In Deadpool’s first cinematic outing, the “Merc with a Mouth” has proved himself the hero that the fans deserve and the one the studios need.
The most tired genre in modern Hollywood has finally gotten some fresh energy injected into it with “Deadpool,” Marvel’s latest superhero offering. The titular character, played by Ryan Reynolds, is unlike any other superhero on comic pages or the silver screen: he is crass, profane, hideous, very sexual, is fully aware that he is a fictional character and is functionally immortal. He isn’t even particularly heroic – he is an anti-hero at best with little in the way of a moral compass guiding his actions.
And yet he may be the hero to save superhero movies from themselves. As Deadpool is aware of the fact that he is in a Marvel superhero movie, he provides an outlet for self-critique of the Marvel formula that has been beaten into the ground. Today, there are 12 films and four television series spanning the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” not counting “Deadpool”, the “X-Men” franchise, the “Spider Man” movies, and “Fantastic 4.” Also, this is not counting the eleven movies currently in production, five of which are set to be released by the end of 2017. With the massive amounts of overexposure that superheroes are getting, “Deadpool,” in spite of its insanity, may be the thing that brings a level of self-awareness and innovation to an otherwise bloated and convoluted franchise.
Ryan Reynolds is perfectly cast as the “Merc with a Mouth” (though no amount of makeup can make Reynolds look as ugly as Deadpool allegedly is). His comedic timing and cheerful demeanor brings an element of levity back to superheroing, and he serves as a wonderful foil to the increasingly dark and angsty heroes in the other movies. He is unconventional, referring to some superheroes by the names of their actors and directly addressing the audience directly throughout the movie. The opening credits doesn’t even refer to Reynolds by name, instead calling him “God’s perfect idiot” and showing a picture of Reynolds on the cover of the “Sexiest Man Alive” issue of People.
The fact is that the best part about “Deadpool” is the meta-narrative of him as the anti-superhero. It has plenty of good characterization and effective, if very irreverent, humor to stand on its own two feet. However, “Deadpool” is best experienced through the lens of someone who needs a break from the tropes that Marvel has been using since 2008. It’s more personal and contained story is, itself, a welcome respite from the endless procession of world-ending threats other heroes fight.
Probably the most effective tool in “Deadpool’s” arsenal is the fact that it is rated R—and a hard R at that. There is plenty of sex, gratuitous and bloody violence and a lot of foul, foul language. This movie has absolutely no class, with all of its humor being bottom-of-the-barrel jokes about sex, bodily functions and cultural references that will be out of date within a couple of years.
None of these are bad things. In fact, they are what makes “Deadpool” such an enjoyable and necessary movie in this day and age. While being brighter and less dark than the moody and angsty heroes in other movies, it is also the antithesis of the sanitized world of the PG-13 Marvel movies. In “The Avengers,” mass death is implied without serious consequence; in “Deadpool,” a much smaller amount of death is depicted in gory detail.
The biggest stumbling block for the film is when it stops being a parody and plays straight the tropes it satirizes, albeit with cruder language and humor. It is still an origin story with a not-very compelling villain, played by Ed Skrein, who mostly exists so the story has some narrative motion. Deadpool’s girlfriend isn’t given much to work with either, outside of the first half-hour or so. Although in the end it pretends it is shattering the tropes as much as it was in the beginning, at times the story and characters feel as though they are subject to the same clichés they are deriding in other films.
With all that said, “Deadpool” is the funniest, crudest, most irreverent and most refreshing superhero movie since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched. Although it is unlikely that it is emblematic of any kind of changing philosophy of storytelling within the company, at the very least “Deadpool” serves to let us all know that creativity is not dead in this genre.
Final score: 83/100