I guess sometimes the second time is a charm.
Last time we checked in with Ryan Reynolds starring in a superhero movie it was back in 2011 with Green Lantern; the only good that came out of that movie was Reynolds’ marriage to his co-star Blake Lively and their (presumably) adorable daughter James. Green Lantern was otherwise pretty forgettable and Reynolds’ career noticeably cooled afterward. But 2016 is apparently the year of redemption for people who have previously starred in failed super hero movie –what’s up Ben Affleck – so Reynolds received a second chance to prove himself with Deadpool.
This is, of course, also the second time that Reynolds has played a version of Wade Wilson; he originally brought the character to life in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though without the disfigurement and red suit that would come once Wilson transitioned into Deadpool. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was kind of forgettable as well and Reynolds had a relatively small part. So there wasn’t a lot of proof that giving the Deadpool character his own movie was going to be a slam dunk. Reynolds has reportedly wanted to make a Deadpool movie for more than a decade, but it was a very long and slow road to making that a reality.
Given my meh reaction to both Green Lantern specifically and Ryan Reynolds generally, I can’t say that I was initially all that pumped about the idea of a Deadpool movie. I had no familiarity with the character at all; my comic book knowledge is passable at best and X-Men Origins: Wolverine made so little of an impression on me that I mistakenly remembered that Deadpool was Wolverine’s brother (that of course was actually Sabretooth, played by Live Schrieber. I have zero recollection of him even being in the movie). But other people were excited about Deadpool and the frequency in which it was discussed online slowly began to pique my interest. If people who know more about Deadpool had reason to be optimistic, I was going to defer to their good judgment. The marketing team behind Deadpool also ran an A+ campaign over the last few months. If nothing else, I was more predisposed to like Deadpool simply because its publicity made me laugh.
As I’ve written before, going to see super hero movies has become something of a slog as they have increasingly taken themselves way too seriously and neglect to insert any fun. I can “dark and broody” with the best of them, but with the frequency that they are churning out these Marvel and DC properties it’s getting exhausting to sit through them when there are few glimpses of joy. The movies of this genre that I’ve enjoyed most lately are the ones that have a little bit of fun along the way. Not everything has to be cast in gray tones and be so bleak. I will ride of die for the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, but that doesn’t mean I want every super hero movie to be cut from the same cloth. Variety is the spice of life – let’s mix it up a little.
Deadpool not only mixes it up, but it takes the whole superhero genre in new and tremendously fun directions. This is not a parody and it does not blow up the formula of these movies completely, but it is a film that follows the basic rules of superhero films with a very knowing wink and infused with a lot of insanity and hilarity along the way. Deadpool is a self-aware comic book movie that breaks the fourth wall and totally commits to its R-rating; it’s violent, funny, crude and absolutely glorious. I was 100% in during the hilarious opening credits.
Deadpool is the story of Wade Wilson, a mercenary who makes his money by doing bad things to bad people. He meets and falls in love with an escort Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and things are going pretty swimmingly until Wade gets sick. In an attempt to cure himself, he engages in some questionable experimental treatments run under false pretenses by Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein) which leave Wade disfigured and with new mutant abilities. Now christened Deadpool, he sets out to get revenge on the man who ruined his life, killing whoever has to be killed along the way.
That’s right – I said killed. Because unlike the PG-13 violence that largely populates this type of movie, Deadpool leaves very little doubt that its main character is leaving a path of dead bodies in his wake. There’s a lot of blood in Deadpool and the violence is ratcheted up a notch; this is probably the first superhero movie that I can remember where people are beheaded and otherwise mutilated. In some ways, Deadpool is the most honest of this genre because it doesn’t shy away from the consequences of all this mayhem. When Deadpool shoots a gun, he generally doesn’t miss.
Considering that the character Deadpool is known as “the merc with the mouth” it should come as no surprise that the film is full of his smart aleck observations. Deadpool is fully committed to the humor and the jokes fly as much as the bullets. Not all of these jokes land – there are definitely a few duds in the bunch where it feels like they are just trying too hard to be irreverent – but the ratio of jokes that do land is so high that you don’t really mind the occasional misstep. I’ll probably have to see Deadpool again simply because the audience was laughing so hard that I missed perhaps 10% of the dialogue. Deadpool hasn’t met a quip that he doesn’t like and a fair amount of the humor comes from in-jokes or references to comic book movie tropes. Deadpool will occasionally break the fourth wall and direct the audience directly; he’s aware that he’s in a movie that we’re watching. Reynolds has exactly the right personality for this character and his delivery is perfect. I could see Deadpool being more annoying or not working as well if portrayed by someone else, but Reynolds strikes just the right balance and can tone down the jokiness when it is necessary. Deadpool may poke some fun at the superhero genre, but it is done with affection. If people are expecting Deadpool to totally reinvent the wheel, they will be disappointed; the movie follows the general formula of an origin move without feeling formulaic. It checks the usual boxes, but just has a lot more fun in doing so.
The most frequent question that I’ve received from friends is about whether this movie is appropriate for kids. Of course every kid is different and parental preferences for what kids are exposed to varies, but I think that the short answer is no for anyone under the age of 13. After that, I think it is going to depend on your comfort level with some of the R-rated elements in the film. In addition to the violence, this is a film that has definitely taken advantage of the fuller vocabulary that an R rating grants them. There are the usual curse words, but also some more “colorfully original” insults as well. There is nudity – both male and female – and there is a sex scene montage that definitely explores positions and activities that may make for some awkward moments if viewed with your teenager. Frankly, I was expecting the sex and nudity to be much more graphic and prolific. There’s still enough to make parents aware of it, but it may be a little tamer than you’d expect from what you are reading online. Of course, I am not a parent and generally have a more liberal view on this stuff than most, so take this with the necessary grain of salt.
Some other quick thoughts:
- I saw the first non-Imax screening of Deadpool last night. Generally the theaters are pretty empty for Thursday screenings, but it was pretty close to capacity last night. Expect Deadpool to have a strong opening weekend.
- As stated, I have no prior allegiance to the Deadpool character or how well the film adapted the comics, but the guy walking out ahead of me said that this was everything that he could have wanted from a Deadpool movie. The audience also applauded when it was over, so I’m taking that as a de facto endorsement from those who actually have some skin in the game.
- There are in fact two post-credit scenes, so make sure you stay through all the way to the end.
- The musical choices in Deadpool are fantastic.
- Betty White liked the movie. What more do you need?
Deadpool is a superhero movie for people that are getting a little tired of the current superhero movie status quo. Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds do not take anything too seriously, yet still deliver a completely enjoyable super hero movie that just happens to have a very warped sense of humor. Deadpool doesn’t feel like a chore to watch – it’s fun, it’s simple and it knows that everyone is in on the joke. It completely exceeded my expectations and I just had a good time watching it. It’s coming out at the perfect time; I’m a little exhausted from my marathon consumption of heavy Oscar movies and the majority of other movies coming out right now are borderline unwatchable. Deadpool is the perfect antithesis to the winter blues and is proof that not all superhero movies have to be dour affairs. A good time was had by all.