Directed by: Tim Miller
Written by: Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić
(Originally written for Youtube Feb 13 2016)
I’ll be the first to admit my expectations for Deadpool were pretty low. FOX blew their chance with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and past that I felt that the time had passed for Deadpool’s brand of random lulz-y sense of humor and violence for shock-value’s sake. I’m glad to say that I was wrong. Deadpool is an incredibly fun movie, one that if you’ve thought about seeing at least once since its announcement, that you should probably see; and the first non-Marvel produced Superhero movie since Kick-Ass that really feels like its heart is in the right place.
That isn’t to say Deadpool is without its flaws. In fact, there are quite a few, and some pretty big ones. The film’s structure is janked up, starting in medias res, with Deadpool’s origin story presented as a series of flashbacks. This would be fine if the flashbacks had any correlation with the moment in the present they were paired with, but they don’t; and are squeezed in pretty randomly near the beginning because Deadpool isn’t a Batman or a Spider-Man, and people who haven’t picked up his comics would probably like some explanation for this character. Aside from pacing, the flashbacks also interfere with the film’s tone, taking it from irreverent superhero parody to an actually kind-of sweet love story, and then a legitimately disturbing prolonged torture sequence; that almost feel like they belong in their own separate origin style prequel.
Where the flashbacks are concerned with Deadpool’s transformation from handsome mercenary who seems to only help decent people into hideously mutated anti-hero by way of an experimental cancer treatment that ends up being a mutant factory; the present story follows Deadpool on his two-pronged quest for vengeance against the people who caused his transformation and to reconnect with the woman he left because of his cancer. As I said, there’s some major tonal imbalance here, and where the flashback sequences carry quite a bit of pathos, the revenge plot feels thin and trite.
The movie is carried almost entirely by its cast, with Ryan Reynolds as the sun the rest of the project revolves around. With all due credit to the director and writers, with a sparse budget for a major studio super-film, Deadpool is a clear labor of love for Reynolds, whose been pushing for this movie to be made for over a decade at this point, and to say he carries the whole thing is an understatement. He really is the only man in this point-and-time who could have brought Deadpool to live-action, and his performance is best on-screen translation of a superhero this side of RDJ’s Tony Stark.
The rest of the cast aren’t slouching either, although their not given anywhere near enough to work with compared to Reynolds. TJ Miller, who plays Deadpool’s best friend and Bartender comes close to being the only person on the cast who can really keep up with the merc with a mouth. Morena Baccarin, who plays the love interest, Vanessa, would be, I dare say, comparable to Helena Bottam Carter in Fight Club; but also isn’t given that extra push needed to make her likable for reasons other than because Deadpool seems to like her so much. Stefan Kapičić’s Colossus, with his exaggerated accent and cartoonish CGI gave me flashbacks to Team Fortress 2’s Heavy; and Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead is there mainly to be the butt of a few predictable teen jokes instead of a real character. I’d mention more of the villains here if there was anything to really say about them…I don’t think one of them was even named.
As for Deadpool’s biggest selling point, his humor, well, it’s hit or miss. The film’s best sequence is its first, which includes a fourth-wall breaking and self-deprecating opening credits; and also the most creative and breakneck action set-piece. That first scene made for an outstanding proof-of-concept years ago when it first leaked; and still really holds up. Unfortunately, Deadpool fails to reach that peak of quality over the remaining run-time. The action sequences get less inspired as the movie goes on, and the humor is, well, everyone is bound to get a few chuckles. Deadpool’s preferred pace of joke-telling is machine-gun, and runs the gamut of inter-textual references to Ryan Reynold’s previous superhero film roles, digs against FOX and the film’s own budget, and tons of wise-cracks and gross out humor that checks off all the boxes from sex to violence.
Deadpool has structural issues, and uneven tone, underutilized characters, a hit-or-miss script, and a generally sophomoric sense of humor…but is just so damned earnest about itself that I don’t think anyone can help but give it the benefit of the doubt and find a reason to laugh along. It’s the movie Deadpool probably deserves, and everyone who made it seemed to really lean into what makes the character appealing to his sizable, and sure-to-grow comics fanbase. If you’re looking for a game-changer, this isn’t one; but if you’re in the mood to have some fun with a movie where people dress up like superheroes and take nothing seriously, then you’ll find a good time with Deadpool.