Only a week after its release, watching the latest offering from the X-Men line of Marvel movies, Deadpool, comes with a surprising amount of baggage. First there’s the hugely positive response it’s received from movie-goers (with a few exceptions), and secondly the fact that, apparently against all expectations, the 15 rated (R in the U.S.) film has had the most successful opening weekend of any of the movies in the X-Men franchise.
Because of this I will freely admit to having done my best to maintain level expectations as, despite the positive notices and word of mouth, I found it hard to comprehend quite how ‘The Merc With The Mouth’ could be successfully realised on-screen. This approach led to me having a great time in the cinema, but certainly noticing that Deadpool is far from a perfect or totally successful film.
As is de rigueur for new superhero movies (though actually this is at least the second time we’ve seen a version of Deadpool on-screen, as he also appeared, played by Reynolds, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) this is a fairly formulaic origin story tracing, in a round about way, the transition of ex-special forces operative, Wade Wilson, into the titular mutant mercenary assassin. In doing so it hits pretty much every expected convention bang on with a lost love, a tortured transformation sequence and ultimately culminating in a CGI heavy confrontation between the hero and the villain who had a hand in his creation.
So far so standard, and it is this that has led to the criticism that there is of the movie. For a film that set its stall as being a subversion of a now very well-known, potentially over saturated, genre, it’s sticks hard and fast to what has come before and, in many ways, other films have already added twists to these conventions without sending them up.
However, what Deadpool does pull off, for the most part, is to be genuinely fun – whether that comes in the form all out jokes, over the top (compared to standard superhero fare) violence or just plain joie de vivre varies. With the exception of a few genuinely brutal torture scenes it had me laughing throughout and, even when it was trying a bit too hard to be ‘meta’, things never quite fell into the tedium that is always lurking around that word.
Ryan Reynolds clearly gives his all in the lead role and, while we rarely see his face without either the iconic black and red mask or thick ‘scar’ make up, he delivers one of his least grating performances to date. As well as the physical nature of the performance with some great stunts mixed in with the CGI, he gets the tone of the delivery of Deadpool spot on with a real sense of irreverence rarely seen in the often over earnest world of superheros.
A clever little addition to the mask really helps bring the character to life as his eyes and ‘eyebrows’ move and contort, a bit like a more sarcastic version of Watchmen’s Rorschach, and save the movie from having a star with a perpetually blank face.
As well as sending up elements of the genre that have already been surpassed there are a couple of other problems with Deadpool that, it seems, many are forgiving with the argument that it all comes with a knowing nod and wink. Unfortunately that doesn’t make jokes at the expense of the protagonist’s ‘blind old lady’ roommate any easier to stomach or the fact that Wilson’s love interest is about as generic a damsel in distress as you can get (despite a potentially more interesting start).
The only real link to wider ‘X-Universe’ comes with the inclusion of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the X-Men and a few shots of Professor Xavier’s school. This makes for a few nice touches both comically from Deadpool’s ‘meta’ asides to just the simple fact of seeing other familiar characters reacting to these asides and giving the whole thing something of a grounding in this world – though quite how Deadpool can fit in to the wider series I can’t quite fathom.
For all its evident faults Deadpool remains a very entertaining and funny hour and forty minutes and (other than when it got a bit nasty) I was rarely not at least smiling, though mostly laughing, even if the humour was far from the most intellectual and at times reminded me of the teen comedies of the late 90s.
When compared the self-consciously ‘real’ likes of the DC movies and the often somewhat earnest Marvel franchise films (Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy excepted) Deadpool remains great fun and a nice diversion from the main features of the series which continue in the not too distant future with X-Men: Apocalypse (following on from Days of Future Past) and a third solo outing for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.