I’m not sure where I fit on the spectrum of Deadpool knowledge, but it’s probably somewhere between “Who?” and “That’s the guy that fights Wolverine at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” As you can probably guess, I’m not a comic book reader, so it was kind of fun to listen to all of the fan boys rip apart the portrayal of Deadpool to shreds with their adamantium claws. From what I could tell at the time, the character had become entirely unrecognizable from the comics because he been so watered down due to the PG-13 rating and his backstory had been completely changed. To do the character justice, it required the producers to allow for no less than an ‘R’ rating, and they needed writers who could amp up the sarcasm and pop-culture references to 11. Well, it took them over six years to make it happen, but 20th Century Fox and Marvel heard the fans loud and clear, producing a Deadpool film that was as filthy, foul-mouthed, violent, and referential as everyone was hoping him to be.
But it wasn’t just the studios that needed (or wanted) to redeem themselves for the apparent train wreck that nearly ruined the character for non-comic fans like me. Ryan Reynolds has been very vocal about his love for the character, and though it wasn’t necessarily his fault that Deadpool didn’t live up to what fans were expecting the first time, I’m sure he felt obligated to make up for participating in that version of the character. Which is why it’s a little bit of meta-fictional fun to see Reynolds reprise the role of Wade Wilson in this official reboot of the character, which basically forgets all about Wolverine (aside from some very funny references to the actor who gave birth to him) in order to explore his true origins. Unlike his first go-around, Reynolds is allowed to let loose without a care in the world — and it’s clear he’s having a grand ‘ole time showcasing his swagger in all its glory! Reynolds’s acting style has always been a little on the narcissistic and tempered side, with a hint of prince charming masking the sarcastic flavor of his personality, so to play Wade Wilson the way he’s meant to be played is to be living a dream come true, even as the story itself is so simple, it borders on non-existent.
The basic premise goes something like this: Wade Wilson (Reynolds), a street thug who gets paid to do very bad things to very bad people, learns he’s got some type of terminal cancer that’s spread to most of his vital organs. One day, he’s approached by some weasel in a suit (Jed Rees) who claims to have the technology to cure him by activating the dormant mutant genes that live within us all. Wade reluctantly agrees to the treatments, which pretty much amounts to torture by a pair of mutants: Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano). The mutant genes, which give him super regenerative powers — which sort of amounts to immortality — are eventually activated, but leave behind a nasty side effect, making his whole body look as if he was a victim of a raging fire. Disgusted and angry, Wade destroys the facility and is left for dead. But with the idea that Ajax (aka, Francis) knows how to reverse the side-effects, it becomes Wade’s mission to find him.
From what I’d seen of the trailers and what I’d read over the last year, coupled with the odd, but interesting marketing campaign, I had some idea of what to expect going into this movie. But it wasn’t until the opening credit sequence that I was sold on the humor that would infest the entire production. I knew Deadpool would occasionally break the fourth wall to speak to the audience, but what I didn’t know was that the other characters could hear him talking to us, confusing them to high heaven. I also knew there’d be a lot of references and jabs at the usual, easy pop culture targets, but at no time did I know they would go so deep into the meta-fictional side of things. From the jump, it was clear this wasn’t going to be your typical teeny-bopper attempt at cracking wise. This was going to be a smartly played incarnation that wouldn’t just force all of its jokes on us to look cool (at least, the majority of them — some unfortunately do land a little too hard). It was part of its DNA, a natural extension of a character that just doesn’t care.
The references range from self-referential to corny, but the best ones come when that fourth wall is broken, as when Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic) tells Deadpool he’s going to take him to see Professor X. Deadpool’s response? “McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing.” It’s a subtle, quick-witted wink at the X-Men franchise, as well as a statement to the audience that the world Deadpool lives in doesn’t just sit within the parameters of the movie. Wade Wilson borders on the edge of being a fanboy himself, an audience member who understands that this is, in fact, just a film, and it shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. There are also a couple of great moments that hearken back to other movies, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, that work because you sort of expect them, but at the same time, enjoy the nostalgia. When a film spends five minutes preparing for a scene that then doesn’t happen for the most inane of reasons — but makes all the sense in the world within the context of the movie itself — you know you’ve got something special.
But lest we forget the supporting cast, especially T.J. Miller as Wade’s best friend and bartender, Weasel, who’s basically put all of his money on Wade’s death in the Dead Pool he conducts with all of the other lowlife’s that frequent his establishment. He’s so low key, he almost acts as a ground to the overall insanity that surrounds him. But the highlight that turns everything on its head and, as Deadpool might say, makes this film a romance (or a romantic comedy), is Morena Baccarin as Wade’s girlfriend, Vanessa. Their chemistry works because, like the movie, they never take their relationship all that seriously. Both Vanessa and Wade are retches who fight over who’s had the worst life growing up, and are in it mostly for the sex. It’s that odd attraction that makes their relationship believable. There’s a true love hidden underneath the painful walls, which is actually what Deadpool tries to subtly hit you over the head with. We all wear masks because it’s hard to be vulnerable, or at least be seen as something less than perfect. But no matter how disgusting one may appear, when true love is involved, not even a Hugh Jackman mask is needed to keep that love from straying.
My Grade: A
Next week, I will be unable to see any films. Movie Mayhem will return the week of February 26, when I will review one of the following films: Eddie the Eagle, Triple 9 or God’s of Egypt.