By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Ryan Reynolds is born to play the sarcastic anti-hero Deadpool far better than his previous role in Green Lantern. I did not find the latter movie utterly terrible. It just suffered from too much CGI and a goofy plot. But as for the previous version of this mercenary, I thought the previous incarnation suffered from lack of a solid concept and in how the producers did not understand the character at all. No prior knowledge is required to realize who he is in this latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe helmed by Marvel Entertainment. Technically, he belongs to 20th Century Fox, but a few nods suggests the possibility he will enter the fray when the movie version of the Infinity Wars begin. In the comics, the cosmic entity Death once took an interest in this mercenary with a heart, recognizing the fact they are kindred spirits.
A few ideas are taken from the comics outlining his origins. In what’s expanded upon, his beef these days is with stalkers preying upon innocent girls. In a previous life, he was a mercenary for hire. Just where he got his training and killer instincts are mildly explored. More detail would have helped define this movie as a game-changer, especially when he’s known by a few super-heroic groups as a man needing a just mission instead of being on one fuelled by hate. In this film’s case, it’s to put to rest his anger for the mad scientist, Ajax / Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein), who created him. Some people would be glad to acquire super powers but for wade, he does not quite want it. He just wants his life back before the experiment.
Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is justified to get his revenge. When the love of his life Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin) is threatened, he’s needing help. He calls upon the X-Men (mostly Colossus because the rest of the team is missing) to confront Freeman. He brings along the teenage trainee, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and as for why she’s there, she barely registers as a blip in the radar of this film. As simple as the present story is, the origin tale is better. Viewers find he’s just wanting a simple life of protecting innocents from the tough city streets of New York. Whatever happened in his genesis as Deadpool made him unstable and he will kill anyone without hesitation.
Interestingly, Colossus believes there is good in Deadpool. However, just when or how this revelation came about or in when they met during this film’s continuity is taken for granted. The movie begins in medias res (the middle of things) with Deadpool on route to intercept Freeman, and his superhero birth is told in one huge flashback to get audiences up to speed at where Wade’s life is presently at.
In a movie that’s designed to reintroduce this character (he first appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine), it succeeds in retconning the material. Unlike past products which takes the Marvel cinematic world seriously, this film makes fun of it. The best jokes is when Deadpool breaks the fourth wall and says he knows he’s a comic book character. He references the problems in this universe and even lovingly asks, which version of Professor X he’s going to meet. To know where this movie fits in requires establishing a time-line. I’d love seeing him work with Spider-Man or the Avengers. It’s happening in the comics. In the movies, the likelihood is slim, as they are Sony and Disney properties, but one never knows …. In the fact he’s so bloody violent makes for any comic book film lover’s sociopathic wet dream come true and he will do what any other hero will not do: cause pain. This movie character is by no means complex, but there has to be a reason for why he’s a hero to young teenage girls. This idea is hammered in the opening act. Perhaps he’s helping others out when he failed to protect his own sister or someone close to him.
Hopefully the next film will look at Wade’s life prior. More packaging is needed to really put this movie on top of the genre-bending comic book game instead of over for its gratuitous violence and double talk. Movies like Kick Ass and Defendor makes a statement about the influence of comic book culture whereas Deadpool does not. At least this film acknowledges the fact it’s built as fan service and it certainly entertains at that levels. It delivers the goods in a classic 90’s comic book style of way.
The improvised humour by Weasel (T.J. Miller) is gold when the material is fresh (not revealed by the trailers) and the wit developed by Reynolds shows that he’s found his groove. He’s clearly having fun in the role when the mask is on. Some of the silliness, juvenile behaviour and breaking the fourth wall moments are familiar. Some felt lifted from the animation, Ultimate Spider-Man. In the sequels, I’ll be anxiously waiting for little cartoon Deadpools representing his good and bad side to appear on his shoulders to goad him on.
A sequel is in the works and hopefully the tiny problems in the first film will get corrected. The supporting heroes were sadly under-utilized, namely Colossus. He only functioned as a door bouncer. His Boy Scout attitude is dead on, but for Deadpool, turning hero is not in the cards. Just how mutants figure into this universe needs more of them to run around. Maybe in the second outing, Fox will ante up the money to set a proper world up.
3½ Stars out of 5