Directed by: Tim Miller
Premise: A spinoff of the X-Men films. A smart-mouthed mercenary (Ryan Reynolds) undergoes an experimental procedure that gives him superpowers but disfigures his body.
What Works: The superhero genre is a crowded field and a lot of these films have become very self-serious with brooding heroes mixed up in outsized action scenes where they must save the world from destruction. Even the Marvel Avengers films, which have prided themselves on their humor, have recently become quite stodgy. The filmmakers of Deadpool have responded to that creative inertia with a movie that is irreverent and fun and distinguishes itself from the rest of the superhero pack. For one thing, the title character of this movie is a killer; most other comic book heroes fight armies of robots and aliens but Deadpool shoots and stabs human bad guys and he and the film take glee in the carnage. In some respects, Deadpool mirrors the violence of a Quentin Tarantino movie in that it is exaggerated to the point of absurdity. The movie is also differentiated by Deadpool’s motives. He’s not trying to save the world; in fact, he looks on his heroic colleagues with disdain. Deadpool is interested in taking revenge on the scientist who disfigured him and in saving his girlfriend. That gives the movie some concrete drama that is more satisfying than the global or galactic stakes of bigger movies. The filmmakers of Deadpool also have a lot of fun with the conventions of the superhero film and the cinematic form itself. This picture is the Natural Born Killers of comic book movies in that it focuses on the exploits of a killer who takes a lot of joy in murdering people but the character also breaks the fourth wall to address the audience and otherwise interrupts the illusion of the movie. This could become obnoxious but the filmmakers succeed due to impressive control over the tone of the picture. For as much humor as there is in Deadpool—and there is quite a lot—the filmmakers also recognize when to knock it off and be serious. Much of the film’s success is due to the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. This is one of the best casting decisions in a superhero picture since Robert Downey Jr. first appeared as Iron Man and Reynolds charm and humor drive this movie.
What Doesn’t: The adult nature of Deadpool has been a key part of 20th Century Fox’s marketing campaign but it bears repeating that this film is not intended for the family audience that turned out for The Avengers. This is a much more violent and gorier film than that and its sense of humor runs very blue, even more so than a lot of R-rated comedies. Of course, that’s exactly what distinguishes Deadpool in the cinematic marketplace and it isn’t a fault of the picture. The story of Deadpool has very little to it that is new or novel. This film is a standard superhero origin story, echoing the narrative structure of Iron Man, 2002’s Spider-Man, and Ant-Man, in which a good guy with rotten luck is given special powers. The action of Deadpool is adequate but the set pieces of Deadpool’s second half are a bit generic. The early action sequences have quite a bit of humor but as the movie goes on that quality diminishes and when Deadpool gets to its final confrontation the movie is back in familiar action movie scenarios in which masked men pummel each other. Matters aren’t helped by the casting of Ed Skrein as the chief villain. He’s not an especially interesting or threatening screen presence. This is where Deadpool lacks in comparison to similar movies like Kick-Ass and Kingsman. Those films had some unusual antagonists that punched up the tone of the movie and added some unpredictability to the climax. Deadpool loses some novelty because of its bland villain.
Bottom Line: Deadpool is a refreshingly fun comic book film. Its story has been seen many times before but the creativity and irreverent glee with which it’s been made shows through and makes Deadpool a unique entry in a crowded genre.
Episode: #583 (February 21, 2016)