WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Deadpool
Deadpool could very easily have been a travesty; a complete mess of a movie that ultimately failed to appeal to either the average movie-going public or the die-hard fans. But, it didn’t. While I was certainly looking forward to it (especially when I saw the marketing), it managed to be even better that I initially hoped.
Because of the rather bizarre nature of the film, it’s a bit hard to review it in a traditional sense. So, I figured I’d take take the easy route and simply list off all the things I liked about the movie.
1. The Humour
This was arguably one of the most important aspects of the film. Deadpool is probably most well-known for his sense of self-awareness. He knows he’s a fictional character, whether it be in the comics, games or this very movie. He comments on everything that happens around him, pokes fun at the writing and even talks to the audience.
Now, I absolutely love fourth-wall humour but it’s very easy to get wrong. Constant breaking of the fourth-wall can result in a product that the audience is no longer invested in. Even though we know that a movie isn’t real, we sort of believe it is when we’re watching it. We get invested thanks to the writing or the characters. But if the characters are constantly aware that nothing is real, then it pulls us out of it. Why should we care about the stakes or consequences when it really doesn’t matter?
Deadpool manages to avoid that pitfall. Deadpool does turn to the camera to narrate his thoughts to us but it’s used sparingly and cleverly. It’s always a nice surprise when he does it; it doesn’t become predictable, which is kind of a benchmark for good comedy. If you can see the joke coming, it’s not going to be as funny once it arrives.
That being said, not all the humour comes from Deadpool’s sly winks at the audience. There’s still plenty of funny writing from the other characters and some visual humour too. Hell, nearly everything that comes out of Deadpool’s mouth is funny, so much so that I’m almost tempted to just list a whole bunch of them here. Ryan Reynolds has very much become the character (similar to how Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey, Jr. became Wolverine and Iron Man). He’s just perfectly suited for the role but I’ll get more into that later.
Oh, and need I forget how over-the-top violent and crude this film is? Deadpool makes all of Marvel’s other movies look like CBeebies with how much blood and swearing there is. And it’s glorious. It’s the kind of high-octane stuff that leaves you with a dumb smile on your face. Given how violent Deadpool is in the comics, a watered down version of him would have pissed a lot of people off. And while I think Deadpool can still be entertaining without the swearing and murdering (as shown by his appearances in more child-friendly material like the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon and Lego Marvel Super Heroes), the film arguably would have suffered if it was marketed to a younger demographic.
That’s probably why it’s so impressive how well the film’s done, despite being released in February – a time reserved for what are usually the worst films of the year. It’s even turned around a lot of studio bigwigs opinions on R-rated movies. The moment Deadpool started raking in the money, an R-rated Wolverine movie got green-lit. It’s almost like allowing more creative freedom rather than focusing on charts and focus groups can result in a better product.
Speaking of creative freedom, it’s almost gob-smacking how much Deadpool gets away with. Rather than calling the film a “20th Century Fox Production”, the opening credits call it “A Douchebag’s Film.” On two seperate occasions, shots are fired at the Green Lantern movie that Reynolds was in. And, of course, the film doesn’t hesitate to call out how Deadpool was portrayed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I know this may not sound like a big deal but, to me, it was like chatting shit in front of a very stern headmaster but said headmaster can’t do anything about it. Biting the hand that feeds it, as it were.
Something else I noticed whilst watching the film was that, despite the gore and the swearing and the sex and the dick jokes, at no point was the film offensive. What do I mean by that? Well, in a lot of comedy movies (usually the badly written ones), there’s almost always at least a jab at a certain group of people. Women, overweight people, other ethnicities, gay people – these are all easy targets for some comedy writers. Deadpool doesn’t do that. It doesn’t single out any particular group of people for the sake of making a joke. There’s even a point, during Deadpool’s hunt for main villain Ajax, where he briefly contemplates over whether it’s sexist or not to kill a female mook. The only people it insults are its own characters, whether it be the scummy villains or even Deadpool himself. As much as he cracks jokes about murdering nameless henchmen, he’s on the receiving end of a lot of put-downs, both verbally and physically.
Honestly, the only people who are going to be “offended” are the people who aren’t the target demographic, as well as idiot parents who complain about the film being too rude for their kids despite everyone telling them that the film isn’t made for kids seriously did you not see the age rating they tell you right away it’s not suitable for younger audiences DO SOME DAMN RESEARCH!
Sorry, got very angry for a second. The point I’m making is that the film isn’t mean-spirited or cruel. Twisted, but not cruel. It actually fits perfectly with Deadpool himself as a character. There’s a perfect mix of fourth-wall jokes, physical and verbal humour, crudeness and just plain silliness. I reckon, even if you didn’t know much about Deadpool, you could easily enjoy the film for its humour alone.
Wow, I rambled on for a bit, didn’t I?. How about we mosey along and talk about something else?
2. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Usually, my favourite characters tend to not be the stars of the show, but rather the side characters; the ones with not as much focus but still bring a lot of entertainment to the proceedings. Deadpool is not one of those movies – the Merc with a Mouth is easily the best character – but that’s not to knock the rest of the cast by any means, especially Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. While they’re mostly there to act as foils to Deadpool and provide support for the big fight scene at the end, I found myself really enjoying their presence. Hell, I want to see a whole movie focused on the three of them.
While I’ve heard some complain that Colossus isn’t accurately portrayed as he was in the comics, to the point where he’s something of a buffoon (and by some I mean DC Comics writer Gail Simone who retweeted me and now I feel validated and have some stupid compulsion to let everyone know Gail Simone retweeted me by mentioning it in this very article), I still rather liked how he was handled. He was your typical gentle giant; overtly polite but capable of snapping you like a twig – it’s one of those character tropes that I love and never get tired of. Plus, I like the Russian accent. I’m sorry; it’s a petty reason to like a character but I just do. And he brought his own brand of humour with him, mostly physical, like when he’s quietly sipping from a juice box with a straw while cramped in the back of a taxi.
As for Negasonic Teenage Warhead (and no, I’m not going to abbreviate it), she’s got this sort of punk-ish/goth-ish design going for her which is neat and a perpetual scowl which makes her oddly endearing for some reason. She’s actually a great antithesis to Colossus – he’s large and optimistic while she’s young but constantly grumpy and sarcastic. She doesn’t have any real development throughout the film nor does she even care about Deadpool’s antics. Despite that, it’s still an absolute joy to see her finally show her powers off and kick ass, and just like Colossus, she bounces of Deadpool extremely well. Whereas Colossus is constantly trying to convince him to take the more noble path of heroism and join the X-Men, she’s quicker to call Deadpool out on his buffoonery and crack jokes at his expense. She’s the kind of character that doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime but you still want to see more of. Hopefully, she and Colossus will come back for the sequel.
3. The Romance
While it’s certainly not my favourite aspect of the movie, I felt like it was worth mentioning at the very least due to how different it was compared to the some of the other Marvel films. Hell, it’s different to most films.
It’s a bit hard to explain but the relationship between Wade and his girlfriend/fiancee, Vanessa, manages to be both traditional yet slightly subverted. When they first meet, there’s the expected banter, with Vanessa establishing herself as being tough and no-nonsense. But rather than having Wade struggling to come to terms with his suddenly developed feelings before the two come together at the end to proclaim their love for each other, the movie skips all of that and goes straight to the two having sex. A lot of very raunchy sex.
For most of the first third, the two are either making out or trading snark at each other. At first, it seems like it’s a relationship based purely on sex. Then Wade proposes. First of all, two characters agreeing to get married in a superhero movie?! Not only that but before even the halfway point?! Not even regular movies do that. But what follows is a surprising insight into the relationship.
While Vanessa does say yes, it’s immediately followed with the two learning of Wade’s cancer. What does Vanessa do? She starts asking the doctor serious questions. She finds pamphlets for retreats and the like to help Wade. She tries to make Wade eat healthier. She does what any person would do in that situation. It’s made clear that there is more to her than we have seen so far and that there’s a genuine romance between the two of them. It’s weirdly refreshing when you compare it to the romances seen in other superhero films. I mean, what other superhero movie shows us the hero and their love interest having a very active sex life?
Even though it does follow the usual formula after the midway point (when Wade decides to not tell Vanessa he’s alive because he’s worried she’ll reject him due to his appearance), it still manages to sort of forge its own identity. You can’t say it’s the same song and dance that we’ve seen in other movies. Maybe it’s because it feels a little bit more human. We’re shown other facets of the relationship so, despite only seeing a small part of it, we believe in it. We know how much these two love each other and they don’t even need to say it. I don’t think they actually say “I love you” throughout the whole thing (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Unless making “penis in the vagina” gestures counts.
Looking back, it’s probably a good thing that the romance was handled so radically different. Given Deadpool‘s tone, the usual lovey-dovey kind of stuff would’ve felt incredibly out of place. Having him together with a woman who’s just as foul-mouthed and snarky as he is just makes sense and, while not my favourite, it’s an aspect that I was pleasantly surprised by. Who knew a film about an insane, psychopathic killer could be so heartwarming?
4. Deadpool’s characterisation
While I have been familiar with the character for several years, Deadpool was always the comic relief in my eyes. A very violent, murderous comic relief. He was never the star but always took the spotlight because of his jokey nature. I loved seeing him because he always made me laugh. But as the years have gone on and I’ve become more familiar with him as a character, I noticed something. Despite his highly questionable morals, his lunacy and status as a sort of meme, he’s got much deeper characterisation than some people realise. And this move highlights that.
While it is advertised as a comedy superhero film (which it unquestionably is), Deadpool’s character is handled in a much different manner than if he was a supporting character in someone else’s movie. It makes sense considering he’s the focus but the film could’ve easily glossed over this backstory and focused more on him just being funny and killing people.
But no, we see what Deadpool was like before, and while he was certainly no saint, it’s established very early on that there is some innate good in him. The first thing we see him do before he puts the mask on is help a teenage girl deal with a creepy stalker, mentally screw with the guy for good measure, and even reject the girl’s payment.
When he learns of his cancer, we briefly see him crying to himself in the middle of the night, covering it up with humour when Vanessa catches him. He only agrees to the incredibly dodgy experiment that may or may not cure him because he can’t bear the idea of leaving Vanessa behind. The dude’s got some serious heart.
Not only that, but even after he takes on the Deadpool identity, it’s made repeatedly clear that behind the jokes and the swearing is a man who is in constant emotional pain and, quite frankly, hates himself. His subjugation at the hands of Ajax is not played for laughs at all, and is shown for what it is – torture. He’s completely silent during his first fight with Ajax, and it’s kind of intense and terrifying to see him so quiet.
The scars, both physical and mental, are apparent throughout the entire film, especially whenever he’s near Ajax. Suddenly, the one-liners and crudeness become a lot more sinister, and you can feel the murderous intent behind them. But despite that, there’s still some of that aforementioned goodness within him. While he admits he plans on hunting Ajax purely for personal revenge, he also states that he doesn’t want Ajax or his organisation repeating they’re experiments on anyone else. There are even little moments like when he says that Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s name is the coolest name ever or finds out one of Ajax’s mooks is an old friend of his and, instead of killing him, knocks him unconscious.
I mentioned it earlier but Ryan Reynolds’ performance is what ultimately makes it. You get the sense that he really does understand the character, which is why he’s able to pull off all of Deadpool’s emotions so perfectly.
While I think Deadpool could have been an entertaining comedy regardless, it’s Reynolds’ acting and the writing that I think is why it’s become as successful as it is. All the praise it’s received is well deserved and, for one of the very few times in recent memory, I am very much looking forward to what a sequel could hold.