Deadpool (2016)

Director: Tim Miller
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gina Carano, Morena Baccarin, Taylor Hickson, Brianna Hildebrand, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein
Genre: Action, Adventure

Crudeness, violence and meta humour provide the backbones for Deadpool, the latest Fox/ Marvel superhero starring Ryan Reynolds, who has admirably stuck by the movie through years of developmental hell. A faithful adaptation of its source, Deadpool is a superhero origin movie with a twist—the character itself is very much aware that he is in a superhero movie. It subverts (or tries to subvert) the genre with self-referential humour, a hard R rating, and the breaking of the fourth wall (“and even a fourth-wall break inside a fourth-wall break”), aiming to appeal to both fans and people who are tired of the repetitiveness of the genre. Whilst the objective and premise is certainly original, it doesn’t fully achieve the subversion that it so desperately wants. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable addition to the very crowded genre, and is much better than Fantastic Four, Fox’s previous attempt at exploiting their Marvel copyrights. It also provides a far more interesting Deadpool than the flop that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The majority of Deadpool’s runtime is dedicated to flinging expletives and sex jokes at the audience; there’s no letting up, even throughout the action scenes. Unfortunately, it gets tired very, very quickly. Sure, it’s a fundamental part of Wade Wilson’s schtick, but most of the juvenile humour isn’t funny or original, and a lot of the jokes are just variations of each other—once you’ve heard the first few masturbation one-liners, the rest are pretty much the same. The pop culture and meta jokes fare much better, mostly because they’re much smarter than just putting all the swear words possible into one line. The sly digs at Ryan Reynolds’ previous career choices are great, and the Marvel Universe references are hilarious for those in the know (a personal favourite: Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy?). If and when the jokes in Deadpool do hit, it’s largely down to the charismatic talents of Ryan Reynolds, who commits fully to his beloved character. He finds a perfect balance between Deadpool’s arrogance and his more likeable side, and hits both the comedic and emotional beats well. Reynolds nails it, and whilst only time will tell whether he will be to Deadpool as Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr. are to Wolverine and Iron Man, the odds are on his side.

The supporting cast of characters are interesting on paper, but the movie squanders much of their potential. Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa, the love interest, doesn’t get much screen time to develop into a character outside of her association with Deadpool, although the love story itself is surprisingly sweet. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead—the movie hilariously comments on how they’re the cheapest X-Men the movie could afford—both have their moments, but are inconsequential to the plot. The villain is utterly forgettable, probably the blandest Big Bad in any Marvel adaptation to date. His superpower, being unable to feel pain, is just as boring as the character. A good super villain should raise the stakes and provide a formidable challenge to the superhero, but never once does it not feel like Deadpool could steamroll over him.

This is the problem with Deadpool: it’s not nearly as funny or smart as it wants to be. It wants to be a parody of superhero movies, and tries so hard to sell itself as one, but its plot is ultimately just another conventional origin story. Wade Wilson starts off as an ordinary guy, something bad happens to him that makes him gain superpowers, and then he gets his revenge over the person who inflicted it on him in a big showdown. Throw in a damsel-in-distress plotline for the love interest as well. We’ve all seen this before (ironically, see: X-Men Origins: Wolverine). The movie can make all the meta jokes it wants, but its story is nowhere near subversive enough to be a true parody of its genre and not just a copy. It’s entertaining for the most part, but doesn’t live up to its own high expectations. If you’re looking for a groundbreaking, and not just a run of the mill superhero movie, Deadpool is not it.

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