REVIEW: Deadpool (2016)

The Merc with a Mouth finally gets his R-rated movie extravaganza. Oscar gives us his verdict. 

Ah, Deadpool. Eleven years in the making and three months of brilliant marketing has reached a crescendo in one crazy, fourth wall-breaking romantic action comedy with the trappings of a superhero movie. It’s as bloody and foul-mouthed as you could hope from a Deadpool movie. To say this thing breaks the rules of standard comic fare is an understatement, as it crisscrosses into almost every genre possible to deliver a very fun ride.

One night, mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) meets Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin) at a local bar. They fall in love and, after a year, he proposes to her, only to find out that he has terminal cancer. Wade is offered an experimental cure, but he rebuffs the shady recruiter (Jed Rees). Desperate to live, he reconsiders and leaves Vanessa to undergo the procedure. He is injected with a special serum by Ajax/Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein) and tortured for days by Angel Dust (Gina Carano) in order to trigger a mutation. Eventually, a healing factor that removes his cancer is triggered, but it severely disfigures his entire body in the process. Wade escapes, but being unable to tell Vanessa the truth, he moves into the home of an elderly blind woman named Al (Leslie Uggams). With the advice of his best friend, Weasel, he becomes a masked vigilante named “Deadpool,” and begins hunting down Francis and dismantling his organisation. His work doesn’t go unnoticed when X-Men Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) confront Deadpool and try to convince him to join their team, just as he has Francis cornered. It doesn’t go over so well.

The acting ranges from solid to exceptional throughout. Reynolds IS Deadpool, as he nails the character’s sardonic comic timing, and we’re on his side because there are lines he refuses to cross. Baccarin is earnest, affecting and likable as Vanessa, matching Reynolds’ snarkiness to a a tee. Skrein and Carano are thin on personality as far as villains go, with only the former leaving an impression, but they serve their respective purposes well. Hildebrand has a sharp tongue and snark to rival Reynolds, effectively taking the piss out of Deadpool’s own piss-taking, and Kapičić nails the morally-righteous boyscout Colossus and serves as the perfect straightman for the talky merc. T.J. Miller steals the show as the seedy bartender Weasel, fitting the role perfectly and bouncing nicely off Reynolds, and even Uggams develops a snarky and believable relationship with his character.

Tim Miller does a fine job as a first-time director, bringing together a solid blend of genres that few helmers in their prime could pull-off. The humour is very meta and self-referential, and it is lewd and dirty in places, but it isn’t tactless about it. It’s a bit like Robin Williams as the Genie making 90s pop culture references in Disney’s Aladdin, but the R-rated equivalent of that. There aren’t many movies that are self-aware enough to know what kind of movie they are, and what studio they belong to, but this film does. They insert just about every Ryan Reynolds reference they can think of, from sexiest man alive to the heavily-panned iteration of “Deadpool” in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as well as a well-timed jab at Green Lantern. Deadpool himself provides the lion’s share of the jokes, and on the whole, he carries the audience’s investment. Right from the opening credits, there were laughs from the crowd; the unconventional violence, profanity and self-deprecation goes all-out and sets itself at odds with the superhero genre as a whole. While there are no doubt other comedies or action films that are raunchier, more violent and profane, Deadpool has the distinction of feeling the most fresh in what it does due to that meta juxtaposition.

Like Batman Begins, the chronology jumps around to show the origins of the character, interspersed with incredibly well-shot Deadpool action sequences. The plot itself is very straightforward – you could pin down a lot of the superhero origin beats and clichès, but the film is so cleverly executed that you recognise when its using these tropes for comedic purposes. It knows when to be funny and when to be serious. Effects-wise, it’s adequate enough, with the best being the metallic look of Colossus and Deadpool’s cartoonishly-expressive white eyes. It’s done in the style of the widened and emotive eyes of Deadpool in the comics, and they nailed it. The action is intense, and they get creative with the ways our lead is able to cut-up bad guys, and while the blood spurts were more often than not CGI, they were still creatively executed. It’s well-shot, it’s visually-arresting, and there’s enough variety in each set-piece to keep things alive. Junkie XL provides an almost stereotypically gritty and urban score that blends marvellously with a healthy sampling of pop music, most of which will have already been heard in the trailers, and both extremes are fine-tuned to suit the story beats of the movie.

In contrast to a lot of the romances in this genre, the relationship between Wade and Vanessa is surprisingly engaging, with strong chemistry and emotional resonance. There is a clever line from Wade when he says to her, “My crazy and your crazy fit together like pieces of a jigsaw,” and that is by far what makes them standout as a comic book pairing. It’s very fitting that, in addition to all the various ways that the film pushes the superhero movie envelope, having a surprisingly believable and enjoyable romance is one of its strengths and, in my opinion, elevates an already-strong script.

I’m not a Deadpool comic reader, but knowing that it is a faithful translation of the character, his story and personality impressed me. For an unkillable human cartoon in the vein of The Mask and Freakazoid, it’s impressive how fun and engaging it all is, especially in how much you root for such an asinine character. As a passion project for Mr. Reynolds, I congratulate him for seeing his dream come to life. As for the future, who can say? Personally, I’m game for another eHarmony date with destiny.

Oscar Stainton

Student of Ancient History at Royal Holloway University of London, Anglo-Mexican, die-hard Tolkien fan, lover of escapist fiction (be it in space or a world of knights and dragons), dino-maniac, and prospective writer.

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