Film Review: Deadpool

Director: Tim Miller

15 | 1h 48min | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 10 February 2016 (UK)

RATING: ★★★☆☆

It has taken actor Ryan Reynolds over a decade to get his version of comic book character Deadpool – a  potty-mouthed, un-killable and incredibly irritating mercenary –  to the screen, a pretty admirable investment of time and effort which has now come to fruition under the guidance of director Tim Miller. Reynolds was actually first pegged to play the character all the way back in 2004, back when the publisher and owner of the character – Marvel Studios – was still licensing out its characters to other film outfits instead of keeping it all in-house.  A lot has changed since then: most notably Marvel have gone on to create a huge interlinked cinematic sandbox for all their adapted characters to romp in. But not all their creations have been brought back into the fold, with 20th Century Fox having kept a hold of Marvel’s X-Men mutant heroes long enough to the point where that superhero film universe has become nearly as backstory-heavy and riddled with continuity errors as its Marvel competitor.

Thus this is actually the second time Deadpool has appeared on screen, having cameoed – to the rage of comics fans given the way his portrayal differed from the popular source material – in the critically derided X-Men Origins: Wolverine back in 2009. This new Deadpool however assumes that introduction somehow never happened, despite this film sitting squarely within the ongoing X-Men film world (it is technically the eighth instalment). Acknowledging the inherent ridiculousness of this and other comics narrative tropes by speaking directly to the audience is one of the ways this Deadpool film not only pays homage to the fourth-wall breaking comic it is based on, but tries to mark itself out as something refreshingly different, and it is arguably good timing given grim-faced comic book superheroes seem to be jamming up the release schedules. Thanks to a manically energetic turn from Reynolds, who clearly loves playing this character, it mostly succeeds, though its meta-commentary on the genre and the R-rated, intentionally-puerile gag count are nothing really new (see Kick-Ass and Blade) and it is hard to see how a film like this could ever run more than 90 minutes without the smart-assness becoming grating.

For those who have never picked up the comic or cared to lose a few hours of their life to the aforementioned X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool is Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces officer who is introduced to us as a low-rent mercenary operating out of a seedy bar run by buddy Weasel (TJ Miller, an actor who has got that laconic slacker gag delivery down pat and gets some of the funniest lines). Wilson is the kind of guy who breaks into people’s apartments, takes a shit in their kitty litter, steals their pizza, and only then gets on the with the actual enforcement side of things whilst wisecracking all the way, with 90% of the cracks being about his genital region. Given his wise-ass dial is set to 11 permanently here, if Ryan Reynolds in his default mode alone annoys you, this film really isn’t for you. Still, this writer remains open to him taking on these kinds of roles where he gets to undercut his playboy image with a wink and a grin. The film totally embraces this good-natured self-roasting attitude (though it probably overdoes it), with Wilson, once he becomes Deadpool, snarkily taking chunks out of the Wolverine film that failed to do justice to his fanbase, and also at times making sly references to Reynolds’s second attempt at destroying a superhero franchise in the much-maligned Green Lantern.

Wilson’s passionate and very raunchy relationship with stripper Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, in a role slightly meatier than traditional comic book ‘love interests’) is sent screeching to a halt when he is diagnosed out of the blue with terminal cancer. Desperate to survive, Wilson agrees to a shady private sector experiment in triggering mutations, overseen by the superpowered thug Ajax (Ed Skrein, playing a stock villain type). The grim experiments/tortures that he endures do actually cure Wilson’s cancer and bestow him with super-fast healing powers, but also leaves him horribly disfigured and mentally unstable. Or as Weasel puts it, he now looks like ‘an avocado fucked an older avocado’.

Thoroughly pissed off, Wilson dubs himself ‘Deadpool’ (it being a riff on the bets the mercenaries used to place in the bar as to who would snuff it next), kits himself out with a red costume (conceals blood stains) and Katana swords, and for the rest of the film carves his way through a horde of disposable morons until he has Ajax in his sights. That basically is the entire plot, the slightness of which is one of the more refreshing elements of Deadpool, given that most superhero movies seem to run to three hours these days with plots approaching the size of battleships. Enough gags and body parts get thrown at the screen before the expected ultra-violent finale smackdown to make Deadpool a not unenjoyable way to spend 90 minutes of your time, though the film isn’t half as funny or clever as it is more smugly satisfied with itself. It wouldn’t have hurt for there to have been smarter comic use of the key element of the Deadpool character – his ability to heal. But beyond one gross-out scene where the ‘merc with a mouth’ starts to regrow one of his severed hands and wonders aloud how the baby-like appendage will affect the quality of his forthcoming masturbation, the film rarely explores this. But we will have the inevitable sequel for that, a sequel which hopefully won’t to the same degree  commit the same kind of sins Deadpool is sneering at.

Film Review: Deadpool
Scroll to top