Deadpool is a reprehensible movie. It is a 108-minute tribute to profanity and ultra-violence that earns its ‘R’ rating through nauseating crudeness alone. It is a slap to the face of decency, an insult to the laws of civility. It is a mocking celebration of the juvenile, and advocates for family films and general morality should find this feature more than worthy of condemnation, as well as a shining example of Hollywood’s further declining values.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is that if you don’t get offended easily or even care for any of the above, Deadpool is a fucking great movie. It is a hilarious, wonderfully scripted and wickedly sarcastic film that takes Marvel to new frontiers in the action genre - not only by subverting the numerous, timeworn tropes that such films constantly regurgitate, but also by satirizing the company’s own ideals for them as well. It is a captivating, revulsive triumph that will appal as well as enthrall, and its riotous sense of anarchic fun makes it certain to be recognized as one of the comic book giant’s best efforts on silver screen to date.
It is a movie that has certainly been a long time in coming, especially if you consider that plans for an adaptation of Marvel’s most demented mercenary had been floating around since the turn of the 21st century. Years of development hell followed its initial conception - Dark Knight screenwriter David S. Goyer was one particular luminary who worked on a script before dropping out - until the character finally surfaced in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with Ryan Reynolds taking up his initial stint in the role. It was a disappointing cameo that left fans short-changed and did little to ease doubts that Hollywood would ever offer up a movie worthy of the anti-hero’s status in the comic-book world. Howls of derision were further made when Marvel announced their passing of the rights along to 20th Century Fox to head production on a solo movie, again with Reynolds, who by this point had endured mediocre results with his headlining of the Green Lantern movies. It was a reaction that was obviously unfairly harsh - Reynolds, after all, had been given very little time to do anything substantial with his initial performance. But the comic fandom is a tricky beast to appease and even easier to aggravate. Marvel may have proved to the film world with Guardians of the Galaxy that it could throw in a layer of comedy to compliment its typically epic-scaled action, but the Deadpool franchise has a very distinct sense of humour, with very distinct expectations from its potential movie audience. Any mis-step or failure would be treated with abject scorn.
So it’s just as well that from the very beginning to the extra after-closing scene (as is Marvel tradition) that Deadpool delivers a blend of hilarity that its followers will absolutely appreciate. It doesn’t take long for its self-deprecating tone to set in either - the very opening credits proudly state the forthcoming feature stars “God’s Perfect Idiot” as its main star alongside “A CGI Character”, and also declares its dubious position of being produced by “Asshats” and written by “The Real Heroes Here”. It’s a fitting precedent to the non-stop flurry of jokes that follow - crude one-liners, cartoonishly violent action and, perhaps unsurprisingly for seasoned Deadpool fans, relentless breakings of the fourth wall that poke fun at the X-Men movies, not to mention the film-makers’ inability to bring any of the series’ actors to the film.
They’ll also be unsurprised that 95% of these gags come courtesy of the film’s madcap lead character himself, whom Ryan Reynolds plays with tremendous enthusiasm and delivery. It’s safe to say that whatever damage he may have done to his superhero role credentials in the past has been completely reversed by his impeccable depiction of the title character - whether chaotically rampaging around the screen as the gun-toting, sword-wielding Deadpool, or the lower-key, cynical figure who dwells beneath the mask: Wade W. Wilson. In particular, the former’s manic, wise-cracking monologues that roll on throughout the movie force the film to rarely yield its focus from its lead, a conscious directing decision perhaps made with the intention to follow the tone of the original comic. But it’s the latter’s self-imposed (and bitter) isolation from the world that gives the film its critical human edge, an element that Marvel is so desperate to attain in many of its films. It takes a strong performance to reconcile the two theoretically-opposing personas, but it’s one that Reynolds, nonetheless, pulls off with assurance, revelling in the freedom that this personal passion project has clearly given him.
It’s also a performance so attention-grabbing that it nearly succeeds in drawing the viewer’s gaze away from the glaring imperfections in the film’s main plot. Once the profanity, ridiculous mayhem and ludicrously bloody action sequences are stripped away, Deadpool’s storyline is revealed to be standard, cookie-cutter Marvel narrative; an origin story combined with the tried and tested device of a good, but cursed hero seeking revenge against the bad guy who has made them the way they are.
In this case, pre-Deadpool soldier of fortune Wilson is faced with the fatal prospect of metastatic cancer that has spread to most of his vital organs. Concerned more with what this means for his fiancee Vanessa (Morena Baccarin with a solid contribution), he encounters a mysterious individual who offers him a place on an experimental program that will not only cure his terminal disease, but give him incredible regenerative superpowers. Unable to refuse, Wilson takes up the offer and is promptly subjected to a series of torturous therapies, administered by main villain Ajax (Ed Skrein), that push him to his physical limits in an attempt to trigger the aggressive cell mutation that will give him the miracle he’s seeking. Ajax soon reveals however that the real reason for the program is to develop superhuman slaves for profit, and in a final experiment, traps Wilson in an oxygen deprivation chamber that forces his skin to blister and deeply disfigure him. Though Wilson is eventually able to escape his confinement and Ajax’s clutches, his deformation convinces him that his wife (gf/fiancee) will never take him back and he swears to exact bloody vengeance upon the very man who did this to him. Enlisting the help of X-Men members Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) - the former of whom is locked in his own battle with Deadpool to get him to join Professor Xavier’s band of mutant superheroes - he goes on a mission to track down Ajax and bring him to retribution, no matter how many explosions, lacerations and decapitations it takes for him to do so.
All in all, it’s a straightforward plotline that despite being unravelled in a schizophrenic back-and-forth fashion, lacks intricacy due to the film’s need to put the character of Deadpool first and foremost in the picture. His accompanying cast also suffer from this mild disregard as well. Ed Skrein does impress by giving Ajax the right concoction of snide and sadism that only a British villain can provide, but neither a straight-laced CGI Colossus or an adolescently apathetic Negasonic feel fleshed out enough to be anything more than functioning plot devices, either as initial antagonists or shallow backup support foils for the film’s climax. It’s a shame the excellent script isn’t able to give these individuals more colour - it is one of the film’s small flaws that would have allowed it to achieve action-comedy perfection had it done so.
Instead, Deadpool fulfils the last part of its R-rated obligation by being without question, the bloodiest movie currently produced under the Marvel name. With screen time dedicated to a smorgasbord of severed limbs, gunshots to the head, and exactly one instance of a human body being splatted at high-speed against a wall, its action scenes are certainly vicious, sometimes sickeningly so. But this is absolutely not savage violence for the sake of gratuitousness. Rather, it is merely one of the many ways in which Deadpool expresses its ridiculously farcical humour. Such is the comic timing of these moments that you find it just as agreeable to laugh your head off even while shaking it in dismay at the awfulness of it all. This is certainly not a film for prudes, but that’s okay - this is one movie that proudly announces that it never needed the approval of those types anyway.
Rebellious and disreputable in almost every way, Deadpool isn’t just a great superhero movie - it’s a triumph for modern action cinema. Its simple plot and the derivative nature of some of its support characters fail to derail the foul-mouthed, coarse and deliriously absurd crazy train that Reynolds and director Tim Miller have put on show. If you like your jokes raucous, your action blistering and your lead characters as hysterical as they are contemptuous, Deadpool will fit your needs like a middle-finger-raised glove. Just remember to leave the kids at home.