The most amazing thing about Deadpool is that someone convinced Fox to fund a film about a wisecracking violent psychopath, directed by a guy in Tim Miller who has never directed a feature film, starring Ryan Reynolds whose last turn at the Super Hero gig was a spectacular flameout. Add to that an R rating and its clear that someone at Fox Studios was wasted when this was greenlit. The risks in making this film, in hindsight, had to far outweigh the anticipated rewards. “An R-rated superhero movie starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by a guy nobody’s ever heard of? Sure,” I imagine the studio executive slurring, “just pour me the rest of that bourbon and hold my hand steady while I sign the deal.”
The hangover that Fox exec woke up with must have been a monster but given the records Deadpool is obliterating at the box office I can imagine he will only be reviewing scripts while fall down drunk from now on. Biggest opening ever for an R-rated film and the biggest Fox opening ever, eclipsing Star Wars episode 3. Really? In terms of overall gross Deadpool is closing in on Passion of the Christ for the highest domestic grossing R-rated movie ever.
According to Boxofficemojo.com the top 10 grossing R-rated films ever are:
1. Passion of the Christ
3. American Sniper
4. The Matrix Reloaded
5. The Hangover
6. The Hangover Part 2
7. Beverly Hills Cop
8. The Exorcist
10. Saving Private Ryan
That’s some impressive company Deadpool has leapfrogged on it’s way to what will inevitably make it the highest grossing R-rated film of all time.
Now, as for the review, does Deadpool deserve all the accolades and boxoffice mania?
Absolutely it does. Imagine how daunting it must have been for writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to bring this character to the big screen. One or two missteps and the character goes from scary yet funny to unlikeable, glib psychopath. The line they walked with this material is incredible. The flying Walenndas should perform feats of balance as well as these writers.
In the interests of full disclosure, the Deadpool comic arrived on the scene well after my comic book reading days were behind me. Walking into the film I had no more than a vague understanding of the character. I didn’t even remember that he broke the proverbial “4th wall” in the comic itself. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the buzz around it was pretty terrific and I am a sucker for Ryan Reynolds when he isn’t starring in shitty romcoms.
And here is Reynolds in all his glory starring in a film where the jokes literally never stop coming, rapid fire style, and nearly all of them land. A lot of the credit is the writers, certainly, but this is one rare instance when an actor seems absolutely born for his role. As if since the 90’s Deadpool has been quietly waiting his turn to tear open the superhero cash cow that is Marvel but he waited patiently for just the right guy. And man is Ryan Reynolds pitch perfect here. Managing to unearth the emotion of a completely unbalanced character seething with murderous rage and a hair trigger, while spitting out oneliners like a fat kid spits out watermelon seeds, all while unable to rely on the facial expressions an actor normally has in his arsenal because 90% of the time he’s wearing a mask. In a lot of ways what Reynolds turns in here is akin to sensational voice over work.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have time onscreen without the mask, he does, but those scenes are rather mundane and not really part of the thrilling pulse the rest of Deadpool has. At it’s core Deadpool is a pretty run of the mill origin story with like a smidgen of Phantom of the Opera tossed in. Strip away Reynolds charisma, the deliciously witty jokes and the scorchingly hot performance of Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, and your left with a pretty done before origin of a superhero story. Truly, I must again say how remarkable it is that the film didn’t turn out as a cartoonishly goofy nightmare. Our hero meets his dream girl, who naturally softens all his rough edges, endures something tragic, cancer in this case, and then has something radical happen that gives him super powers. Ta Da! Now guy loses girl, super bad guy uses said girl as leverage to lure him into a trap and in the end love triumphs over looks and against all odds. There isn’t anything new here but the beauty of Deadpool is just that: The execution of the film is all that matters and in the end you won’t be thinking about what a banal origin story it is at the core because you had such a damn good time with it and, most likely, you’re still laughing.
Much has been made of this being a “different kind of superhero” as if this is something we’ve never seen before. I don’t know if I agree with that entirely, there is a lot of material here that doesn’t really feel all that fresh to me. As I said, it’s a pretty simple and straight forward plot and for most of the ride it’s formulaic. A smattering of dick jokes and naked women don’t, on their own, make this some kind of never before seen superhero film. It makes it an incredibly funny and sexy superhero story but tits alone don’t make something original. If they did The Sperminator would be the first Academy Award winning porn. But like a litany of films before it, like Rush Hour or The Hangover, Deadpool took a solid, if overused, formula and simply executed better than most. It’s not like Rush Hour was the first “fish out of water buddy cop” comedy to ever hit theaters, it was just one of the better ones. And that’s what Deadpool is, a tried and true origin story, just done better than usual.
If I had one small complaint, I would say there was a criminal underuse of T.J. Miller’s Weasel. He was hysterical in his limited amount of screen time and he and Reynolds played very well off of one another. It seemed to me that the only real misstep the writers made with Deadpool was that it appears they were uncertain just what to do with Miller. Was he a full blown side-kick, an occasional comic foil or just a minor character that stole a scene almost by accident? I am hopeful they just scratched the surface of the Weasel character and that by the time Deadpool 2 rolls around he will be a fleshed out character with some more screen time.
Other than that minor, and open to debate, misstep Deadpool is a Hell of a good time. From the clever and stylish opening credits to the action sequences that look like they were directed by an industry vet and not a first-timer the movie just fires on all cylinders from beginning to end. While it is certainly not the kind of movie you’re going to take a 10-year old to this is a Marvel movie adults can have fun with while constantly being reminded in subtle ways that they’re still in the Marvel universe. There are easter eggs galore, great references to the disaster that was Green Lantern and 2 of the X-Men (Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) make appearances.
And while it can be argued that Deadpool is not a superhero movie because there isn’t much about him that is heroic, it also escapes the dreaded antihero stereotype that’s been so overplayed in the last decade. Deadpool doesn’t quite fit into any of the usual checkboxes and, at times, we’re left not knowing how much of the bad and violent behavior is just because he’s a bad guy and how much is because his sanity has been strained to the breaking point by torture, loss and disfigurement. In the end we all have to decide if there’s anything to like in the guy, other than his quick wit, for ourselves. And in that way yes, Deadpool is a new kind of Marvel film.
4.5 Bacon Strips out of 5.