Moviegoers whose comic book knowledge is informed primarily by what’s put on the big screen probably don’t realize that Deadpool is already a hit. The character has cult status in the superhero world, as demonstrated by the dozens of cosplayers dressed as Marvel’s mouthy misanthrope at any given convention. In fact, there was a entire row of cosplayers at last week’s advanced screening in Toronto, and while the uninitiated may have been a little wary of this rowdy bunch at first, the entire theatre soon understood the source of this fandom. Deadpool is an obnoxious, unapologetic, raunchy good time.
If you’ve been living in basement completely cut off from the outside world these past few months, you’ve probably only seen a few ads for Deadpool. The marketing has been relentless, fortunately it’s also been good and more importantly, has painted a very accurate picture of what the film is. Of course I’m not referring to the posters that intentionally misrepresented it at as romantic Valentine’s Day date movie, though the love story does play a prominent part. I’m talking about the ads where Deadpool addresses the audience in between chopping bad guys to bits, which is what most of the movie is. He’s basically Ferris Bueller meets The Punisher.
Like the character himself, the marketing is almost too much, walking the line between annoying and amusing. Deadpool is like one of those friends who is always on, and even if they get on your nerves at times, it’s worth it for all the entertainment you get in between wanting to punch them in the face. He’s supposed to be a little irritating, but thanks to a good script from the team behind Zombieland and Ryan Reynolds’ performance you still like him. It’s all one big guilty pleasure. The jokes are immature but they work in the context of these elaborate, violent action set pieces.
At a time when it feels like every other movie is a superhero movie, Deadpool pulls out all the stops to set itself apart. The most obvious difference is its hard R-rating status, which it revels in every chance it gets (this guy fucks). The whole breaking the fourth wall motif also lets the character acknowledge any cliches or tropes before we can. When you’re thinking “man, I guess the only X-Men member they could afford was Colossus,” he says it. This isn’t just a universe where the X-Men team exists, but the X-Men movies as well, as jokes are made about Hugh Jackman and other cast members. Nobody is safe, there are even several references to that time DC tried to build a franchise around Reynolds as Green Lantern.
While Reynolds’ face is covered for most of the film, his ability as a physical comedian shows through the suit with his recognizable mannerisms. He’s such a dominating presence in the entire movie that there isn’t much room left for any of the supporting characters to really shine. The love interest (Morena Baccarin) and villain (Ed Skrein) both fulfill their purposes but are not particularly memorable. In a normal superhero movie, TJ Miller’s character (who’s not much more than an acquaintance of Deadpool’s) would be the comic relief, but when your lead is Van Wilder with a sword then he becomes redundant. I usually like Miller, but seeing him basically play himself here took me out of it. When he sees the maimed face under Deadpool’s mask of course he subjects him to a series of “you look like…” jokes that were most likely written by Miller himself. I can’t help but wonder how bad the ones were that didn’t make the cut.
You can find aspects of Deadpool in countless other comic book characters. He has the warpath of The Punisher, the weapons of Blade, the face of Spawn (under the mask), and if you were to read the original comics of The Mask, you’d find that they were actually quite similar in tone and levels of violence. Meta humour is used often in comics but we haven’t seen it on screen in a superhero movie quite like this before. It works well, and the extremes with which it pushes the envelope of good taste makes Kick Ass look like Sky High.
Deadpool is many things. It’s an origin story, it’s a love story, it’s horrific at times but also hilarious. Hopefully he’ll liven up some of 20th Century Fox’s future X-Men instalments. Either way, it looks like Ryan Reynolds has finally found a hero that will stick.