This violent, foul-mouthed action comedy is the most entertaining superhero film we've seen in years.
February 16, 2016
Another week, another film, another hero clad in spandex. For the past decade and a half, Hollywood has churned out an unrelenting stream of superhero movies. Some, like Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight or Joss Whedon's first Avengers film, manage to rise above the pack. Others, like the laughably self-important Man of Steel or the disastrous new Fantastic Four, scrape the bottom of the barrel. The rest, for the most part, are merely okay. More to the point, almost all of them stick to the same predictable playbook in which everything is taken way, way too seriously.
That's where Deadpool promises to be different. This long awaited film about the popular Marvel antihero arrives in cinemas on the back of an absolutely ingenious marketing campaign, one that stresses to punters unfamiliar with the character that he is anything but your typical superhero. Decked out in red, wielding katanas and a big ass gun, Deadpool swears, cracks jokes and murders his enemies with glee. Not only that, but he knows he's in a movie, and frequently delivers his X-rated quips directly to the camera. Most importantly, he's entertaining. He doesn't mope about his dead parents, or whinge about how great power means great responsibility. In an era of increasingly reluctant and angst-riddled crusaders, he makes being a superhero look fun.
That's not to say that director Tim Miller has reinvented the wheel. The same familiar narrative formula is still very much at play here, even if the specifics are different. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a low-level mercenary whose life with his prostitute girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) seems doomed after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. A lifeline comes in the form of an offer from a shady organisation, who promise to make Wilson indestructible. Unfortunately, the process also leaves him horribly disfigured, looking roughly akin to – in his own words – "a testicle with teeth." And when the people behind his transformation inevitably betray him, he's left with no choice but to become the one thing he never thought he'd be: a hero.
So yeah, Deadpool isn't exactly the second coming of the genre. Luckily, it's also so relentlessly enjoyable that its flaws are easy to forgive. The script, by Zombieland co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is absolutely brimming with knowing, foul-mouthed humour – indeed, this is much more a rude, crude, fourth-wall breaking comedy than it is a standard action film. There are dick jokes and pop-culture gags aplenty, but the biggest laughs come from references to Deadpool's fellow superheroes. When a couple of ancillary X-Men try and convince Deadpool to meet with Professor X, he asks whether they mean James McAvoy or Patrick Stewart. The writers also lay mercilessly into the recent Green Lantern movie, which of course starred none other than their own film's leading man.
Frankly, it's hard to fathom that Reynolds ever wore another costume, since it feels like Deadpool is the role he was born to play. His performance is the other big reason the movie works as well as it does, his irreverent, snark-laden line delivery helping keep us on side with a protagonist whose behaviour is totally reprehensible. Not that you'd want him any other way. Hell, we'll take this nutcase over that bland boy scout Superman any day of the week.
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