THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Deadpool is the Bugs Bunny of the Marvel Universe. The character, affectionately known as “the merc with the mouth,” continually makes wisecracks and often breaks the fourth wall to address the reader directly. The movie Deadpool, directed by Tim Miller, remains faithful to this quality, somehow managing to be both a good superhero movie and a good parody of one.
Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces operative who now makes a living as a mercenary for hire. He's in a happy relationship with a former hooker, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), but soon after they become engaged, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. One day, a shady man approaches him, offering some kind of miracle cure. Desperately wanting to live so that he can continue his relationship, Wade takes the man up on the offer. He ends up strapped to a table, where a demented doctor named Ajax (Ed Skrein) reveals that something far different than cancer treatment is on the docket. Wade is subjected to inhumane treatment that causes him to mutate into a person who can heal himself when injured and who does not feel pain. After escaping the laboratory, he puts on a red costume to seek vengeance against Ajax, in part because the procedure has facially disfigured him so badly that it can never be reversed. Meanwhile, two of the X-Men, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), seek to reign him in so that he can join them at the X-Men Academy and learn how to use his newly-acquired powers for good.
Deadpool is an origin story that plays around with the time frame. The film opens with Deadpool confronting Ajax and his goons on a highway overpass, then flashes back and forth between the story of Wade's pre-Deadpool life and his current mission of revenge. This is not a typical approach in a picture of this sort; however it is one that helps us understand that Deadpool will not be a conventional Marvel adventure.
Both the biggest strength and the biggest weakness of the film are its hero's wisecracking ways. He is chronically incapable of silence, feeling a compulsive need to self-referentially comment on everything. Often times, Deadpool riffs on the cliches and conventions of superhero lore. That's very funny, and some of his more profane remarks are, as well. Other times, it feels like the character is throwing in pop culture references every few seconds just for the heck of it. (A Cocoon reference? Really?) That occasionally gets a slight bit grating. In other words, when a character is continually sarcastic, the jokes can go either way. Fortunately, there are more here that hit the target than miss. When they miss, though, they feel either distractingly over-scripted or weakly improvised.
Ryan Reynolds has been trying to get a Deadpool movie going for years, and it's clear to see why he wants to play this character so much. Early in his career, Reynolds was stereotyped as a smartass who continually spat out sarcastic one liners and vulgar jokes in poor comedies like Van Wilder. With Deadpool, he has a much more carefully-constructed showcase for his comedic skills. Even when his face is hidden behind a mask, Reynolds manages to bring a sense of mirth to the role that proves infectious. In fact, he's even funnier as Deadpool than he is as Wade Wilson. The costume, it seems, is incredibly liberating.
Deadpool is absolutely an R-rated movie. It is filled with graphic bloody violence, profanity, and sexual references. This ain't no Ant-Man. The approach works as a piece of comedy, but moreover, it's a really clever and fun twist on what we normally expect from superhero tales. So many of Marvel's movies, while good, feel kind of the same. This one feels very different because it has an anarchic spirit and it takes nothing whatsoever seriously. Even the action, which is well-staged, has a humorous slant. The story balances out all the mayhem with an unexpectedly sweet subplot involving Wade's fear of losing Vanessa following his transformation. The fact that he has to endure so much hardship makes it more easily understandable that he no longer wants to play by the rules of society, or of hero-dom itself.
On the other hand, as a villain, Ajax is pretty weak. He's not especially memorable, and the details behind his plan are never explored to their fullest. He's mainly a Generic Bad Guy that Deadpool can eventually exact gruesome revenge upon. The stakes would have felt substantially higher with a nemesis who's as three-dimensional as the hero. That said, every superhero movie inherently must start with an origin story, and there's a lot of room in this series for potential growth, both in where Deadpool goes and in the evildoers he takes on.
If the filmmakers follow through on that potential, this could prove to be one of the most energetic, bizarre, and satisfying franchises of modern times. Deadpool takes pride in its own hyperactive nature, as well as in its envelope-pushing comedic style. Filled with clever action sequences and an often biting wit, the movie is just what superhero cinema needs. It's a shot of adrenaline directly into the Marvel nervous system.
( out of four)
Deadpool is rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.
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