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Deadpool: Breaking more than the fourth wall

Not quite compelling enough in terms of narrative significance and character depth, Deadpool still 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. Then one day, one among the key personnel (Reynolds, director Tim Miller, and two screenwriters – Rhet Reese and Paul Wernick) had 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 some way, obliged to greenlight a live-action movie.

Never takes itself too seriously

Though it was released in middle February, which is not a good time of the year for movies, Deadpool still managed to impress both hardcore geeks and skeptical moviegoers with a fully 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 The Movie made nearly fourteen times of that and was crowned the highest grossing R-rated movie ever made, as well as 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 premise 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 others’ 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.

Director Tim Miller on set

If you have already seen the film, you should, foremost, be impressed by the Honest-Trailers-styled opening title sequence. By means of flashbacks inserted between current events, it tells a story of Wade Winston Wilson, a former SO operative who is 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 with the 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 after his mutation kicks in, Wade burns down the whole testing ground to ashes. He then is immediately defeated by Ajax over another promise about a cure and is left for dead. However, the X-genes give Wade an accelerated healing factor to survive almost anything and now, under the Deadpool alias, he seeks out vengeance on the man who made him “a testicle with teeth”.

Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin as the star-crossed couple

Through the directing of Miller, Reese and Wernick’s script did translate 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 train ride of semi-drama love story, brutal bloodsheds, and audaciously satirical bits targeting current superheroes genre. It fully understands itself and never takes the situations too seriously so that the true essence of Deadpool is kept 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-rate 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 the greater good. This is a full-throttled tale of revenge and love with a series of references to other movies of the same genre, 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.

X’s gonna give it to Ajax

Ryan Reynolds is no newbie to the superheroes genre as he also potrayed Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, (not so much) Deadpool-the-ultimate-failure version in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and, do not forget, 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 only factor involved that matters, 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 praises from audience prove that Deadpool is way beyond that level. The supporting cast did a fashionable job while 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-gift-from-the-game-booth 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 avenged targets. After all, they are only supposed to serve as the tool 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) is turned into a witty barkeeper from Wade’s tech sidekick, 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 materials for more throwaway gags. Their interactions are extremely witty with jokes targeting Fox’s own X-Verse.

The only two other X-Men that the movie can borrow from Fox

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.

Impressive action set pieces for a low-budget movie

Though Deadpool is not quite compelling enough in terms of narrative significance and character depths, it still captivates and surprises the audience because the movie commits to its nature and is so self-aware and meta, standing out from other conventional superheroes flicks. With his healing factor, Deadpool treats life with an undeniably charming lack of sincere care 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.