Spoiler alert: The following article contains mild spoilers for Deadpool
The superhero genre of cinema has thrived in the new century, but has really exploded on the backs of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and Marvel’s Avengers. At this point, superheroes have dominated pop culture beyond the scope of the comics and show no sign of slowing down. In fact, the box office success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the critical acclaim of the shows DC/Warner Brothers puts on the small screen has opened the floodgates for any and all comic book characters to receive some sort of mainstream portrayal.
*Cue Deadpool’s music – ‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’ by DMX*
Deadpool is a movie that wouldn’t have happened if not for the previous success of the genre and, despite the layers of red tape Ryan Reynolds and company had to go through, a film that originally went into development more than a decade ago was finally being made. It makes sense that an extremely popular character like the ‘merc with a mouth’ would garner the support necessary to convince Marvel and Fox Studios to put the film into production – thanks in large part to some leaked test footage that set the Internet ablaze.
One thing an audience can immediately takeaway from watching the movie is that it actually feels like a comic book, more so than most other films in the genre. From the opening credits that don’t reveal who was involved in the movie, but instead crediting the titular character as ‘God’s perfect idiot’ and the love interest as ‘a hot chick’, to the over-the-top action sequences, Deadpool gets as true to the comic book version of the character as any previous comic adaptation.
Staying true to the source material is absolutely key to make Deadpool work because the comic books are so much wackier than most other popular lines. In fact, he’s fought the ghosts of deceased U.S. Presidents (making friends with the ghost of Benjamin Franklin in the process) and even fallen in love with the personification of Death. While the movie doesn’t get this wacky, it keeps the wacky tropes that the character utilizes on the page – namely, being extremely self-referential and breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience.
Wade Wilson is a mercenary diagnosed with terminal cancer and no hope for survival – no hope, that is, until he’s recruited into a program that promises to cure him of his cancer and transform him into a superhero. In the film, he makes the decision to leave the love of his life, Vanessa (played by Morena Baccarin), to enroll in the program and salvage a future with her. After severe torture at the hands of the film’s villain Ajax (Ed Skrein), however, he develops a healing factor comparable to that of Wolverine, a character constantly referenced in the movie, and becomes hideously scarred. The entire film is driven by Deadpool’s pursuit of vengeance on Ajax, who suggested that he’s the only person that can reverse Wilson’s severe disfiguration.
Perhaps the most surprising element of Deadpool is how the romance between Wade and Vanessa is actually the foundation for the movie. It’s not surprising that there would be a love interest or that she would be a motivating factor for Wade to become a superhero, but it is surprising that a raunchy action-comedy with a hard R rating would have arguably the most romance in the superhero genre. While Deadpool is by no means a rom-com (don’t let the romantic posters of Ryan Reynolds staring off into his future with the woman he loves fool you), there’s enough romance to not completely ruin Valentine’s Day for those poor girls that got dragged to another superhero movie.
The film’s true strength, however, is the performance Ryan Reynolds gives as the wisecracking, foul-mouthed, pop-culture-referencing ‘merc with a mouth’. Reynolds, along with director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, have tried to get this movie made since 2004 and developed the script six years ago. It’s clear why Reynolds fought so hard to get this movie made too – he IS Deadpool. On the press tour for this movie, Reynolds has told the story of how he first learned of the character, citing a comic in which Deadpool claims that under the mask he looks like a combination of Ryan Reynolds and a Shar Pei. Since then, Reynolds has read every story and become obsessed with playing this character. He finally got his chance with Wolverine: Origins in 2009, a movie that didn’t understand what Deadpool should be and a movie that should never be spoken of again.
Reynolds got his redemption with Deadpool this time around and absolutely nailed the character. Going back to Reynold’s older films like Van Wilder or Waiting, it’s easy to see the seeds of Deadpool being planted in Reynolds’ comedic style. They say the true testament of an actor’s ability to portray a comic book character depends on what voice the reader hears in his/her head when reading the character. Many hear Mark Hamill when they read the Joker or Robert Downey Jr. when they read Iron Man, and it’s safe to say people will hear Ryan Reynolds when they pick up issues of Deadpool.
Deadpool has already opened to significant box office success, earning approximately $47.5 million on Friday alone with extremely positive critic and audience reviews. Although the movie is different in many respects, it’s not an earth-shattering movie that completely changes the superhero genre because it still follows the basic formula. What Deadpool does is add a much-needed spice to the genre, proving that an R rated action-comedy has its rightful place in Fox Studios’ X-Men Universe – a spice that could potentially create a subgenre of raunchy action comedies led by Deadpool himself.