Director: Tim Miller.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić.
ANOTHER week, another superhero movie.
It certainly feels that way, and many are wondering if we’ve hit ‘peak cape’ and how much more milk can be drained from this box office cash cow before audiences start yawning at the sight of another hyper-powered origin story or heroic team-up to save the galaxy.
The comic book well is unfathomably deep – the Marvel and DC archives go back to the 1930s, plus there are any number of other graphic novel houses (Dark Horse, Image, and IDW to name but three) with equally worthy catalogues to adapt. So how does Hollywood avoid inflicting superhero fatigue on movie-goers?
The answer potentially lies in finding new ways to tell these increasingly similar-seeming stories. Which brings us to Deadpool, a superhero movie that strives to be different (and succeeds) in many blood-soaked and swear-littered ways.
If you’ve never heard of Deadpool, there’s a good reason. He’s not an A-list comic book character like Spider-man or Batman, and he hasn’t been around as long as the likes of Superman or even Wolverine. He’s a cult favourite from the Marvel stable, which means that if you have heard of Deadpool, you are super-excited about this movie (and the good news is you won’t be disappointed).
Created in 1991, a bastardised version of Deadpool popped up in the 2009 film Wolverine: Origins, where he was played by Reynolds. But that take on the character was largely derided as an insult to comic book fans. Reynolds, to his credit, kept pursuing a “proper” Deadpool film and when test footage for such a movie was leaked in 2014, the fans went nuts (in a good way). The studio finally greenlit the project and here we are.
The result is exactly what fans wanted. Deadpool is known as The Merc With The Mouth, renowned for his curse-riddled and violence-heavy approach to dealing with baddies, with his signature trait being a predilection for breaking the fourth wall – he’s the comic book character that knows he’s a comic book character.
This film version brings all that to life perfectly, with Reynolds lapping up the dirty jokes and the writers laying the in-jokes on thick.
Reynolds is the key to it all. Not only did he help get the movie into production, he relishes the opportunity to bring Marvel’s most inappropriate superhero to life in true-to-source fashion. This is Reynolds in Van Wilder mode, taking regular potshots at the Wolverine: Origins version of the character, his own good looks, and his other comic book misfire Green Lantern.
By making a Deadpool film the Deadpool fans really want to see, the movie is deliberately niche, which is refreshing in a lot of ways. There is no broad popcorn appeal here and compared to the bloodless violence and PG glee of Marvel Studio’s heavy-hitters, this is a wonderfully puerile claret-soaked swear-fest. It’s also bloody hilarious and hands down the funniest superhero movie ever.
But it’s not going to attract a big audience. It’s a cult classic in waiting, destined to be seen as the black sheep of the X-Men family (this movie exists – somehow – in the increasingly convoluted mutant movie series). Many of the gags are tailored to a very specific audience and are as “meta” as possible – when X-Men member Colossus threatens to take Deadpool to see Professor X, the mercenary quips “McEvoy or Stewart?”.
The movie is not without its flaws. The lead character’s back story is weaved throughout a protracted highway shoot-out/set-piece in a slightly cumbersome fashion for about an hour, although it does give Reynolds the opportunity to break the fourth wall with regular hilarity.
The plot would also fail any kind of forensic examination, which is a shame – it would have been nice if the writers had put as much thought into the story as they did the huge number of inventive cusses and insults.
But the movie is a winner because it achieves what it sets out to do, and that is to be the ideal Deadpool movie for the character’s fans. It may be at the expense of winning over a broader audience – and you can knock a star or two off this review if you count yourself in that category – but for the rest of us, this swear-tastic super-outing is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.