by Charles Lewis III
It’s safe to say that no one wants “Least Likely to Succeed” written in their yearbook. All of us would like to believe that we have the opportunity to thrive and that everyone is rooting for us to do so – even people we’ve never met. Yet, there’s something to be said for the underachiever: when expectations are low enough, anything you do will seem like an achievement.
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a motor-mouthed military veteran who makes breaking bones or taking lives on behalf of the highest bidder. He’s also a hopeless romantic, but the joy of his recent engagement is soured by the news that he has terminal cancer. Desperate to walk his equally obnoxious fiancée down the aisle, Wilson volunteers for an experimental procedure that he’s told will cure him. In a way, it does, as it triggers a dormant mutation that allows him to heal rapidly. The catch is that it leaves him horribly disfigured. And with that, the newly-christened “Deadpool” sets out on a foul-mouthed, fourth-wall-breaking quest for revenge against the man who experimented on him.
Deadpool was created by reviled comic book illustrator Rob Liefeld during a period the comic industry considers one of its worst. The character’s first film appearance – also played by Reynolds – was in the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, an ill-advised spin-off of the popular comic-turned-film franchise. In spite of that film’s lukewarm reception, a Deadpool spin-off was promised, but considered cancelled after the franchise rebooted with X-Men: First Class. But, like the title character, the film survived and mutated into something no one expected.
Deadpool is a “comic book movie” less in the sense that it has a rich mythology, but more in the sense that it’s unabashedly silly. Like his comic counterpart, the cinematic Deadpool is a manic Bugs Bunny figure, with a dialogue composed primarily of scatological one-liners delivered to both fellow characters and we, the audience. Sure, it acknowledges it lineage to the proper X-Men films – X-Man Colossus is a major character, the X-Mansion is seen, and one of the film’s best jokes involves the face of Hugh Jackman – but its content makes it off-limits to those otherwise kid- and teen-friendly films.
Which is odd, because the film was made for the 11-year-old boy in all of us. It revels in its juvenile ideas of what sex and violence should be, other than that they should “look cool”. The first third of the film is a non-stop rush of pubescent mania that is only hurt by the sudden stop that begins the second act. And, like all would-be tough kids, Deadpool‘s boasting belies the soft heart at its core. The film isn’t about the wall-to-wall violence, but rather the romance between Wade and his fiancée (Morena Baccarin) which serves as the catalyst for said violence. It’s just playing the nihilist because chicks dig that.
In fact, anyone can dig the film if they surrender to their Id wholeheartedly. Between the serious-but-fun Marvel films and the joyless DC films, it’s a welcome relief to see a comic book movie embrace the fact that the last thing you should do is take it seriously.
Rating: **** (Four-out-of-Five)