Director - Tom Miller
Writer - Paul Wernwick, Rhet Rheese
Starring - Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein
Seemingly, for the first time since the wonderful Kick-Ass, we have been rewarded with a superhero film not completely obsessed with marketing itself towards a mass child audience. As such, Deadpool is a completely unleashed, fully adult comedy, currently demolishing the box office. Shattering February records and being dubbed by almost everybody as the film event of the year so far, it’s safe to say that Deadpool’s been a hit. Is it worthy of such high hype and praise? In short, yes - but it’s not without its faults.
Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a low-rent mercenary who roams the streets protecting young girls from potential predators. After a chance meeting with Vanessa (Baccarin), the two fall in love over the following year, and all looks great for Wilson. Unfortunately, true bliss never lasts long (as he tells us) and Wilson in turn is diagnosed with cancer. After being offered an alternative treatment by a shady fella nicknamed Mr.Smith, he reluctantly accepts. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a ruse, and as a result, he is ruthlessly experimented on, horrifically disfigured by the evil Francis Freeman (Skein), who prefers to go by the alias Ajax. After being gifted mutant powers through the experiment, Wilson escapes and adopts the name Deadpool, dedicating himself to hunting down and destroying Ajax’s operation, gaining his revenge, whilst trying to pluck up the courage to approach his ex.
This narrative is noticeably very vanilla and is pretty much your basic origin story. However, the execution of said narrative is anything but. This film doesn’t break the fourth wall; it tears it down, sands the bricks down to tiny pieces, and then scatters it across the Ocean. It even goes so far as to include a scene where the fourth wall is broken within a joke that already broke the fourth wall, prompting Deadpool to inquire as to what that would even be called. He also beautifully subverts the silly nature of film narration by talking directly to us, the audience. The character is well aware he is within a film and he embraces it; pushing the limits of on-screen reality Vs reality itself, and manages to skewer everything from pop culture, to other franchises - (there’s a very cheeky little Green Lantern joke hidden in the credits) - to the film itself. From the beginning of the ingeniously written opening credits, crediting the director as ‘some overpaid tool’ and the star as ‘God’s perfect idiot’, whilst gleefully mocking Hollywood’s obsession with caricatures, it is apparent that this is a film that refuses to take itself seriously. Funnily enough, I actually think these credits were my favourite jokes of the whole run time; it was a joke for those who understand the conventions of Hollywood.
This writing is, for the most part, absolutely spot on, and delightfully funny. Only problem is the writers seemed so surprised that they got the pass to make an adult comedy superhero film that they felt the need to really overkill the opening. I think we get more ‘fucks’ in the first five minutes than the rest of the film combined. It’s an example of ‘just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you have to continuously do it.’ They do eventually calm down and balance the script out, and most of the jokes work.
There are some truly great jokes hidden in here, most of which I won’t spoil for you. One great line though comes from Deadpool’s long-term friend, who quips that ‘I would go with you, but I don’t want to.’ Unfortunately, the writers seem to have a really Freudian obsession with genitals, as there are more dick jokes here than a room full of comedians named Richard. The jokes themselves range from ‘that’s pretty damn funny’ to ‘oh, again, great’. It works more often than not though, it has to be said.
Reynolds is also clearly having the time of his life here. He is dynamic, charming, charismatic and his comedic timing is spot on. He also clearly loves the addressing the audience directly, and has an absolute blast. This is hardly an Oscar worthy performance, but he does the job he needed to, and more so. The rest of the cast just tend to react to him, and this is almost a one-man show. Skrein is limited by the very boring and bland villain that he has to portray is possibly the film’s biggest issue. Superhero films are often judged by the quality of the antagonist, and this one is pretty lame. He has all the depth and personality of a sausage roll, and it means that the actual narrative of the story is largely drivel.
Here also is where we meet Deadpool’s biggest issue. Does being self-aware that your villain is a two dimensional caricature excuse it? Is the larger meta joke worth skewering any emotional depth? Does anybody who watched this remember or care about the supposedly traumatic scenes where he is transformed into Deadpool, or do we just walk out remembering dick jokes? It’s a fine line that the film treads, and whilst it mainly walks the right side, the loss of emotional depth does drive the story back. Great comedy, truly great comedy, will be driven by the plot itself. This unfortunately isn’t.
In terms of visual directing, this is a treat. The muted colour palette presents a very real world the likes of which we have never seen in a superhero movie. This is, surprisingly, more of a realistic aesthetic than even Nolan’s Dark Knight series, and was certainly not something I expected. The cinematography is great, everything looks fantastic, and the action sequences work primarily because they skewer the over-elaborate action films of the current generation. Everything, from the unnecessary twirling in slow-mo when Deadpool fires a gun, to the customary super-hero movie huge destruction at the end, feels like a giant laugh at Hollywood’s excessiveness.
Deadpool is a welcome shot in the arm for comic book movies, and, judging by the attendances, will hopefully pave the way for more hardcore comic book adaptations. Maybe we’ll finally get a true depiction of Batman sometime. Deadpool is witty, engaging and something different. Unfortunately, it is held back by a boring antagonist and by having the emotional depth of those swimming pools you put toddlers in during summer so you can drink a martini and catch rays. It’s fun, silly and a blast; but don’t expect to leave the cinema moved in anyway. In honesty, it never tries to do so. It also answers an age old question; there is indeed such a thing as too many dick jokes.