Published on February 12th, 2016 | by Brad0
Deadpool – Movie Review
2016 is the year of the comic book movie. Sure, there’ve been a lot since Bryan Singer’s X-Men revitalised the genre after its mid-90s malaise, but this year we could potentially be seeing nine of them. Over the coming months we’ll be taking in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange for certain, and there are 2016 release dates still pencilled in for Gambit and The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham’s Treasure. This week, however, the year of the comic book movie kicks off with Deadpool.
For those who don’t know, Deadpool is based on probably the most popular Big Two comic character created in the last 25 years (along with DC’s own red-and-black clad villain-cum-comedic antihero). As a mutant created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza for their The New Mutants series, Deadpool falls under the umbrella of 20th Century Fox and their X-Men franchise. A previous attempt was made to bring the Merc with the Mouth to the big screen in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It didn’t go well. Of all the myriad disasters that film represents, its turning of Deadpool – again, arguably the most popular new character of the last 25 years – into nobody’s favourite Mortal Kombat character, Baraka, is largely thought of as the worst. Fortunately, you can’t shut Deadpool up for very long.
After playing Baraka-pool in the 2009 debacle, Ryan Reynolds’ comic book movie career took a turn for the slightly less abject but still pretty terrible when he played Hal Jordan in DC’s Green Lantern, the colossal failure which set DC’s plans for a cinematic universe back years. About the only positive he can take from it is that he met his future wife Blake Lively, who was even more miscast as Carol Ferris than he was as Hal Jordan. Despite his appearance as comic book movie poison, between those twin disasters and Blade: Trinity, Reynolds continued to lobby for Deadpool to be made. After a few years in development hell, it seemed like a losing battle until test footage of an action sequence was leaked in July 2014 to an overwhelmingly positive reception. Things came together pretty quickly after that, and now it’s in cinemas. So is it any good?
Deadpool is almost certainly the funniest comic book movie I’ve seen. In fact, I would be surprised if I see a funnier film in 2016. From the opening titles to the closing credits, you never really stop laughing. The majority of the humour is based in the dialogue, which is just the right kind of filthy, but it’s also got a really strong visual sense of humour, in its framing, its editing, and its visual effects. In that sense it reminds me of movies by Edgar Wright and Matthew Vaughn, probably the best two action-comedy directors currently working. Making his directorial debut, Tim Miller immediately marks himself out as one to watch. A lot of the credit also has to go to Ryan Reynolds, who completely makes amends for his earlier transgressions with one of the all-time great comic book movie performances. Off-kilter, hilarious and a total badass, Reynolds is vitally, irreplaceably Deadpool, in the same way that you can’t picture anyone else following J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark or Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. For me it’s the performance of (the largely underrated) Reynolds’ career to date.
The supporting cast are reasonably strong. Morena Baccarin gets to out-disgusting Reynolds at times as love interest Vanessa Carlyle, Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Andre Tricoteux (body) & Stefan Kapicic (voice)’s Colossus make a very funny double act – Colossus is the ultimate straight man – and TJ Miller and Leslie Uggams provide Reynolds with good comedic soundboards as Weasel and Blind Al, respectively. The villains – Ed Skrein as Ajax and Gina Carano as Angel Dust – are pretty dull, sadly, budget limitations meaning that all either of them can really do is hit people really hard. Angel Dust is largely silent muscle for Ajax, and Carano has the presence to carry that off pretty effortlessly, but Skrein doesn’t have the chops to make Ajax remotely memorable. After poorly-received performances in Game of Thrones and The Transporter: Refuelled before this, I feel like Skrein’s career will probably peter out from here.
In addition to its lacklustre villains, Deadpool is held back by, once you get past the screwball humour, how completely conventional its plot is. This isn’t to say that it needed, say, Grant Morrison levels of intricacy and diversion from normal plotting, but for a film which spends so long mocking superhero movies, it never actually moves beyond the confines of a superhero origin movie. With a character like Deadpool, where you have the opportunity to subvert the superhero origin formula through his own awareness that he’s the lead character in a superhero origin movie, the fact that instead the filmmakers choose to make fun of the tropes whilst consistently adhering to them feels like a wasted opportunity. In the case of Deadpool, making fun of the mould isn’t enough; it really needed to break it.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t see Deadpool; you really should. Its faults can be glossed over by what a damn good time it is to watch. It’s howlingly funny, in a way that’s only improved by being part of an audience who are all laughing just as much as you are. In the year of the comic book movie, it was on Deadpool to lay down the gauntlet; everyone else now has a tough act to follow.