Redemption for a conflicted hero is at the heart of most comic book storylines and Marvel’s Deadpool movie is a much needed do-over for everyone involved.
Movie fans got their first taste of Deadpool in 2009’s rather unsatisfying X-Men Origins Wolverine. Fast-talking Wade Wilson emerged from an elevator to perforate a room full of soldiers armed with two katana blades and a sharper tongue. It was exactly the portrayal viewers expected when Reynolds was introduced to the MCU as a sarcastic vampire hunter in 2004’s Blade Trinity. Sadly, his Deadpool dreams (and ours) were shattered when he was turned into a mute version of Baraka from Mortal Kombat and ended up groping for his own head in the ruins of a collapsed dam.
Reynolds would return to the big screen as a superhero playing for the other team as D.C’s Green Lantern. But its misfire at the box office in 2011 renewed hope that the “Merc with a mouth” we all deserved would return. And when test footage of the MCU’s Deadpool feature leaked at San Diego Comic Con, a collective belch of relief could be heard around the world.
In the seven years since Deadpool made his on-screen debut Marvel has emerged as the dominant force in comic book films introducing classic characters (Iron Man, Thor) and new favorites (Rocket Raccoon and Groot). The latter star in Guardians Of The Galaxy, a risky ensemble of lesser known Marvel characters that paid off big because it was so unlike what came before it. Leaning on the off-color banter between the motley crew of misfits rather than their abilities, Guardians cracked open the door that Deadpool now kicks in. He brings all of the irreverence of an anti-hero with the superhuman abilities wrapped up in one flaming bag of crazy dropped on the front porch.
From the unconventional opening credits where the writers are identified as “the real heroes of this film” Deadpool playfully breaks the fourth wall as he tea bags the bad guys in slow-motion. Unlike previous hero movies we don’t have to labor through the origin story before getting some action. Right out the gate leather-clad henchman are splattered against road signs and katana kabobbed letting us know this R-rating is not just for the toilet humor and pegging jokes.
But when we finally get to the origin story it’s gold. After terrorizing a libidinous pizza delivery guy, mercenary Wade Wilson is hanging out with his fellow hired guns in their favorite watering hole “Sister Margaret’s Home for Wayward Girls,” owned by his best bud/bartender Weasel. Wade literally kills time starting fights just to bet on who dies first in the dead pool, and in the midst of the mayhem he meets the lovely Vanessa Carlysle. Their foreplay consists of playing a morbid game of “whose life is worse” until they recognize their kindred disfunction. They spend the next year consummating their strange love by having every kind of sex imaginable. But at the tale end of their kamasutra calendar Wade is diagnosed with terminal Cancer. Enter the mysterious gent in a suit to make the Faustian promise of curing Wade of his illness while giving him super strength. But everything comes with a price and Wade’s transformation leaves him disfigured and presumed dead at the hands of a mutant scientist named Ajax, setting him on the path of revenge.
Wade’s secondary battle is with his own abilities and the presumed responsibilities that come with them. In an unconventional cameo, the mutant Colossus wages an aggressive recruitment campaign to get Deadpool to join the X-Men. But Wade has no interest in playing with the good guys, and is content to live with his geriatric roommate Blind Al (hilariously played by Leslie Uggams) molesting furry toys in his spare time when he is not racking up a body count in search of Ajax. Nevertheless, Colossus pursues Deadpool with his teenaged sidekick, a mutant girl named Negasonic Teenage Warhead and the two serve as the ideal comic foils for DP. In one telling scene Wilson goes to Xavier’s school to meet the odd couple and makes note of how empty the large mansion is stating, “It’s almost as if the studio couldn’t afford more X-Men.”
The writers’ willingness to take shots at any and everything is what makes Deadpool so much fun. They don’t insult the audience’s intelligence by trying to make sense of the X-Men Origins disaster, they just write their names in the snow with yellow ink whenever possible.
But as strong as Reynolds is as Deadpool, there are some things even he can’t compensate for, like the MCU’s legacy of lackluster villains on screen. With the exception of the maniacal Loki and ruthless Alexander Pierce the foes are simply evil for the sake of being evil and unless they are encased in Vibranium don’t really stand out. More than being unfeeling Ajax is pretty lifeless as a criminal and even his henchwoman Angel Dust was popped out of the “silent but violent” cookie cutter. This doesn’t sink the film more than leave room for improvement in a likely sequel.
In the unforgiving world of film second chances are hard to come by, but becoming increasingly common. Ben Affleck gets to crush his dismal Daredevil under the wheels of The Batmobile and Josh Brolin’s Jonah Hex is all but forgotten thanks to his brief Thanos appearances. So if you’re still holding a grudge against Ryan Reynolds for his previous Deadpool and Green Lantern portrayals, don’t. He’s found the perfect vehicle for his sardonic wit, just as Robert Downey, Jr. found his in Iron Man, and the only failing is that we’ll never get to see them match wits on screen. Thanks Hollywood.
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