Deadpool is probably exactly what comic book fans were hoping it would be. Ryan Reynolds shines in a by-the-books (but epic) anti-superhero adventure.
Before I went in to see Deadpool, I knew only what the off-the-wall amazing marketing team had told me. I hadn’t read the comics, I didn’t know the story — but I watched the clips, I read the tweets, I laughed my ass off at #SkullPoopL. I was ready to be amazed.
And let’s be very clear: If you were hoping for Deadpool to live up to its fourth-wall-breaking comic book counterpart, you got it.
If you were hoping for uncensored bloody murder, you got it.
If you were hoping for the uncomplicated romp of a good time, you definitely got it.
Deadpool is a rare gem: A pure, unabashed celebration of the comic book genre, and a blast of a moviegoing experience. We all know that Ryan Reynolds worked his (great, and heavily featured) ass off to get this on the big screen, and you don’t need to be a fan of the comics to see why.
All the same, I’d probably have liked this movie more if I hadn’t already seen most of the best moments in the trailers.
As Wade Wilson, Reynolds is at the top of his impressive game (whatever certain people might say about his acting skills, I’ve always liked him), working his comedy background to the max, and pulling off some spectacular puns as he stakes the bad guys through various body parts, with various awesome-looking weapons.
The action scenes are spectacular; the fighting, the killing, the entire final battle (oh, I don’t even want to hint at anything here; you need to see the arena for yourselves) all amount to some of the best big-screen action I’ve ever seen. Honestly, it’s too bad Fury Road came out first because that still wins, but just by a hair.
Then there are the gags. Many of the meta references to other superhero franchises are hilarious, and it’s about time someone pointed out the convenience and bureaucracy of it all.
In fact, there are so many meta moments that some might say it’s too much, but for fans of the Merc with a Mouth it’s probably just enough.
Unfortunately, I’m not one of those fans. I’ll be the first to admit that I have an obscenely low tolerance for clichés, and I assure you that plenty of people at my screening were thoroughly entertained. But if you’re one of those annoying cynical seen-it-all viewers like me (or if you’re just a fan of Team StarKid, Supernatural and/or the Honest Trailer guys), you might not appreciate the many, many, many self-referential, intentionally on-the-nose jokes this movie throws directly into your face.
As for the plot (yes, there is one!), Deadpool‘s storyline is actually pretty generic: Criminal dude played by a comedy actor puts on a red suit and makes jokes as he takes down worse criminals than himself, on a quest to save a helpless female he cares about. Sound familiar? If it ain’t broke, I guess.
What was a little ironic was that, as I chuckled mildly at the various shots fired at other superhero stories, I found myself wondering how exactly Deadpool is actually different from similar self-aware, comedy-heavy origin stories like Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy or Iron Man. I mean, sure: It’s self-referential as hell, super violent and swear-wordy, and the narrative style has more in common with American Beauty than Thor, but at the end of the day? This is a story about how an ordinary guy becomes extraordinary, and punches his way to self-acceptance. It’s Jessica Jones meets Ant-Man, and that works about as well as you’d expect.
What truly elevates Deadpool — when you strip away the X-Men namedropping, the many “we know this is overdone but if we tell you it’s overdone you’ll laugh and forget it’s a generic plot point” moments, and the copious buckets of blood — is Ryan Reynolds’ unabashed passion, enthusiasm, and love for this character. There is no question that his performance makes the movie, and without him, if I’m completely honest, there wouldn’t be much to celebrate. But luckily we don’t have to ponder that scenario.
While Reynolds is amazing, there are several would-be interesting side-characters that mostly just feel like missed opportunities. The other heroes and villains are basically just there to look awesome and serve some peripheral function that doesn’t directly benefit the narrative. Some of them hardly ever speak — and, when they do, it’s to make quips for Reynolds to riff off.
And for all the badass men and women in this movie (I’m a big fan of Negasonic Teenage Warhead, played by Brianna Hildebrand), Morena Baccarin’s sympathetic love interest never in fact amounts to anything other than, well, a sympathetic love interest. Heck, during the movie’s climax she’s wearing a barely-there black leather outfit, and is literally put into a glass fridge to await her rescuer.
I’m not saying this to put the film down, but it was honestly a bit of a let-down, after all this buzz about Deadpool supposedly elevating the superhero genre. After all this fuss, after Star Wars and Civil War and Mad Max: Fury Road, I expected, at the very least, maybe a nuanced female character. Maybe a more substantial addressing of Deadpool’s much-celebrated pansexuality (the closest we got was him playing gay chicken with one of his victims). Or maybe a Russian guy that didn’t speak like he was an extra in The Hunt for Red October? Just basic 21st century stuff that I’m kind of beginning to take for granted in my entertainment.
Related: Deadpool 2 is already being written
That didn’t mean I didn’t appreciate what I got, however, which was an hour and a half of almost visceral relief from the at-times sanctimonious, very serious and melodramatic superhero movies we’ve gotten so used to. Deadpool was fun in the way Ant-Man would have been fun if they’d let Edgar Wright stick to his original vision. And if Paul Rudd had been allowed to say “f***” a lot.
Deadpool is not revolutionary, and it’s not going to change the superhero movie genre (although it might prompt Tony Stark to look for better material because he’s definitely been out-snarked). But it is, undoubtedly, a spectacle. It is wildly entertaining, and its R-rating allows it to go places that neither Ant-Man nor any of the many Spider-Men have been able to go.
I left the movie theater feeling like I’d finally seen a comic book brought to life, and I definitely understand why everyone loves the character of Deadpool so much.
Here’s to the sequel, Deadpool and the Wasp! Oh wait…
Q: How do I convince my non-fandom friends to go see this movie?
A: Just tell them it’s Ant-Man on crack, and you won’t be too far off.
Q: Can I bring my boyfriend?
A: Not if he’s squeamish.
Q: Is it better than Kick-Ass?
A: I’d say no, but it beats Watchmen by miles.
Q: Do I need to read the comics?
A: Uhh… probably a good idea. But if you don’t have five years to spare, I’d say a solid knowledge of the X-Men ‘verse and the MCU, plus a quick refresher on Ryan Reynolds’ back catalogue would probably cover your ass. You should also read our new Deadpool character guide.
Q: Are the post-credits scenes important?
A: Well, in my screening there was only one post-credits scene, and that one’s definitely just for the die-hards. As for the second, you’ll have to stick around and find out for yourself (or wait until someone posts it on the Internet).
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