2016 is set to be a noteworthy year for the superhero genre. Not only are we getting a half-dozen or so of them by next November*, but they will also be far more varied and distinct than we’ve ever had before, with as much emphasis on lesser known antiheroes as traditional icons. For some this will really put the notion of superhero fatigue to the test. For others, myself included, it’s simply a treat to see so much diversity for comic book movies.
The first one out of the gate this year is Deadpool. For those of you who may remember, Deadpool did make a very disappointing appearance in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, possessing none of his trademark humor and only really bearing a fleeting resemblance to his comic book counterpart. Put another way, it was a not a successful representation of the character to wider audiences. Out to right some wrongs, and thanks to a reset in continuity granted by 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, Fox is finally giving us the true Deadpool movie at least some of us wanted.
And wouldn’t you know it? It’s actually pretty good.
Deadpool is again played by Ryan Reynolds, but this time he’s allowed to be as snarky and witty and crass as is required for the titular smart aleck. His banter throughout the movie, both to other characters and in fourth wall brakes to the audience, is very funny and often quite insightful, if also leaning on the crude side. Reynolds, you can tell, is having quite a time cackling away and spouting one liners; and while this kind of performance won’t win him any awards, there’s something to be said for the way he makes us appreciate a character that we could so easily find annoying. Deadpool may be sardonic and foul mouthed, but he’s never the less endearing, and there’s a subtle uncertainty brimming below the surface that spins his outward personality in a new light.
Beyond the character himself, this movie is entertaining throughout. It reminds me a bit of Wayne’s World in that it’s not especially deep, but it’s perceptive and subversive; and most notably, it never dips in terms of gags. Every time we think the movie is about to slow down, some new, amusing joke is thrown our way to keep us engaged. And the variety of humor in this movie is quite impressive: ranging from visual gags to animation to references to Reynold’s other projects to other X-Men movies, including Deadpool’s aforementioned trainwreck debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Simply put, I was astonished by how creative Deadpool is in terms of getting the audience to laugh. And laugh we do. As a side note, I will say that the picture is rated R, and much of its humor, while amusing, does deserve that rating.
What’s also fairly unique about this movie is how it manages to be a silly parody of superhero films without becoming a full on Zucker/Abrahams-style spoof. Deadpool loves to make fun of the cliches of other comic book movies, and many moments in the film are designed to fly in the face of our expectations of what superheroes normally do; but it never gets so out of control or so completely wacky in that satire that it fails to function as a superhero picture, even if Deadpool insists that he’s not a hero. For as goofy and self-lampooning as it is, this still is a very pure comic book movie that ultimately wants to exist as one. The result is that this film straddles a unique line between celebrating and mocking what it is, and I rather enjoy that nuance.
Something else that I admire about this movie is the sense of scope. This isn’t a superhero movie where the whole world is in danger; rather, this is largely a personal story for Deadpool, and that small scale feels really refreshing in this day and age. Sometimes it’s nice just to get to know a character. That personal story also includes a romance which motivates the plot far more than one would think. No, those Valentine’s Day-themed advertisements for this movie weren’t just a joke, folks. Even Deadpool can fall in love; and I’m always bit of a sucker for that sort of thing. A special acknowledgement goes to Morena Baccarin, who hits the right notes as his partner, Vanessa.
If there’s one drawback to the film’s smaller scale, it’s that the villain isn’t all that interesting. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. If anyone ever makes a list of least compelling comic book villains, the one in this film would probably rank pretty highly on it. But Deadpool himself more than compensates for that, so it’s forgivable.
To sum it up, I liked this movie. It’s an enjoyable night at the theater; and hopefully that bodes well for the other superhero films we have coming out this year. And personally, I really do want this one to be a success; because I’d very much like to see Deadpool again in another standalone flick–continuing to spout one liners and wink at the audience– as opposed to a mere cameo in a straightforward X-Men picture. We can only hope.
But in the meantime, if you’re the right age, I’d say go see this movie.
*Other films coming out this year include Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, and Dr. Strange.