Deadpool is a 2016 comedy superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Tim Miller. A former special forces operative working as a mercenary in New York City, Wade Wilson is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Unwilling to put his fiancé Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) through the pain of watching him waste away, Wade undergoes torturous experimentation provided by a shadowy organization in an attempt to awaken any dormant mutant abilities in his genetics. The experiments work, giving him a healing ability that makes him nearly immortal, but he is hideously disfigured in the process. Left for dead after the destruction of the lab, Wade becomes Deadpool, his costumed alter-ego. He begins a crusade to track down those responsible for his hideous transformation so that he can reverse the effects and reunite with his beloved once again.
It feels unusual to explain Deadpool in this straightforward of a manner, but it does highlight the biggest weakness I found with the movie: the plot is rather formulaic. I still enjoyed it just fine, but it is telling to me of how often movies insist on injecting romantic elements into adaptations. While I am aware of his unusual relationship with Death in the comics, and that he got married within the last few years (though I haven’t read it yet), throughout much of his ongoing storylines his disfigured appearance and crazy behaviour typically keep any romantic fixations further than a ten-foot pole.
Despite this nit-picky criticism, these elements did help to give some humanity to Deadpool, who otherwise might have been more alienating to the wider movie-going audience. It offered a good balance to his more over-the-top antics by grounding him to something easy to relate to, while at the same time giving him a more personal, even selfish, motivation that felt true to the character. His relationship with Vanessa is well established as very physical, which justifies his anxiety over his appearance. I wouldn’t have asked for a Deadpool love story, but this was a great way to do one.
Having been a fan of Deadpool comics for several years now, I was going into the movie with a lot of mixed feelings. While I’ve read some fantastic stories that still manage to incorporate his penchant for pop culture references and breaking of the fourth wall, Deadpool is also a character who is easy write lazily, and I was concerned that the humour would come off as more forced. Despite a few bumps in the road in the start for me, the opening title crawl was enough to put my concerns to rest as it lampooned the cast, demonstrating a level of self-awareness that continued throughout.
References to pop culture, other X-Men films, and the current boom of superhero movies populate the film aplenty, but its best humour comes from Deadpool’s general crudeness and playful nature with the world. What helps to make it work so well is that everyone around him, for the most part, is serious. The villain and his associates pose a real threat and hardly act funny at all, allowing Deadpool to effectively play the foil in these situations.
Reynolds does a great job bringing the merc with the mouth to life, easily providing the best voice for the character I’ve heard. You can tell that he has a lot of fun playing him too, and the energy he brings to the role is a big part of what makes it work so well. The supporting cast is strong as well, with many familiar faces from the comics being featured or making an appearance. The R-rated action is on point as well, reveling in over-the-top violence in a way most superhero films cannot.
I may have sounded a little critical, but I really love this film. Despite being formulaic as a movie, they told something more unique for a Deadpool story, which I appreciated. It was also great to see the studio take such a big risk with this movie by making it R-rated. If you’re looking for a change of pace in the superhero genre and love over-the-top violence and crude humour, look no further than Deadpool.