Release Date: Feb. 12, 2016
Running Time: 108 minutes
Deadpool isn’t the first R-rated superhero romp. Unlike Watchmen, Kick-Ass, The Punisher: War Zone, Defendor, and James Gunn’s pre-Guardians of the Galaxy Super, this Ryan Reynolds crack ‘em up, shoot ‘em up is the first that’s set within the confines of an existing superhero cinematic universe. In this case, Reynolds’ Deadpool rubs shoulders with The X-Men. And it’s a weird relationship that is modeled on the one that informs Deadpool’s Marvel comic-book experiences. Deadpool, as you may know, is a super-powered assassin who constantly breaks the fourth wall in order to snark on his ultra-violent misadventures. Deadpool’s “wink-wink” attitude is prevalent throughout this gleefully bloody and viciously funny affair, and The X-Men are the red-leather costumed anti-hero’s favorite target. From the get-go, Reynolds and director Tim Miller make it clear that their film owes everything and nothing to the success of The X-Men franchise. Or Wolverine, to be exact. Deadpool references Wolverine—and actor Hugh Jackman—multiple times, suggesting Deadpool would not have his own film had he not performed a certain sex act on the clawed one. He also knocks X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the disastrous prequel that didn’t just made a mockery of and messed up the continuity of The X-Men franchise that seemingly killed off the idea of Reynolds returning for a Deadpool solo outing. Deadpool otherwise rightfully ignores the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The truth is, we would not have this Deadpool were it not for Reynolds refusing to let go of the role he was born to play. He and director Tim Miller did everything within their powers to persuade 20th Century Fox to give this superhero fan favorite a second shot, and the film was a go after “leaked” visual effects test footage blew up the Internet in 2014. This explains why Reynolds puts everything he has into Deadpool. Sure, he’s played other comic-book characters—Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity and Hal Jordan in the ill-fated Green Lantern—but his flippant sense of humor totally aligns with that of Deadpool’s impertinent self-awareness. Reynolds knows Deadpool’s an asshole, but doesn’t care. He makes Deadpool the asshole you want to hang with even after he’s punched you in the face, stolen your girl or guy, and set your car on fire. We know exactly what to expect from Deadpool—both the superhero and the film—from the very beginning. Miller’s mischievous credits sequence sets the tone for a cheeky parody with a high body count and a fondness for sex. Like the Punisher, Deadpool doesn’t mind dispatching his enemies by any means necessary. As for sex, Deadpool’s alter ego Wade Wilson’s bedroom antics with his main squeeze Vanessa Carlysle—an escort with a heart of gold who’s played by Firefly’s Morena Baccarin—knows no limits (although the film does downplay Deadpoool’s much-mooted omnisexuality). At least until Wilson’s diagnosed with cancer. Wilson opts into the Weapon X program run by Ed Skrein’s Francis Freeman, a.k.a. the nefarious Ajax, who claims he can cure Wilson if he can locate and activate any mutant genes Wilson possesses. While Ajax delivers on his promise, his methods border on torture, leaving a now-superhuman Wilson looking like “an avocado who had sex with an older avocado,” according to his best bud Weasel, who is played by T.J. Miller as Deadpool’s comic-relief sounding board. It’s not enough for Wilson that, after adopting his Deadpool persona, is invincible to the point he can grow back severed limbs: he wants his good looks back so he can go return to his old life with Vanessa. As edgy and irreverent Deadpool wants to be, its does unfold as a conventional superhero movie, albeit one that is fueled by personal motivation as opposed to the need to save the world. And, as much as Deadpool thinks of himself as a bad guy, he’s no different than The X-Men he fights along side: Brianna Hildebrand’s moody Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Stefan Kapičić’s Colossus. Except Deadpool is happy to shoot an adversary in the back while the deadly earnest Colossus feels compels to pause a fight when Gina Carano’s henchwoman Angel Dust experiences a wardrobe malfunction. Deadpool is known as the Merc with a Mouth, and he’s fast with a wisecrack that cuts deep. The only person involved in Deadpool who can keep up with Reynolds is director Tim Miller. He keeps Deadpool moving at brake-neck speed, slowing down only for the flashbacks that establish that Wilson’s relationship with Vanessa is based on more than just sex. And, given Fox’s cautious approach to reviving a character from an X-Men prequel no one liked, Miller is working with a $58 million budget that wouldn’t even buy you the cast of The Avengers. No matter. Miller works wonders with what he’s given, and while Deadpool’s setpieces aren’t quite on the eye-popping scale of X-Men: Days of Future Past, they are executed in whiz-bang fashion. No doubt Miller will get more money if he sticks around for the Deadpool sequel that’s now in the works. Maybe he’ll even be able to afford to throw in some of the other superheroes Deadpool encounters in his comic books, such as Cable and Domino. Or, at the very least, a cameo by the oft-mentioned Professor X. Deadpool isn’t picky about his Professor Xs, so I’m sure he’s happy to sit down to share a plate of chimichangas with either James McAvoy or Patrick Stewart.
Aired: Feb. 11, 2016
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