Not quite compelling enough in terms of narrative significance and character depth, Deadpool captivates and surprises its audience by committing to the unique nature of its lead.
The spark for a Deadpool movie can be traced back to 2005 when Ryan Reynolds was introduced to the foul-mouthed, deranged, fourth-wall breaking mutant in a big screen project involving David S. Goyer. Shortly after that, Fox took over the management, and things have been going on-and-off for a long time. One day, one among the key personnel (Reynolds, director Tim Miller, and screenwriters Rhet Reese and Paul Wernick) decided to leak a test footage on the Internet, and boy, it made comic book fans go nuts. Under this positive publicity, Fox was, in a way, obliged to greenlight a live-action movie.
Though it was released in middle February, which is not a good time of the year for movies, Deadpool managed to impress both hardcore geeks and skeptical moviegoers with a self-realized and creative promotion campaign, notably its romantic Valentine’s Day poster and the emoji billboard with a skull, a turd smiley, and an L. The real life embodiment of Deadpool, Reynolds himself also took on social media platforms to gratify netizens as his tweets proved that the last ten years of commitment did not come to be taken for granted (Reynolds wasn’t much of a comic book fan, let alone a Deadpool fanatic, before 2005). We all know how the story went: from a humble budget of $58 million, Deadpool made nearly fourteen times of that. It was crowned the highest grossing R-rated superhero movie ever made and earned complete adoration from fans and surprisingly positive reviews from critics.
Helmed by the first time featured director Tim Miller, who was previously in charge of visual effects for video games and movies like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Thor: The Dark World, Deadpool takes on the exploits of Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth, The Regenerating Degenerate, the red-suited katana-wielding self-referencing Wade W. Wilson. He was created back in 1991 by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza in the trend of mimicking characters amongst publishers. In this case, Deadpool is usually said to be based on Deathstroke the Terminator (1980) from DC Comics, with similar names (Wade Wilson/Slade Wilson), outfits, weapons, abilities, and the occupation as a mercenary (though Pool also reminds comic fans of DC’s Plastic Man). The two only differences should be Deathstroke’s eye patch and their characteristics, as Slade is much more serious and gritty. Depicted by various writers and artists since then, Deadpool always maintains the spirit of a self-absorbed and spontaneous antihero, who constantly acknowledges the nature of the medium he resides in and proceeds to make fun of it.
If you have already seen the film, you should be impressed by the Honest-Trailers-style opening sequence. Then by means of flashbacks inserted between current events, it tells a story of Wade Winston Wilson, a former SO operative working as a mercenary in NYC. He meets a prostitute named Vanessa Carlyse (Morena Baccarin) and falls in love with her. The two lovebirds think it is a happily-forever-after fairy tale until Wade is struck with terminal cancer. Unwilling to make the love of his life watch him dying, he leaves her and stumbles upon a secret program and a promise to cure his state of hopeless degradation. At the facility, he meets Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carino), two mutants who later torture and inject him with a serum to activate Wade’s mutated genes. In an attempt to escape, Wade burns the testing ground to ashes. He is immediately defeated by Ajax over another promise about a cure. However, the X-genes give Wade an accelerated healing factor to survive almost anything. Under the Deadpool alias, he seeks out vengeance on the man who made him “a testicle with teeth.”
Through the directing of Miller, Reese and Wernick’s script translates pretty well to the big screen, leaving an open field for Reynolds to perform his aspiring role--not the one that was wasted, chopped to bits, and squeezed onto his hand in 2009’s Green Lantern. The story is a properly executed ride of semi-drama love story, brutal bloodsheds, and audaciously satirical bits targeting the superhero genre. It thoroughly understands itself and never takes the situations too seriously so that the true essence of Deadpool remains intact on the big screen. Whenever the circumstance gets to a point of emotional and social authenticity, the script cleverly shifts it away from being too conventional, with petty gimmicks, R-rated jokes, or violent outbursts like those in the final act. Deadpool presents himself as a derisive outlaw who cares not for any moral stance, righteous ideal, or even the greater good. This is a full-throttled tale of revenge and love with a series of references, from common tropes like the superhero landings or heroic moments to iconic remarks regarding the relationship between Batman and Robin, as well as the Daredevil mantle.
Ryan Reynolds is no newbie to the superheroes genre as he also potrayed Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, Deadpool-the-ultimate-failure version in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Hal “Highball” Jordan in the 2011 disastrous flop Green Lantern, but this time he has truly atoned for those sins of the past. Of course, he is not the defining matter, but no one can deny that this Canadian actor suits the role like a red and black spandex glove (pardon the lame joke), particularly his levity when it comes to shooting sarcasm and spilling profanity (as most of the suit-up sequences are performed by stuntmen). This role might seem to resemble previous ones that he was typecast (The Proposal), but praise from audience proves Deadpool is way beyond that level. The supporting cast did a fashionable job portraying people in Wade’s life. Vanessa and Wade’s bond is built up from their similarities found in screwed-up childhood, followed by unstable adolescence, and of course, there exists a 275-dollar-giftcard scene that is as romantic as it is sensible. This relationship offers Wade, at least, some humanity to act on.
And while being just two average villains with no clear characterization, Ajax and Angel Dust fit well in the role of Pool’s targets. They are supposed to serve as the purpose beside our anti-hero’s personal journey for love and vengeance because no reasonable soul on Earth should demand the same big household names’ kind of charm from the Regenerating Degenerate. Also, there are three allies from the pages of Deadpool comic books: Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) is great enough as Pool’s stoned housemate, Weasel (T.J. Miller) turns from Wade’s tech sidekick into a witty barkeeper, and Hydra’s Bob (Rob Hayter) doesn’t work for Hydra anymore because of… copyright issues. The X-Men duo, Colossus (mo-capped with Stepan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, provide sufficient material for more throwaway gags. Their interactions are extremely witty with jokes targeting Fox’s own X-Verse.
Adding to tons of pop culture references (Star Wars, Aliens, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, celebrities like Reynolds himself and Hugh Jackman) and two cameos of Stan Lee and Rob Liefeld (the latter is at Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children), Tim Miller tied the knot with impressive fight choreography and a timely, mood-setting presence of Junkie XL’s scores.
Though Deadpool is not quite compelling enough in terms of narrative significance and character depth, it captivates and surprises the audience because the self-aware movie commits to its nature, standing out from a saturated genre. With his healing factor, Deadpool treats life with an undeniably charming lack of sincerity and consideration. The movie has its share of flaws, but can very well be the best adaptation of the character that any cast and crew can pull off at the moment.
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