Deadpool may be many things. Some call it a superhero film. Some will call it an action film. Some will call it a romance. Some will call it a comedy. It may be all of these things, but one thing it doesn’t do is take itself seriously.
Deadpool has opened with the largest first weekend takings of an R-rated movie ever ($132.7m). Both the taking and the rating are well deserved. Where its superhero counterparts have sanitised the violence portrayed, Deadpool plays to it. There are beheadings. There are dead human carcasses splattered at high speed into road signs. There is terrible, offensive and graphic language. The violence is non-stop. There’s even more after the opening scene. Later, we visit a strip club. Indeed, there’s a sex montage that lasts about five minutes and is played for laughs. Nothing is off-limits.
It never loses its sense of humour, and at the centre of this achievement is Ryan Reynolds who proves that he’s the right guy for the job after all. We have seen Reynolds’s take on Deadpool once before, albeit in what is generally regarded to be a butchered take on the comic book character. His first appearance as the chatty bad ass was in 2008’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in which he was inexplicably not able to talk once he became Weapon XI / Deadpool. It was seen at the time as a missed opportunity by fanboys of the comics, though in hindsight it is hard to pin the blame on Reynolds. What else could he do with a silent character, especially acting alongside will.i.am?
This time around he is actively encouraged to pastiche other superhero films. Several times the fourth wall is broken to humorous effect, usually to take a poke at the previous Marvel films, the messy timeline involved in the X-Men franchise, Hugh Jackman himself and, most frequently, that underwhelming Origins film.
It’s refreshing to see a superhero film not taking itself very seriously. It was also great to see a director – a first-time director at that – given the ammo to do exactly what he wants with a film and not be told to fit it into a larger universe. We can only wonder if Ant-Man could have been this good if Edgar Wright was allowed to finish it.
Tim Miller has directed one short film prior to Deadpool. It was an animated short film from 2004 called Gopher Broke. You can view it here:
One of my favourite X-Men characters as a child was Collossus (Stefan Kapicic). Here he is given yet another outing on the big screen in a CGI creation that is well realised visually if not in terms of characterisation. He is present as one of Deadpool’s sidekicks solely for comic relief rather than to provide any real threat, and as a result it’s difficult to see him having any room to manoeuvre in future X-Men films.
The other sidekick character making up the lead trio is Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). An emo-styled young mutant, she at least has some potentially useful strength. However, she is also on the receiving end of some great one-liners from Deadpool and doesn’t offer much to suggest she might ever become a fan favourite.
These two supporting X-Men were clearly only ever seen as a bit of background built around the requirement for a subplot in the final battle sequence. A joke is made at one point about the studio not being able to afford any more X-Men. There is doubtless some truth in this.
Elsewhere, the supporting cast also includes the annoyingly evil Ed Skrein, who does a good job of making the fairly generic character Ajax quite dislikable. Morena Baccarin is well cast as the romantic interest, though it’s a shame we saw yet another an initially headstrong female character dissolve into a damsel in distress. Hopefully she will be given more prominence if a sequel is made – if they stick to the comic books she will become the mutant Copycat.
It is a very good film, almost a great film. It’s brash, it’s offensive and it’s graphic. It’s almost like a superhero film from an alternate reality, where the primary goal isn’t to sell action figures and lunchboxes. Its failings are more than made up for by how refreshing it was to see a completely different take on the genre.
If nothing else, at least now we can say a film has done justice to the Deadpool franchise.
Deadpool is out now at cinemas globally.