There’s a point in Deadpool where I legitimately wonder how much longer Ryan Reynolds can get away with sledging Fox, Marvel Entertainment or Wolverine. Then I remember, this is the Deadpool film fans of the foul-mouthed, self-deprecating, candid, uncompromising ‘merc-with-a-mouth’ deserve.
From the abdomen-crunchingly funny opening to the credits the film makes no attempt to take itself seriously and whilst the plot is sometimes transparent, the comedic element is where Deadpool hits home. That’s not to say the film is without staying power; it carries enough narrative to keep audiences entertained. Superhero movies, particularly those from Marvel, are often said to revolve around cookie-cutter plotlines of good vs. evil with occasional moral quandaries thrown in to challenge the long-standing legacies of its heroes. Deadpool takes these plot devices and literally severs their heads in an attempt to dispose of Marvel’s time honoured formula. Deadpool is an unforgiving assault on the senses and does not shy away from shock value.
In the same universe (maybe not cinematically, but certainly from a production standpoint) as Iron Man, Captain America and Spiderman, watching dismembered body parts fly across screen while ‘Mr Pool’ laughs sadistically at his handiwork is an almost refreshing change. Whilst Deadpool is a far cry from his X-Men brethren, he gives both the film and, to some extent, the Marvel universe a much more believable and realistic view point.
For Ryan Reynolds this is a role he was most certainly born to portray. In the same way Hugh Jackman brings an animalistic intensity to Wolverine, Reynolds brings years of comedic experience to Deadpool which perfectly juxtaposes the joviality of the character with his often sociopathic behaviour. Reynolds’ seemingly ad-libbed one liners and self-awareness fit with Deadpool’s tradition of breaking the fourth wall and don’t seem at all out of place within the context of the film. Constant references to popular culture entice and engage viewers, but can be lost on those not familiar with them. Deadpool leaves nothing sacred and revels in poking fun at Hugh Jackman, Wolverine and even slates the Marvel franchise.
Viewers will be pleasantly surprised with other admirable casting decisions. One of the strongest, most welcome sights to Deadpool was Marvel’s choice of naturally proportioned female actors. When Marvel has such a diverse fan base, it’s encouraging to see the makings of a positive body image message in superhero cinema. Despite their limited screen time, Gina Carano’s and Brianna Hildebrand’s performances as Angel Dust and Negasonic Teenage Warhead respectively were carried well and avoided becoming clichés in an already heavily-stereotyped genre. Deadpool’s verbal reference to Hildebrand’s initial appearance as a moody, teenage brat capable of only two possible responses is as hilarious as it is honest. Morena Baccarin’s portrayal of Vanessa Carlyle could be mistaken for an overly sexualised, two-dimensional damsel were it not for, in true Deadpool style, her recognition of such tropes. While she could have benefited from more screen time to develop Carlyle, Baccarin brings zest to the role. In a line late in the film she states “I’ve played a lot of roles, damsel in distress ain’t one of them”, possibly a nod to her self-reliant, siren character Inara in Firefly. Perhaps the racial stereotyping of Karan Soni’s character ‘Dopinder’ is a little bit ‘Short Circuit’, circa 1988, but this can be forgiven considering Deadpool is set in a fictional Marvel universe where stereotypes and idiosyncrasies are played upon and enhanced to create notable characters.
In all, Deadpool probably benefited from the incredible amount of production delay, rewrites and uncertainty it experienced since the character’s ill-fated first appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Strong direction by Tim Miller, and a standout performance from Reynolds have delivered the movie long-time fans of the character have yearned for. While is sacrifices substantial plot for character development and comedy, Deadpool does not leave viewers wanting (except for more) nor does it disappoint. Laughs, adrenaline and pop culture references are apparent right up to the very end of the movie, where those who are patient enough (and old enough) to sit through the credits might recognise the reference to a popular 80s ‘coming of age’ movie. Hopefully audiences will not have to wait for another 7 odd X-Men films (nor listen to Ryan Reynolds describe fondling a certain clawed-character’s genitalia to get his own film) for Deadpool 2.