Marvel’s second attempt at the ‘merc with a mouth’ is an ultimately enjoyable one-hundred and forty-eight minutes. Deadpool, unlike an Avengers or an X-Men (more on those guys later) movie, doesn’t have huge box office draw or mass appeal due to being a relatively unknown character outside of the comic book community. Largely brought about by a Ryan Reynolds led fan campaign, the fact that this film exists is a testament to the current grasp that the superhero genre has on Hollywood. 20th Century Fox giving Deadpool his own film, as opposed to plucking him out of the Marvel archives for a final boss fight in a Wolverine movie, could literally only happen at this time of superhero saturation.
When Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a dishonourably discharged special ops agent, finds out he has cancer, his idyllic life is over, when all alternatives are exhausted, love for his wife (Morena Baccarin) pushes him to take up an offer for an experimental treatment program from a shady organisation. His cancer is cured by awakening dormant mutations which give him a healing factor and some side effects: Freddy Krueger-esque skin and the loss of his sanity. Too ashamed of the way he looks to face his beloved, Wilson dons the red suit and embarks on a mission to find the man who mutilated him (Ed Skrein) and force him to reverse the procedure.
As the titular character Reynolds is clearly enjoying himself. Probably more than the audience. This can be forgiven though because without Reynolds there wouldn’t be a Deadpool film. He was basically playing the character in Blade: Trinity (2004).
In 2009 he played a pre-transformation Wade Wilson in Wolverine: Origins, which up until he actually became Deadpool was an accurate and enjoyable version of the character. The final product, though, now lies alongside Jar Jar Binks and Halle Berry’s Catwoman in the pit of things all nerds would like to forget. Moreno Baccarin is solid as the love interest, competing with Wilson throughout to prove who is the most messed up, which works to keep the humorous tone consistent during the loved up segments which could have shifted the gear a lot more than they did. Yet, they are still the biggest lapses in the film. Sideline players such as Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and a mo-cap Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) are great. Colossus’ overtly by the book attitude is absolutely necessary in contrasting Deadpool’s anarchic spontaneity. Early in the movie the fourth wall is broken, “I bet you’re thinking ‘but my boyfriend told me this was a superhero movie’” Deadpool assumes. Whilst he represents the male audience (he’s seen all the superhero movies and references them, he makes requests of the costumers and crew), Negasonic is the girlfriend. She’s bored and texting throughout the movie, although does eventually warm up to Wade. The only character I take issue with is Weasel (T.J Miller). The comic relief character is the least funny aspect of this comedy: inexplicably not just owning a rough dive bar full of mercenary’s but commanding the respect and back up of it’s patrons, Weasel provides the MacFarlane-esque humour i.e. ‘Your face looks like a (insert random object) fucked a (insert random pop culture reference)”. And although the movie isn’t high brow in the slightest, which isn’t a problem because the character in the comics is far from that, it is a lot funnier than T.J Miller.
Deadpool attempts to have it’s cake and eat it by mocking the superhero genre with quips and one-liners throughout the movie but does absolutely nothing to subvert it. It runs out of steam in the third act when nothing but a big fight with the baddie ensues. It is when compared with the countless other superhero films that follow this trend that Deadpool loses points. Deadpool differs from it’s contemporaries positively by being refreshingly fun, especially in contrast to X-Men movies of late. The trailer for X-Men apocalypse played before Deadpool and how bleak it was. Whereas, in Deadpool, the X-Men are presented as a happy to help family, the X-Men we see in the trailer are moody super-spies in black one-pieces. Comic book fans are a hard to please bunch, they take pride in being obsessive nit-pickers, ever loyal to the source material. This is where this incarnation of Deadpool succeeds and the first failed. One would think that after sewing up the merc with a mouth’s mouth a writer would be forever banned from toying with such beloved characters. Yet today, seven years on, Dan Benioff (writer of Wolverine: Origins) continues to enrage nerds by diverting from source material, albeit nerds who like swords instead of capes.
Deadpool is near all that survived 90’s Marvel, a time where artists like Rob Liefield and Jim Lee ruled the roost until departing to form Image comics. Musclebound, anatomy-defying anti-heroes were created for teams of mutants to be drawn not written, leaving little room for depth or subtlety. Some see this as an aberration, whereas others, an accurate reflection of what the teenagers of the time wanted to see. Grant Morrison himself argued that the Image comics alumni were a necessary opposite to those such as himself and Neil Gaiman and their more literary works such as The Invisibles and Gaiman’s Sandman. It wasn’t until 1997 that Deadpool was given his own series led by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness and the character as we know him today came to be. This is where the cartoon like tone that we get in the film was established and the character began parodying the other Marvel comics of the ’90s. Kelly stated: “With Deadpool, we could do anything we wanted because everybody just expected the book to be cancelled every five seconds, so nobody was paying attention. And we could get away with it.” This explains a lot about the character we know today.
The character’s popularity today is at its peak, a combination of Bugs Bunny and Jonny Knoxville in a time of meta-referencing and a tidal wave of comic book movies. Deadpool manages to stand out by daring to be different but just misses the mark by fearing to stray too far from the formula.