The time has finally come, the first theatrical superhero movie of the year and it’s a doozy. As I’m writing this, it’s on the way towards a monster $135 million plus box office holiday weekend, which is around three times greater than what was expected for this R-Rated movie on what could be considered a third tier superhero. In a way, this also seems like what happens when the filmmakers take the essence of what the character is in the comics and translate that as closely as possible to the screen. For many years, liberties have been taken with the origin, the costume, and other aspects of the characters but for fans of Deadpool, this is how they see their character on the page and on the screen and they are ecstatic. Personally, I can’t really call myself a fan of Deadpool in the comics because I’ve never read the comics. Most of my exposure to Deadpool comes from the beginning of X-Men Origins: Wolverine as well as a couple fan films. But this film hit me in all the right places, from the very wrong humor, the pop culture references from the 80’s and 90’s, the meta humor, and the action all wrapped up like a chimichanga of awesome.
One of the slight downsides to this film is that it is yet another origin story with a love story thrown in as the overarching backdrop of the “hero”‘s progression. The film is set in the X-Men universe so the theory behind what happens to Wade Wilson is that many people have a latent X-gene, and all it takes is the right kind of push for that gene to activate and turn that person into a mutant. And in this case, that push comes in the form of a series of painful torture. But what brings Wade to this organization in the first place are two things: the love for a woman and the fact that his entire body is riddled with incurable cancer. There’s also the obligatory creating a costume montage, and it ends with the final showdown between Deadpool and his creators.
What really helps this film feel less like a typical origin story is the meta humor that takes the wind out of its own sails quite often, also occasionally hanging a lampshade on it. Some of the best humor for someone who has seen a large number of superhero movies are when it calls out some of the questionable parts of earlier superhero movies. This is similar to the first X-Men’s line of “what would you rather wear, yellow spandex?” but it takes it a step further. In this film, Deadpool specifically calls out the question of whether Xavier in this film’s timeline would be played by Picard or McAvoy, we see an action figure from the highly questionable Deadpool aka Weapon 11 from Wolverine, and he gleefully announces the “superhero landing” as one of the villains prepares to jump down from a great height. In a small way, the film even pokes a little bit of fun with its Stan Lee cameo, as it places him in one of the most inappropriate places for him to be.
Deadpool is a character that really revels in his inappropriateness and violence. He has a pretty high body count, so the film does something rather smart and brings in a couple X-Men characters that help bring in the moral perspective which gives Deadpool even more of an edge when he ignores their advice. Colossus is the more well known of the two characters, even though here he’s played by a CGI character voiced by Stefan Kapicic who is basically unknown here in the US. He gets a few great moments where he’s supposed to be the voice of reason as he tries to convince Deadpool to stop killing so many people and join the X-Men. His best moment is during his fight with Angel, the super strong sidekick to the head villain. She gets knocked down, and when she comes up her left boob is hanging out, which Colossus points out to her while he averts his eyes and blocks it from the camera and the audience with his hand. Although one moment that was disappointing to see it get completely glossed over is during the fight, Negasonic Teenage Warhead blasts a bus into a couple henchmen, apparently killing them, but it’s never brought up after the fact.
The pacing of the film is interesting, especially during the first half as it cuts back and forth between the big highway action set piece that made up most of the trailer and the origin story along with Deadpool’s 4th wall breaking narrative connecting the dots. It helped quite a bit so that the opening didn’t drag on too long with the non-action oriented pre-superhero stuff, and it also helped break up the action and essentially make that opening scene last for almost the full first half of the film, yet it didn’t seem like it was taking forever to get anywhere. It also helps that Ryan Reynolds himself really helps make Wade Wilson and Deadpool likable. There’s just enough touches and humanity that you like him, especially his crazy/playful relationship with Vanessa, played excellently by Morena Baccarin. He explains it himself the best when he says that he’s not a hero, he’s just a bad guy who kills badder guys.
Finally, it is the action scenes that help hold this film together, and they are handled very well. Both the stretched out highway action scene and the climactic end battle show off some great fighting choreography with Reynolds and/or his stunt double along with some great stylistic flourishes that draw a lot of inspiration from the Matrix’s bullet time and Zack Snyder’s slow-mo without feeling like a direct copy of either style, especially during the scene where Deadpool is counting down how many bullets he has left, complete with slow-mo close ups of the numbered bullet casings. It’s not a perfect movie, as it does end with on overly perfect happy ending and has that bad timing moment when the bad guys capture his girl, but I had a ton of fun with it and am looking forward to not only a sequel, but for more superhero movies to buck the trend with a more adult sensibility. The greater impact of this film’s success will help lead to the growth of the superhero movie so it doesn’t stagnate in the PG-13 Marvel Studios mold. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.