Next week, a new form of superhero (or should that be anti-hero?) arrives on our screens in the form of Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, “The Merc with a Mouth.”
He’s a mutated, indestructible, talkative assassin, with a penchant for using cuss words and sliding blades into his enemies with messy results. And he’s played by Ryan Reynolds.
But in his costume, he looks similar to the many other colourful, wisecracking critters that have graced our screens the last few years; even though it isn’t out yet, and we therefore can’t confirm the movie’s quality, it’s nonetheless an important marker in the superhero movie genre.
Why? What makes him important? And why should we as comic book movie fans welcome him to the fold? Well...
i. Fan Service.
Remember that awful few minutes that we had of him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009? Where he started out so promisingly un-mutated, but then disappeared to be replaced with this:
Yeah, we try to forget as well.
After his disastrous movie debut, the studio struggled to get things moving on an improved solo outing. After Robert Rodriguez joined and left the project, and director Tim Miller was tasked with bringing Deadpool back to the screen in 2011; but an unenthusiastic studio meant that the movie gathered dust...until that fateful day in July 2014, when CGI test footage was leaked online to a roar of approval. 20th Century Fox noticed the huge clamour for the movie, and kick-started the enterprise, announcing a release date, which is now only days away!
This shows how much more studios are willing to recognise the intelligence and the desires of fan groups, especially in the superhero genre. As Ryan Reynolds has repeatedly stated, it’s down to the noise that the fans made themselves that the movie has being made in the first place.
It is also an important piece in the reconfigured X-Men Cinematic Universe. When X-Men: First Class arrived in 2011, it was a welcomed entry into a franchise that fell from grace after X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
But it jumbled up the franchise's continuity even though it was restoring its pride.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) sought to correct these mistakes, and Deadpool is now part of this fresh start, in which Fox begins its own movie universe to rival those in the Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros. camps. Like these two giants, they are tailoring their films to establish a string of movies, set in the same world which are linked through the events in their stories and reference each other as well as upcoming projects.
Featuring the X-Men characters Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapičić ) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Deadpool is essentially a movie made to please the fans and is a testament to the surprising power of the audience's voice in the running of popular cinema.
ii. It’s beneficial to the genre's future.
Whilst the domination of Hollywood by caped crusaders continues through 2016, with Captain America: Civil War and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice around the corner, the trend is not to everyone’s tastes. There are naysayers who lament the long lists of upcoming projects. The influential Steven Spielberg predicted late last year that they will suffer an “implosion” soon.
Thankfully, the fictional nature of superheroes allows a great diversity; the stories contain magic, science, and alternate versions of the same character, which allows stories and icons to be reinvented in countless ways within the same or different universes.
For example, whilst Doctor Strange (soon to be portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) exists in the same universe as Iron Man (the one and only Robert Downey Jr), there is a contrast between the supernatural phenomena that Strange encounters and the tech-heavy villains that Tony Stark faces. Additionally, though we have seen similar iterations of a modern Spider-Man on screen, we have yet to see alternate versions such as the dark and mystical setting of a 1930’s New York in Spider-Man: Noir.
Pushing boundaries is essential to longevity and freshness, and Deadpool seems set to do that. He is certainly not part of the family friendly superhero movies of the current day. Although we have seen that before in the likes of Watchmen (2009) and Sin City (2005), these darker films have mainly disappeared from the prevalent trend, even though there is taste for it, which the Netflix series of Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones (2015) satisfy.
Violet and crude, Deadpool will most likely attract an older yet alternative audience by breaking this ongoing norm, as well as parodying the genre itself through his ability to break the fourth wall. This self-referential humour, which Reynolds has already displayed in the trailers with his quip relating to the unsuccessful Green Lantern (2011), will add a new meta-fictional aspect to superheroes movies.
iii. Greater Diversity!
Deadpool also branches into fresh discussions of sexuality. Remember this quip from the trailers?
And the prominent shot of his spandex-clad ass?
Though both parts are played for laughs, they could link to something larger- an aspect of Wade Wilson himself.
It is a given that the overwhelming majority of characters in these movies are heterosexual, and less traditional relationships are largely unacknowledged. However, though he seemed fairly typical in his comic book beginnings, with his strong attachment to the X: Woman Siryn, the co-creator of Deadpool Fabian Nicieza, acknowledged that his sexuality is far more fluid than initially thought.
Indeed, Deadpool director Tim Miller also confirmed his acceptance of this, and whilst it’s unclear as to whether we will see evidence of this in the soon-to-be-released movie, the possibility of seeing a pan sexual, central male character comes at an opportune and controversial time.
The word Pansexual is derived from the Greek prefix pan, meaning "all". The term is reflective of those who feel they are sexually/emotionally/spiritually capable of falling in love with all genders... they may also be attracted to those who identify as intersex, third-gender, androgynous, transsexual, or the many other sexual and gender identities. STOP-Homophobia.com
The recent discussions of gender, race and acceptance have boiled over in the Oscar Row, with legends such as Sir Ian McKellen adding their voices to the growing calls for an increased diversity in American cinema. The inclusion of Deadpool into this canon of costumed heroes can only be seen as a good thing.
From the trailer, it looks insanely action packed and hilarious.
So go watch it again, and bask in all the goodness.