I think by now everyone is familiar with Marvel character Deadpool (Wade Wilson), even if they're not too versed in the comic book mythology. His massively anticipated solo film, Deadpool, will be released 12th February 2016 and promises to bring a breath of fresh air to superhero genre films.
After being tossed around for a decade with the last six years spent trying to get the film into production, it's been a long but rewarding struggle for star Ryan Reynolds, director Tim Miller and the rest of the cast and crew to finally realise Deadpool on the big screen. Reynolds, who portrays the titular character, spoke at length to GQ recently, and the interview is well worth the read if you have the time.
Reynolds was first attached to the project back in 2005, production began on first drafts of the script in 2009 and Miller was brought on board in 2011. Even on a Hollywood timeline, it's been an uphill struggle. But with only five months left until release they've done what no-one thought would happen - made a movie that looks like it's going to pull off Deadpool, and Reynolds described the opportunity to do so a "dream come true".
"I made sure we marked [the first day of filming], too. Like, we just started rolling, and I was like, ‘No, no, hold on.’ We went in the other room and we huddled up: ‘We’re making this movie! We’ve been trying to get this movie made for six fucking years, and here we are. We’re doing it right now. Just remember this second. Just take a moment to be thankful for that.’ And then we all went out and just started shooting and dicking around and had some fun."
The film is being produced not by Marvel but by 20th Century Fox, and Deadpool isn't the only Marvel character that Fox currently holds the rights to. As well as the 'Merc with the Mouth' they also own the primary members of the X-Men team, the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer.
Though Fox has found success with their X-Men series, particularly the last instalment [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](tag:203942), which grossed over $748 million and received very good reviews, the Fantastic Four franchise has gone in the absolute opposite direction. This was more pertinent than ever with the recent Fantastic Four reboot film which underperformed at the box office and gained an absolute critical panning (not to mention wrecking the character of Doctor Doom).
Reynolds speculated on the performance of Fantastic Four in the GQ interview, and how Deadpool compares thematically.
"I think one of the reasons that Deadpool has gained a lot of momentum isn’t just that it’s funny or isn’t just that it’s rated R. The meta aspect is very important. So I think Deadpool’s coming along at the right time, because it’s also speaking to that generation and that group of people that have seen them all, seen all these comic-book films and enjoyed them all to varying degrees of success."
And he's right, the meta aspect is very important. If something is "meta" it means that it's a concept which is abstract from another concept from which it takes its source. For example, Deadpool is meta because he breaks the fourth wall and calls attention to his status as a comic book character, a trait which defines him. As a character he speaks to us from inside the universe and subverts the genre, mocking it and creating the basis for a lot of his humour. That, and the swearing and ultraviolence anyway. And by this point we've seen enough comic book superhero films that we've gotten used to, or at least understand the mechanics of, the genre.
The Deadpool movie could be 20th Century Fox’s response to their failed attempts to beat Marvel Studios. Despite the success of the X-Men film franchise Marvel still absolutely dominates the Hollywood superhero genre right now (though admittedly that may change when the DC Cinematic Universe starts gaining momentum next year).
The Deadpool Red Band trailer is three minutes of uncensored, violent, fourth-wall breaking, tongue-in-cheek mayhem and it looks like it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun. Deadpool's always been a bit of a parody figure, an anti-thesis to the serious, righteous and often stuffy figures of the likes of Captain America, Thor and Mr Fantastic. Given the current climate wherein we're faced with an over-saturation of superhero films coming at us left right and centre this could be a well needed subversion for the industry.
Just look at the success of the lighter and more humorous Marvel Cinematic Universe offering of Ant-Man, which released to a positive critical reception back in June. Though it didn't have as strong an opening weekend as other Marvel films, Ant-Man still performed really well at the box office - drawing $57 million on opening weekend - and it's currently overtaken both Captain America: The First Avenger and X-Men for overall profit.
"I think [Deadpool] is speaking to [the audience] as though the guy in that red suit is one of them, to some degree. It’s like there’s an element of, like, watching a DVD commentary by someone who’s got some pop-culture savvy and is kind of funny and a little obnoxious and is saying the things that you maybe wouldn’t say. It’s fun. That’s also why the film is budgeted the way it’s budgeted, is released the way it’s released, is allowed to be rated R, kind of all these things. Because for the studio, it’s actually relatively low-risk."
Though he's a fan favourite in the Marvel universe, Deadpool isn't technically a superhero. He's an anti-hero, and the climate is ripe for anti-heroes right now. Deadpool has a habit of traipsing into other character's comic books and subverting the underlying genre in the way that he does, and if he can do the same for the cinematic genre it's going to be really interesting to see how it develops from here on out.
Most importantly Deadpool is going to introduce more variety to the genre. Marvel attempted to inject humour into the Avengers franchise, but they achieved sporadic moments of comic relief rather than an overall lighter tone. Deadpool has no intention of taking itself seriously, and because of that it just might succeed.
And hey, if all else fails, at least we'll have Ryan Reynolds joking about masturbation whilst shooting bad guys.