Occupying an entirely new Marvel comic book niche, Tim Miller’s long awaited full-length Deadpool adaption is an R-rated meta-masterpiece that erases his rather tepid character introduction in Xmen Origins Wolverine, and adds a new adult dimension to live action Marvel films. In fact it may not be an exaggeration to call it a game changer (could the days of PG-13 dominance be numbered?).
Set within the X-Men film universe (sort of) Deadpool’s origin story takes the form of a revenge actioner and -unusually for a comic book movie- an R-rated one at that. It’s a film that will appeal to those who liked the adult tone of Blade, Dredd or Watchmen- the kind of films that are hugely popular with genre fans but rarely achieve mainstream success. Deadpool has managed what those films couldn’t: effortlessly appealing to a vast and (from what I've seen) delighted audience. Being set within the otherwise sanitary X-Men world also allows access to several of it's characters, and offers some delicious future crossover possibilities. It is also gleefully self aware- going far beyond mere nods to the audience by frequently tearing down the fourth wall- Ferris Bueller style- as well as creating some curious paradoxes (can Hugh Jackman and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine both exist in the same reality? They can now), yet at the same time feeling cohesive and focused as an action film in its own right.
In simpler terms: it just works.
A huge part of that is down to Ryan Reynold’s note-perfect portrayal of Wade Wilson/ Deadpool- a foul-mouthed, irreverent ‘merc with a mouth’ (and a heart) who develops terminal cancer shortly after meeting the love of his life. Reynolds embodies the personality so completely it’s impossible to imagine anyone else as the character. He’s irritating, crude, lewd, a dick, and thoroughly badass. Like Robert Downey Junior’s Iron Man, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, or even Wesley Snipes’ Blade; Reynolds owns this role.
The supporting cast aren’t slouches either. Morena Baccarin brings a humanity and strength of character to her role as Wade Wilson’s romantic interest Vanessa Carlysle, meaning the central love story (yes, it’s a love story at heart) is genuine and surprisingly touching. TJ Miller is a hoot as Wilson’s loyal yet overly candid sidekick Weasel (“your look like Freddy Krueger face-****ed a topographical map of Utah”); Ed Skrein is coolly effective as the British villain Ajax, alongside Gina Caro’s brutish henchwoman Angel Dust; there are X-Men allies in the form of awesomely named adolescent Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and CGI enhanced giant Collossus. If that sounds like a cast of familiar stereotypes, it is. Don’t worry, the film is way ahead of us; as seen in the delightfully stylish and subversive opening credits sequence.
Being a smaller production than some of the vast Fox and Marvel Studios epics, the action is dinkier in scale but arguably bigger in impact- thanks to two sensational major set pieces featuring Dredd style blood & guts and John Wick style gun-fu headshottery. Marvel have taken the gloves off for once and men get splattered, sliced, diced, and their brains blown out. However for all the carnage, its really the script that delights the most; a rapid fire cavalcade of sharp tongued zingers and f-bombs that come so thick and fast you’ll need at least two viewings to catch them all.
Is it a 10/10 film? No. First off not every joke hits the spot, and some might find the sheer relentlessness with which they are delivered ends up dulling their impact. The villain’s motivations are unclear at best; and the overall sense of playfulness and self awareness denies the film of the kind of genuine excitement and emotional investment you’d get in the very best comic book movies (eg. Captain America The Winter Soldier, The Dark Knight). Furthermore, beneath all the sex jokes, blood, nods and winks lurks a fairly standard origin tale that may or many not stand the test of time. However for sheer enjoyment- from bloody start to cheeky finish- there are few films I can think of that pull it off quite so gloriously.