There were so many ways Deadpool could have gone wrong, but it doesn’t. It hits the spot and hits it hard. If you know what I mean.
The plot, easily the film’s worst feature but also its least important, starts when Wade Wilson (God’s perfect asshole, Ryan Reynolds, who also produces), already a mercenary, meets and falls in love with Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin). Immediately after proposing, Wilson collapses, and a hospital visit reveals, despite his thorough self-checking regimen, he’s filled with cancer and will die soon. Wilson is offered a chance to last longer by a recruiter from the Weapon X program (Jed Reeds), which he takes. He is relentlessly tortured by Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano) until his latent mutation triggers, granting him an intense healing factor that cures his cancer and makes him effectively immortal, but giving his entire body the texture of a cantaloupe. Convinced Carlysle wouldn’t take him back looking like he does, Wilson hunts down Freeman, who claims he could cure the side effects if he wanted to.
The thing that makes Deadpool a great property is its total irreverence. Deadpool is aware that he is a fictional character in a comic book, and he’s aware of that comic book’s context in the real world. The writers use this cosmic awareness to lampoon comics in general in a way that goes beyond satire and starts to solve some of the problems of comics as a storytelling format. They’ll frequently have Deadpool read ahead in his own property or others so he can know things he couldn’t possibly as a way to avoid boring expository scenes, for example. Though Deadpool is the only one who breaks the fourth wall and can handle it by himself in crossovers, the jokes are laced into the comics themselves. Combined with the intense regimen of sex and poop jokes, it creates a unique sense of humor that is at once extremely low brow and extremely high level.
The worry of adapting a property like this whose appeal is so tied to its format is that the jokes won’t be adapted and won’t translate. That’s not something anyone should have been worried about here. Just as Deadpool is a comic lover’s comic, Deadpool is a movie lover’s movie. Writing duo Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, the real heroes here, take that unique sense of humor and squirt it all over the film. From the opening credits, which not only replace the creatives’ real names with the names Deadpool would call them but also are shot in a parody of the extensive close-ups Marvel has been using in The Avengers series, immediately establishing that low-brow/high-level contrast, this movie is the perfect parody, a super-satire of the superhero genre.
The reason everyone loves satires and deconstructions is these kinds of jokes need a movie that is fundamentally good on its own to exist in, and Deadpool is just that. Reynolds’ glee that this movie is finally happening is palpable, and the rest of the cast is just as excellent. The low-brow jokes come hard, fast and frequently, the love story element is well-done and even the bare-bones plot is made interesting with a broken timeline. You won’t have to get all the little jokes to love this movie.
It’s kind of surprising how good it is given how it looks. Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) is created entirely with CGI. He’s ugly as sin and, even worse, clearly not actually there in some scenes. This is most noticeable in the climax when he’s pounding Angel Dust and, despite the wet packing noises of slapping flesh, clearly isn’t connecting with her. It was always the intent to have him done entirely in motion capture with Kapičić voicing — Daniel Cudmore, who has played the character three times in 13 years, turned down the physical side of the role because of this — but intentionally bad is still bad.
Another letdown is the action. Wilson is focused more on his flip count than his kill count, which makes sense from a character perspective but still leaves a lot to be desired. The rest of the characters all have some form of strength enhancement, making fights generally much less interesting than they could be in a mutant-filled world.
Finally, as thoroughly R-rated as the film is, it leaves out a lot of Deadpool’s core aspects. He’s funny and caustic, but he’s also truly insane, and the darkness of his character — particularly the complex relationship with Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) — is toned way down. He’s still morally interesting relative to most superheroes, though, as he is driven through the movie primarily by vanity.
It’s pretty amazing this movie got made. Initially introduced in 1991 and only getting his own comic in 1997, Deadpool is by far the youngest property to hit the big screen. A movie was initially going to be produced in 2000 but fell through when Artisan Entertainment went defunct in 2004. The rights then went to New Line Cinema, with Reynolds attached as the lead even that far back, but writer/director David Goyer left the project to work on Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. 20th Century Fox bought the character’s film rights in 2005 and used a mangled version of him in 2009’s horrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Reynolds would participate in another of the most hated superhero movies ever, 2011’s Green Lantern, before he could have his way with this movie. Fox had a script ready to go in 2010 and Tim Miller was selected to direct in 2011, but still wouldn’t let the movie through until test footage that had been created in 2012 leaked in 2014 to rave reviews, and even then it only got $58 million for production, an incredibly small number for a superhero movie. Tangible sacrifices were made in letting the movie be true to the comic’s irreverent violence, to the point that it was denied release in China.
Maximum effort was involved in getting this movie made in the first place, and viewers are appreciating it. The movie turned $12.7 million from Thursday early showings, taking the February Thursday preview record from last year’s Fifty Shades of Grey and the R-rated Thursday preview record from The Hangover Part II. The enhanced performance is bigger than expected, and hopefully will lead to the movie rubbing out a weekend that has it not only on top of the box office, but on top of Fifty Shades’ February weekend record as well.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Bring me readers with an IQ greater than 60, but no more than 90. I’ve had a change of heart in regard to reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.