“Deadpool”: the superhero movie that every comic book fan wanted and no studio wanted to make. It wasn’t until test footage of Ryan Reynolds playing the merc with a mouth for a potential Deadpool solo movie (mind you, this was after Reynolds played a version of the character that didn’t resemble the hero from the comics at all in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) was released that 20th Century Fox gave it the green light following an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from fans. And now here we are. Six years after that mediocre “Wolverine” movie, we have the first R-rated Marvel movie, and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect translation of the character from the comic book pages to the screen.
Directed by Tim Miller, the film follows Wade Wilson, a smart aleck mercenary who finds out he has terminal cancer. When he is approached by a mysterious man who claims to represent an organization that can not only cure his cancer, but also give him superhuman abilities, Wade leaves his fiancée Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and undergoes a series of brutal tests led by Ajax (real name Francis, played by Ed Skrein), a sort of crazy scientist/doctor who is a mutant himself as a result of his experiments (he can’t feel pain). Eventually, Wade’s genes mutate, giving him accelerated healing powers, but leaving his body mutilated beyond belief. Basically, he’s really ugly, and he’s mad, adopting the alter ego Deadpool and embarking on a mission to find and kill Ajax for ruining his life (if we want to get nit-picky, we could argue that Wade would be dead if it wasn’t for Ajax, but we’ll let that slide for now).
From the moment the film starts, it’s apparent that the audience is in for a good time. The opening credits roll as the camera slowly moves around an action scene frozen in time, and there are so many visual gags as Easter eggs in that sequence that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Rather than naming the cast and crew, the opening credits describe them (like, “A CGI character” or “A British villain”). From that point on, Miller takes a different and clever approach to telling Deadpool’s origin story. Rather than telling it linearly, the film opens with an explosive action scene, as Deadpool has, after a year, tracked down Ajax and his gang and plans to finally enact his vengeance. The story then proceeds to flash back and forward several times in the first half of the film, revealing Wade’s backstory bit by bit as the showdown between Deadpool and Ajax slowly unfolds. It’s an engaging way to tell the story, especially for viewers who may be as familiar with the character; start with a barrage of action and comedy, showing Deadpool’s personality and lack of morality to a tee, and then backtracking to not-so-happy times. Just as in the comics, Deadpool often breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly, whether to provide commentary or just for comic effect (usually both).
The script may not be big on plot—it’s really not that far off from Wolverine’s origin story, to be honest—but the dialogue is so witty and downright hilarious. The laughs come fast and furious, whether they be Deadpool’s one-liners, conversations with his equally funny friend Weasel (T.J. Miller), visual gags, or humorous references to the rest of the Marvel universe (even the parts that are owned by Disney), of which there are plenty. The supporting cast does in fact include two members of the X-Men who haven’t been seen in the films before: Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), who holds his hero duties to the highest moral standard and encourages Deadpool to do the same, trying to get him to join the X-Men and use his powers for good.
But of course, Deadpool doesn’t use his powers for the good of mankind—at least not in this movie. He kills whoever gets in his way, using his arsenal of guns and swords (when he doesn’t forget his duffel bag in the taxi, that is). It’s different and fun and it’s who the character is, but it will be interesting to see in the sequel (which is already on the way) just how Deadpool decides to use his abilities now that he has completed his personal endeavor. We see in his flashbacks that he likes to stick up for people who are powerless to help themselves—hopefully there will be more of that.
After playing Hal Jordan in that fail of a Green Lantern movie, and playing a not so Deadpooly version of Deadpool in “Wolverine”, Ryan Reynolds achieves comic book movie redemption with his performance in this movie. In many ways, this is the role he was born to play. Reynolds delivers his jokes and one-liners with just the right snarky tone of voice. He’s hilarious, but in the film’s few serious scenes he hits all the right notes as well. Baccarin holds her own against him as the film’s leading lady, who also has a smart mouth and is capable of handling herself, while Miller is a comic sidekick who is actually, well, comical. Leslie Uggams is hilarious in her brief but memorable role as Deadpool’s elderly blind roommate. Skrein’s villain and his sidekick, the mutant Angel Dust (Gina Carano) are fairly stereotypical and uninteresting in comparison, but they get the job done.
There are a lot of big superhero movies coming out this year: “Batman vs. Superman,” “Captain American: Civil War,” “Doctor Strange,” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” among them. But don’t be surprised if little old “Deadpool”—a movie that almost didn’t get made because no one thought audiences would go see an R-rated superhero movie, and is now poised to set box office records—ends up being the best of the bunch.
Runtime: 108 minutes. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre