Strong and silent.
That’s the typical tough guy in Spandex saving the world, right? Ripped, muscled, towering 6’2″, much better at punching through walls than with words.
But oh, no. Not Wade Wilson. Not at all.
If you told Ryan Reynold‘s Deadpool that you expected him to fit into the strong and silent mould, he’d give an unashamedly loud and slightly high-pitched laugh, and, several lines of dialogue later, he’s still throwing jokes at you.
But how does one make a feature film about one of comic book’s chattiest superheroes and not make him seem supremely annoying? You give him smart, genuinely funny dialogue, and you let him chat the heck out of his audience.
That is exactly what Deadpool does. It takes mere seconds into the opening credits to learn that the film has absolutely no intention of taking itself seriously. And for that, it is a seriously memorable film that stands out in the ongoing flood of superhero movies.
MINI-SPOILER MARK: Minor plot details discussed beyond this point. No major spoilers revealed.
The origin story of the red leather-clad duel-wielding antihero, Deadpool follows ex-Special Forces operative Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), who has invested his lethal skills into a career as a New York City mercenary. He develops a relationship with female escort Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), and all is well for the happy couple until Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Concerned for Vanessa’s well-being, Wade takes up a secret offer to undergo a brutal experiment by Francis/Ajax (Ed Skrein), which would heal Wade of his cancer and give him mutant regenerative powers. But the experiment’s success comes at an unexpected cost, leaving Wade severely disfigured and betrayed by Francis. Taking on the alias of “Deadpool”, Wade fashions a red leather suit with which to hunt down Francis in a quest for revenge.
With its February release date and glorious R-rating, Deadpool is obviously not your typical Marvel fare. In fact, its “mere” US$58 million budget kicks this 20th Century Fox production to the end of the pact as one of the cheapest films made about a Marvel Comics character, and certainly the cheapest in the superhero flick tidal wave since 2008 (besides the abysmal Ghost Rider sequel).
Make no mistake, Deadpool feels every bit like a comparatively lower budget film with only a modest handful of stars, backyard action scenes that are nowhere close to blockbuster-massive, and an unambitious plot. But, like its laid back and couldn’t-care-less titular character, Deadpool simply shrugs unapologetically, revels in its own identity and shoves it in your face. And it actually tastes really good.
It is precisely because Deadpool is so thoroughly unapologetic and self-deprecating about what it is that the film is able to work the way it was made to. They know they don’t have Bryan Singer’s A-list X-Men ensemble cast, so they compensate with plenty of cross-franchise references and brief, random pictures of Hugh Jackman, which are tasteful enough that they never feel like name-dropping. And in case you still didn’t pick that up, Deadpool actually explicitly mentions the film’s modest budget several times, all in good fun. The action scenes are more like Marvel-meets-Matrix shoot-outs and amplified backyard scuffles rather than epic battles. But they are nonetheless slick, well-choreographed and executed, and undoubtedly where much of the budget was well-spent.
Indeed, the plot is very much lacking, incredibly thin and underdeveloped. But doesn’t this also apply to most high budget superhero movies these days, all reeking with “let’s stick to the formula”? The lack of story does not and cannot harm Deadpool (substantially) because they valiantly and commendably decided, to hell with the formula.
What we get is a thoroughly refreshing, light-hearted approach that translates to 108 minutes of pure fun. Deadpool constantly breaks the fourth wall, even appearing to step out of the movie to directly reference Reynold’s career (or the other actors on 20th Century Fox’s superhero roster). Speaking of Reynolds, the guy must be saluted here; yes, he has the physique and all of a comic book hero, but the actor is loquacious Wade Wilson through and through, and he is darn hilarious.
This is a movie that is very aware that is a movie, and it is determined to keep the fanboys laughing as it repeatedly beats itself up. And that is why this small, joker of a kid that is Deadpool is still going to shine when its serious older brothers start battling it out on the epic summer stage.
The film has its flaws, no doubt. The lack of development runs deeper than the narrative, with Deadpool skipping the essential housekeeping details and leaving out explanations for, say, why Deadpool is so acrobatic and accurate. It doesn’t take a military expert to figure out that that probably wasn’t from the Special Forces. Even Deadpool’s precise powers are unclear for those who are not Marvel experts. But at the end of the day, we don’t really care, because Deadpool clearly doesn’t.
We live in an age where you’ll find beefed up superheroes at every corner, determined to save the world all over again to prove that they’re better than all the other superheroes who’ll tell you the same thing when you turn the next corner. The number of Spandex-covered vigilantes flocking to us has doubled, now that Marvel and DC have decided to battle it out on the big screen.
But Deadpool waits for you with a drink in hand and a rascally grin somehow visible through that red mask. Save the world? Come listen to my inappropriate sex jokes and references to other superhero movies instead.
Doesn’t Deadpool sound like the guy we’d rather hang out with?
Rating: 3.5/5 (TALK-o-meter: “Good, not great.”)