I was honestly was not super stoked about seeing Deadpool in theaters, especially on opening night. Maybe five years ago I would have been singing a different tune, but after Wade Wilson’s explosion in popularity, oversaturation on comic book shelves, and a sometimes insufferable fanbase, you kind of start to get burned out the character, even before he gets his own movie. What I’m saying is that I went into this film with lowish expectations, and then was extremely pleasantly surprised to enjoy myself.
Deadpool is a film that loves to remind you that it’s not a superhero movie. Only it is. Very much so. It’s exactly like every superhero movie that has come out in the last decade at its core. Wade is just a guy, a thing happens to him that gives him super powers, he uses said superpowers against those that done did him wrong, he even gets to participate in a team-up. His girlfriend becomes his kidnapped girlfriend. However, the way Deadpool sets itself apart is not with its riotous violence, near-constant banter, or almost abusive treatment of its R rating, but in its storytelling.
The fan treatment this film doles out is obscene, and most of it comes from taking advantage of a character who breaks the fourth wall. Instead of making us suffer through yet another a first act origin story, Deadpool reveals details of his journey only when the need for them becomes necessary amidst an insanely uproarious fight scene. This means that the audience is never more than a few minutes away from the next action sequence, the dialogue in which they’re probably missing because everyone is laughing too loudly.
Deadpool is Tim Miller’s first time directing a feature length live action film. With a history in animation and visual effects, it actually makes perfect sense for him to helm the flagship film for a comic book character this outrageous. Deadpool does superhuman acrobatics, ragdolls after getting shot, splays his fingers out in surprise, emotes through his mask and somehow still feels like a real person on screen. Likewise, the fight scenes, while insanely violent and messy, play out like organized mayhem. The production team managed to choreograph a fight that takes place within the frame while still being aware of the entire scene spatially, a notion that is put on display during probably the best superhero movie opening credits ever.
Of course, the one precious key factor in this movie’s success is the hilariously endearing performance by Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds IS Deadpool. I cannot and will not imagine any other actor that would take on this role with as much enthusiasm and reverence. The writers delivered a hell of a lot of humor in the script, but it’s Reynolds’ delivery that really sells who Deadpool is, a man somewhere between a vulgar clown and an extremely capable hero.
Reynolds’ Deadpool also works well with others. Most of my favorite moments were when Wade played off of another character, and some of those other characters were a delight. Representing Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters was Colossus, who finally gets to talk with an accent, and the adorably broody Negasonic Teenage Warhead. I honestly could have watched an entire movie of Colossus fawning over NTW and making sure she eats a well-rounded breakfast, but even better was the metal giant’s failed attempts at recruiting Deadpool over to the side of good.
Deadpool is quite a ride—it’s fun, hilarious, revolting, and somehow charming. I feel like I have to say that before I talk about the one thing that kept pulling me out of the movie time and time again: it’s treatment of women. I KNOW I know. This movie is supposed to be ridiculous and raunchy, how dare I take offense, right? It started with Deadpool talking to all the girlfriends who were “tricked” into seeing this film, because of course only boys read comics (I KNOW I KNOW, just bear with me), and then it managed to make every female on film into more of a punchline than a character.
Wade’s girlfriend, Vanessa (the hooker who is also a stripper with a heart of gold), was likable and strong-willed but felt boxed in by her own sexuality. Morena Baccarin gave a feisty performance, but the only time you get any kind of sense of her as a person is when Vanessa and Wade find out Wade has cancer, and even then, Wade’s inner monologue Talks Over Her. Honestly this is forgivable because it’s such a common trope in the genre, but it would have been cool, with Deadpool claiming its non-superhero filminess, to try something different with a love interest. Then we get Gina Carano, an MMA fighter with an impressive presence on screen who I may or may not have fallen in love with when she swung her fists around in Fast and Furious 6. The second her character Angel Dust appears on screen, however, Wade implies that she has a penis, you know, because she’s a woman with muscles and ew gross. Later, newcomer Brianna Hildebrand as perhaps the coolest obscure comic book character to appear on film, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, is the butt of a prom night rape joke.
Maybe I’m nitpicking, but it’s difficult to watch a movie about a genre you love as it constantly accuses you of being the “other.” The reason I’m even bothering to include this critique in my review is because this movie exceeded my expectations. It was better than I expected, so now I expect it to DO better. Half of the attendees in my theater were female, most there without a male escort. I believe in you, Deadpool 2. Do Better.
My Debbie Downer bullet points aside, Deadpool is outrageously successful at what it sets out to do. Despite failing to necessarily remake the genre, Deadpool manages to refresh it with well-timed parody and self-deprecation. Coming out amidst superhero fatigue hot takes and setting box office records for an R rated film, this little movie that could shows that the real franchise power lies with the fans, and this fan cannot wait for the sequel [cough] starring Jon Hamm as Cable [cough].
Deadpool is now playing in theaters everywhere.