(Tim Miller, 2016)
Odd how many superhero movies forget to be fun. They’re so busy being important and earth-shattering and awesome that they forget the central joy of the genre; it is fun. Well, not Deadpool. Deadpool strains every sinew in order to keep the audience entertained throughout. Generally that’s through humour, with a string of groan-inducing gags and one-liners mixed into all the slapstick and pop-culture references. And of course the post-modern fourth wall breaking, a long-time feature of the character’s comic book appearances. This Deadpool, played charmingly by Ryan Reynolds, knows he is in a superhero movie, stops to talk to the audience, acknowledges genre conventions and alludes to budgetary constraints and Reynolds’ own checkered career. Some of this works really well (the audience I saw Deadpool with audibly enjoyed the movie more than any movie I have seen in a long time) and sometimes it doesn’t. The plot is a slight thing, mostly told in mid-fight scene flashback by Deadpool himself, aka Wade Wilson, a mercenary who has just fallen in love with his prostitute soulmate Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Desperate, he volunteers for experimental procedure controlled by Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano), bestowed with the ability to feel no pain and super strength respectively.
This procedure will activate his latent mutant gene, but only after a series of grisly tortures. In the aftermath, Wilson is hideously ugly but also virtually unkillable, with a Wolverine-style healing factor to add to his pre-existing skill with gun and sword. He also has a score to settle with Ajax, which he does by killing his way through a series of underlings.
Set in a corner of the X-Men universe (but also featuring a big visual wink to the Marvel Universe), Deadpool also brings in Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, if only to allow its hero to poke fun at their team and attitudes. But then this is a character who works best when he has somebody to talk to and bounce off, and his scenes with them are among the best in the film.
The action scenes are fine and there are a lot of them, and if the script is frequently crude, a little too broad and unfunny, well Reynolds has the comic chops and timing to sell it anyway. Crucially it nails a tone. It doesn’t quite feel like any other film in the superhero genre, certainly not like any of the films which have parodied the genre in the past. Its violence and post-modern sensibility make it a different beast, as does its surprisingly sincere love story and seedy little setting.
Oh yeah: and it’s fun.