I am so, so happy for Ryan Reynolds. Seriously, the guy has earned it. He’s tried so hard, so many times and after “Blade: Trinity” [for the record, I quite liked his turn as Hannibal King], “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “R.I.P.D.” and – shudder – “Green Lantern”, it’s an absolute delight to see him finally crack the genre he’s endured so much for over the years.
“Deadpool” is, quite simply, the perfect anti-hero movie. It would be a brilliant superhero action movie without the added touches which make it quintessentially Deadpool but once you add in the sardonic, fourth-wall busting, recursively metatextual nature of the character, it becomes a thing of unholy, foul-mouthed, violent beauty. Simultaneously fitting perfectly beside the existing Marvel Cinematic Universes (take your pick, Deadpool is clearly aware of all of them) and yet unlike anything Marvel have brought to the screen before, “Deadpool” gives the superhero genre a shot in the arm and a kick in the balls for good measure.
When Wade Wilson, a smart-mouthed mercenary with a heart of tarnished gold is diagnosed with late-stage terminal cancer just after proposing to his girlfriend, he reluctantly undergoes a procedure for a shadowy corporation who promise to cure him and release his genetic mutant potential. Brutalised and betrayed, Wade dons a mask, adopts the name Deadpool and heads out for revenge.
There’s no doubt “Deadpool” fits in to the “X-Men” universe, the question is – which one? It’s a question that Wade himself asks during the film, when told he’s going to see Professor X he asks whether its Stewart or McAvoy, complaining the timelines are impossible to keep track of. You can see his point. He’s also clearly aware of the other, larger MCU as well. There are numerous references to Reynolds’ previous comic book roles, and he’s not the only character who seems to have a snarky, ironic awareness that they’re in a movie.
Reynolds is simply perfect as the Merc with a Mouth – the role he was born to play [twice: once terribly and, this time, sublimely] and the rest of the casting, keying off his loveably unhinged performance is pretty damn good. Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) are great realisations of the characters in their own right and while they’re the only representatives of the X-Men to make an appearance [a fact which doesn’t go unnoticed by Deadpool] they successfully yet flexibly connect him to the wider superhero universe whilst retaining a necessary plausible deniability. “Firefly” fans will get to see more of Morena Baccarin than they ever dreamed they would as the film pushes the boundary of sex and nudity further than any other comic book movie has save, perhaps, “Sin City” [Mertmas won’t be allowed to watch this one for a good few years!]. It’s through Wade’s relationship with Vanessa that the movie delivers its most unexpected success: it has a real emotional core. Underpinning all the sass, sarcasm, blood, gore, violence, nudity and profanity, there genuinely is an unconventionally sweet and authentic romance.
Like nearly all superhero movies, though – especially but not exclusively Marvel ones – the film’s villain isn’t particularly well defined. Ed Skrein’s Ajax is another interchangeably generic foe there to hand out and take the beatings, which are usually delivered by Angel Dust, played by former MMA fighter Gina Carano who is perfectly serviceable in a role which requires little more than glowering and clobbering. The difference here is that there’s such an abundance of character in our hero that his persona spreads out to fill up any gaps, nooks and crannies of characterisation elsewhere.
Ironic to a degree that would make even Alanis Morissette reach for the dictionary, “Deadpool” is an early strong contender for best superhero movie of the year, despite the impressive roster of movies still to come. How the studio which made “Fantastic Four” managed to make this is little short of a miracle. Laugh out loud funny, sexy, romantic, violent, profane and insane, “Deadpool” is everything we hoped it would be and quite a few things we never even dared dream it could be. You thought Spider-Man’s MCU debut was going to be the biggest Marvel event this year? Think again.