Directed by Tim Miller
Fox/Marvel, out now
Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth gets the movie that all the fans have been clamouring for, as our foul-mouthed antihero goes on a violent, expletive-filled quest for revenge against the people who left him immortal but horrifically scarred.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twelve months, you will have been well aware that there was a new movie about a character called Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds, on its way this February. In one of the largest turnarounds in recent Hollywood memory, Fox went from avoiding the subject of making a solo Deadpool outing altogether to putting out one of the most visible, relentless and anarchic ad campaigns ever for a mainstream movie – doubly so considering its ‘R’ rating. Reynolds has been on fine form, with many questioning whether or not he actually thinks that he is Deadpool as he uses every opportunity to push the movie, from straight advertising to charity announcements and even cancer awareness promos. The result was that even if like me, you had no real understanding of Deadpool the character beyond that he was a wisecracking, fourth-wall breaking badass, you had a feel for what Reynolds would be bringing to the screen. The only question was whether a two hour movie could be sustained by puerile humour and graphic violence.
The answer, happily, is a resounding yes, though with an inevitable caveat. If you are suffering from comic book movie burnout in this age where every other major release seems to be from some comic or other, then Deadpool probably won’t change your mind. Likewise, if you are looking for complexity of plot, maturity of characters or indeed pretty much anything beyond filthy humour and lashings of blood, guts and winks at the camera then this isn’t for you. If you found yourself chuckling at Mr Reynolds through that relentless marketing campaign though, then you won’t be disappointed. From the first second of the opening credits, the movie sets its stall out very clearly, referring to its director as an ‘overpaid tool’ and the main antagonist as a ‘British Villain’ amongst others – this is not a movie here to take itself, or the whole Hollywood machine, seriously.
As I said, the plot is straightforward, to the point of feeling almost archaic in the age of the modern comic book movie. It’s an origin story, with the typical staples of introducing the character, presenting his trauma and then setting him off on the path for redemption. Where it differs is in the precise structuring of that story and the end goal, which is more revenge than redemption though served with a nice twist. We begin the movie midway through this quest, with the scene from the leaked test footage which started Fox on the path to finally making the movie reproduced in surprisingly faithful live action. Reaching the climax of that sequence, we then jump back as Deadpool breaks the fourth wall to explain to us how it all began. We meet Wade Wilson pre-Deadpool as a rough ex-special forces type now working as a hired frightener and muscle. The film works hard to present Wade Wilson as unpleasant and ridiculous, albeit with some form of (distorted) moral compass, and then introduces us in short order to Vanessa, who will become the love of his life. In typical Deadpool fashion, she is as warped as he is, and their love affair is a beautifully distorted thing, each as dysfunctional as the other and therefore ideally suited and helplessly in love (and lust) with each other.
This choppy back and forth fashion carries on for the first two thirds of the movie, as we switch from present day Deadpool moving on through his mission to his origins and back again. To its credit, the movie manages to make this format work, but that is as much due to the non-stop wisecracks as anything – it is not a narratively elegant piece.
The final third is where things become a little more familiar, with Deadpool teaming with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (the only two X-Men that the studio could afford, Deadpool half-jokes) to take down archnemesis Ajax and his assistant Angel and rescue Vanessa from their clutches. Being Deadpool, it still tries to subvert the whole idea, but all the knowing asides to camera and ultra-violence and smut can’t disguise a superhero movie climax, where the heroes and villains have a big showdown, lots of disposable henchmen are disposed of and the girl gets rescued.
That’s not to say that it isn’t enjoyable – as with the rest of the film, I found myself laughing throughout, and the climax works well. But as much as Deadpool paints itself as almost manically anarchic and anti-establishment, there is no denying that this is as slick a blockbuster as Marvel has produced in the last decade. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, and the humour, violence and sexual content mean that this one really isn’t for the kids, but for fans of action films, comic book movies and Deadpool himself, it’s well worth a watch.
Verdict: He may have a filthier mouth than Tony Stark, more violent tendencies than the Hulk and a shadier past than Black Widow could even dream of, but don’t let the wrappings fool you. Push past the language and hyper-violence and this is a slick, polished superhero movie that’s the equal of anything the Avengers have done in recent years. 9/10
Greg D. Smith