If there was any movie this year that had the potential to be my Phantom Menace, it was Deadpool. I have been waiting for this film in one form or another for the better part of a decade, that time made especially agonizing by the incredibly talented Ryan Reynolds’ series of flops. It’s been a frustrating experience of studio ignorance and random delays getting to the point where the Van Wilder star can finally bring us his passion project about The Merc With A Mouth, but we made it! The only question now is if Reynolds and first time director Tim Miller managed to actually pull a good film out of this manic, and subversive character.
After what might be the funniest opening credits sequence ever put in a film, we’re introduced to Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), who is currently knee deep in a mission. As he explains to us himself, he’s tracking down a certain douchebag by the name of Ajax (Ed Skrein) who not only turned him into a mutant, but has kidnapped his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). A few dismembered limbs and brain matter aside, seems like standard superhero stuff right? Well, that’s for us to decide, as Deadpool takes us through the whole haunting story of his deformation and re-birth. These flashbacks run parallel to his pursuit of Ajax, in which he finds reluctant allies in X-Men members Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).
From the moment this movie starts, a sheer force of electric comedic energy pulses through the audience and never stops surging until the movie literally cannot run any longer. Sure, the basic beats of this story are somewhat normal procedure for a superhero origin story, but they’ve never been executed quite like this. In a way, this is two different movies. One is a zany Warner Brothers cartoon dominated by Reynolds’ utter commitment to giving us the most exact translation of the comic books that he possibly can. The other is both a deeply romantic and often tragic tale of how Wade Wilson was driven to the point of such madness that he’s realized that his own world is just a movie. One might think that these tones clash, and frankly, they do, but that’s kind of the point. It would be immensely difficult to introduce this gonzo character to audiences without something to really ground him, which the flashbacks do in spades. Breaking it up into these segments was perhaps the wisest decision made in this narrative, as it doesn’t exhaust the audience with either side of this wild story.
It’s a sentiment that is going to be beat into the ground very soon, but it could not be emphasized enough how much Ryan Reynolds utterly embodies this character. It’s a role that not only spotlights the best elements of the silly, snarky side of his personality, but also gives him a lot of moments to show off how dynamic an actor he really is. This particularly comes out in his scenes as the hideously scared Wade, who’s utter shame at his appearance essentially forces him into that mask. He’s a guy who masks his pain and desperation with humor, and that’s the part that a lesser actor would not have brought across. Morena Baccarin is also fantastic, her wonderfully natural chemistry with Reynolds making a love story that could have been a burden both memorable and easy to invest in. Skrein has the perfect amount of punchable arrogance to make the slightly under-written Ajax memorable, while Kapicic and Hildebrand do a wonderful job at keeping one of the film’s toes in the X-Men universe. At worst, some characters seem a bit underused, especially TJ Miller’s Weasel, who is also very charming.
For a directorial debut, visual effects mastermind Tim Miller (who helped create the amazing opening credits for David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) does a solid job. It certainly helps that the screenplay but Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is so sharp, but he steers the ship well. He does have a slightly Zach Snyder-ish fixation with slow motion though, which takes some of the energy out the beautifully gory action sequences. The only time the storytelling takes a bit of a dip is in the climax. The location and set-up feel generic compared to the rest of the film, and there are some special effects that really start to show off just how low of a budget the film was saddled with.
While Deadpool certainly does do a little posturing in it’s storytelling to ultimately end up in the same place many superhero films do, it’s also monumentally entertaining. I do not remember the last time I have laughed so hard in a comedy, and been so impressed by the translation of a character from comic to film. It’s a movie that sticks it’s long, red tongue out at other superhero movies exactly at the time when audiences are starting to do the same, and breaks into the upper echelon of the genre as a result. It’s been a long, winding road to get here, but it has created a comedy that I suspect that people will laugh at and be influenced by for much longer. Ryan, you magnificent bastard, you did it.