David L. Garcia
I like superhero movies as much as the next guy, but ever since “The Avengers” came out, it’s been getting kind of ridiculous. I just don’t care anymore. Every new superhero film announces itself as some big, bad, awesome film, packed to the gills with origin stories, dead relatives, loyal friends, questions of honor, fiery explosions, monologuing bad guys, sequel easter eggs, and a costume-making montage. It sometimes seems as if the theatrical trailer holds all the real thrills, and that I’m only sitting in the theater to watch the (by now, completely unavoidable) post-credits scene.
Enter “Deadpool,” which does for comic book movies what that shot of adrenaline did to Uma Thurman’s heart in “Pulp Fiction.” It is an incredibly hysterical, graphically bloody, and infectiously demented movie. Assuming you’re not my mom, or afraid of some four letter words, you’re going to love it.
Geeks the world over already know that Deadpool is Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a sarcastic, wisecracking mercenary whose constant jokes and inability to shut up earned him the nickname the “Merc With the Mouth.” In the film, Wilson’s carefree life with his soulmate Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) is interrupted by a lethal cancer diagnosis. To save himself, he gets shanghaied into taking part in torturous genetic experiments that leave him horribly scarred, practically immortal, mentally unstable, and thirsty for revenge against Ajax (Ed Skrein), the sadistic scientist who orchestrated his pain.
Sound simple? It is, and that’s kind of why the film works so well. Instead of bombarding us with multiple timelines (a lá the X-men franchise) or forcing us to deal with a boatload of villains (a lá multiple Spiderman trainwrecks), “Deadpool” simplifies the stakes. One villain, one anti-hero, and a couple of well-structured fight scenes. The rest is whip-smart dialogue (a rarity in a superhero film), and a strong sense of character. Although complete tonal opposites, the film reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, in how it was unafraid to slow things down to allow the viewer to get to know the hero, how he feels, thinks, and acts.
Physically, Deadpool is gifted with ninja-like agility and the power of rapid self-healing, meaning that any battle wounds he receives heal in seconds. More importantly for the movie, however, is Deadpool’s secret weapon: he’s self-aware. His mental breakdown apparently made him realize that he’s a comic book character, and he runs his mouth about it constantly. He acknowledges that the studio could only afford two X-Men, wonders about whether the plot should be advancing, and attributes Ryan Reynolds’ success largely to his looks. He’s a real postmodern superhero, the perfect antidote to stale caped crusaders.
Reynolds deserves some real praise. He commits to the character so completely that at no time do I think I’m watching Ryan Reynolds on screen. He’s totally Deadpool up there, and I can’t think of a higher compliment to give. It’s clear from the joy in his performance that Reynolds really understands and loves his twisted character, and his enthusiasm wraps you up, forcing you to lose yourself in Deadpool’s cheeky madness.
One last thing: stay for that post-credits scene. It’s a hysterical homage that made me smile and even get a little hopeful. After all, if “Deadpool” can be this clever, funny, and entertaining, surely more superhero films will rise to the challenge.
4.5 stars out of 5
Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox/Marvel Studios