda hot-and-cold for me but he had a lot of good moments in this one, most of which are surprisingly not plastered all over the trailer.
This being a superhero movie, there is also a good deal of action. The film is bookended by two big set pieces: one at the beginning involving a crazy car chase and subsequent shoot-out and then the big climactic battle at the end. There are little spurts of action in between but most of it consists of back-story and humourous moments featuring Deadpool and the other characters. This is tough to do without being too lengthy or boring and this film pulls it off with aplomb. The movie is expertly paced and never once feels like it’s dragging its feet along just to get to “the good parts.” It’s 108 minutes long, which is unheard of for most superhero (and especially superhero ORIGIN) films.
Besides the small point of the villain being a bit underutilized and underwritten, this film is a slam-bang, action-packed, hilarious, emotional and clever audience-pleaser with sequel written all over it. Give me more Deadpool!
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)