They say third time’s a charm. It may have
taken Ryan Reynolds four*, but he finally has a superhero movie worthy of his
not inconsiderable talents.
You may (or hopefully don’t) remember Reynolds turning up as Deadpool before, in 2009’s X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Fans can worry about the mangling of the character in that film no more, as 20th Century Fox have hit hard reset on their depiction of ‘the merc with the mouth’, and brought him fully back into line with the comics in all his red-costumed, R-rated, fourth-wall breaking glory. Yes, this is another reboot, but this one was very much needed.
It’s been placed in the hands of VFX artist Tim Miller (most famous for the opening credits of David Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), marking his directorial debut, and thanks in no small part to a sharp script from Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (who also wrote ZOMBIELAND together), all in all he’s done a bang-up job of resurrecting this beloved cult character.
As it’s Deadpool’s first film front and centre, we get the obligatory origin story. Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a retired special forces type, getting by doing tiny vigilante contracts for folks in need. He falls in love (with FIREFLY / HOMELAND’s Morena Baccarin), only to discover that he has stage four cancer. In his desperation to rid himself of the disease, he signs up for a secret genetics program, but discovers too late that his benefactors aren’t all they seem. After some very unpleasant experiments and torture at the hands of bad guy Ajax (Ed Skrein), Wade’s long-dormant mutant genes are activated, leaving him able to heal incredibly quickly, but scarred from head to toe. Despite his sense of humour remaining intact, he swears revenge, yada yada yada...
The one thing they got right about putting Deadpool onscreen first time around was the casting, and Reynolds remains the perfect fit for the role. He carries the film effortlessly, and it’s clear that he’s loving it. Baccarin seems perfectly happy to go along with the silliness, T.J. Miller is fine in the underused role of offsider Weasel, while Brianna Hildebrand and Gina Carano are entertaining as two mutants new to the screen, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Angel Dust respectively. Sadly it’s Skrein who gets the short end of the stick, as an uninteresting 1D villain - the one bit of the story that Wernick and Reese seemingly forgot to flesh out, making Deadpool’s journey, beneath all the pithy one liners, a bit humdrum. Good job those one liners are of such high quality.
Fox meanwhile seem to have learned their lesson and paid attention to successes outside their own experience. It feels like they've loosened the reigns on Miller & co. for DEADPOOL, that it’s an experiment on their part to let the nerds have a go, do it their way, and let the chips fall where they may. 'Their way' in this instance is at times very violent, very bloody, very sweary and sometimes more than a bit rude, but it’s a strategy that in this case deserves to see solid returns.
DEADPOOL, a lot like 2015’s ANT-MAN, succeeds almost entirely on its raucous, bouncy sense of energy and fun (it’s going to be great when the characters eventually cross paths, although don’t count on that happening any time soon). Miller is a less experienced director than Peyton Reed however, and has a tougher time whenever the laughs stop; the more serious moments of Wilson’s story never sit quite as comfortably, but Miller seems to sense his own weakness, and wisely keeps these somber moments as brief as possible.
As you’d expect though, his visuals dazzle - from the bravura opening credits shot (which also sets the tone for humour) and through an impressive action sequence, cleverly broken up and referred back to at key points throughout the film. Ken Seng’s cinematography works well, complimented by Julian Clarke’s excellent editing, and while the score from Junkie XL isn’t as pronounced or memorable as his work on MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, it juices the action nicely.
The timing of the production is somewhat canny. Arriving when for many ‘superhero fatigue’ has definitely begin to sink in, DEADPOOL could easily seem custom built as a reaction to the weight of characters saving the world in every film. Wilson’s steadfast refusal to be a part of that ideology, and his constant, merciless quipping at the expense of those who do (usually in the shape of the X-MEN’s pillar of metallic virtue, Colossus), provides welcome relief for a world that’s almost sick of being saved, or at least hearing the woes of those doing the saving.
Of course the other famously endearing quality of the comics was its meta qualities, and they transfer beautifully to the screen, largely thanks to Reynolds’ perfect, seemingly at time ad-libbed delivery. Nothing is spared, from his own previous failings in the genre, to Fox’s perceived refusal to bump up the budget of the very movie we’re watching: with DEADPOOL, ironic/meta/self-aware characters are officially back in fashion. Also worth noting is the skill with which Marvel is shaping each disparate property into its ‘Cinematic Universe’, regardless of which studios have a lease on any given characters. Without giving too much away, fans will raise a smile at the location for the film’s climactic battle.
Speaking of which, is it just me, or are they even taking the piss out of Marvel’s penchant for ‘big thing falling out of the sky in the third act’? You be the judge.
*don’t forget BLADE TRINITY
DEADPOOL is released February 10 in the UK, February 11 in Australia and NZ, and February 12 in the US.