Unlike so many superhero action flicks, Deadpool can never be accused of taking itself too seriously. If you have seen the trailer, you should know what to expect with wisecracks aplenty from the titular character played, as he did in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, by Ryan Reynolds, albeit in a vastly different guise on this occasion. Not being familiar with the comics from which the character was borne, I have no way of knowing which depiction most accurately resembles the original construct. This Deadpool though is a far cry from the version we saw in Wolverine, covered head to toe in spandex to hide a disfigurement inexorably linked to his indestructibility. Wade Wilson is a smartarse standover man and mercenary-for-hire transformed into an indestructible force who most certainly doesn’t see himself as a hero. In fact, his whole motivation for the wrath he wreaks on various criminal types is to rescue his girlfriend from the clutches of Ajax (Ed Skrein), the very man responsible for the bad-ass skills he now possesses.
Tim Miller, an animator and visual effects artist directing his first feature, has gone out of his way to subvert the earnestness that has plagued so many superhero narratives, with Reynolds unrelenting in his rapid-fire repartee of endless witticisms and wisecracks, all the while slicing and dicing his way through a bevy of bad guys. With swearing and extreme violence aplenty and even some sex in the mix, this is a comic book adaptation aimed squarely at an adult audience. The narrative structure is disjointed and jumps back and forward between time periods, with Deadpool breaking the fourth wall on more than one occasion. The opening moments are very much about creating the point of difference between Deadpool and other super hero types who can draw upon superpowers, technological wizardry or great wealth in their battles against the bad guys. You see, Deadpool is such an everyman that he catches a cab to his showdown with Ajax and his myriad henchmen, offering romance advice to the driver along the way that becomes a running joke throughout the film. From here, we launch into the backstory in which Wilson meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and falls in love, their relationship trajectory told via a montage of sex scenes that coincide with various national holidays.
Soon enough, a mysterious recruiter comes calling and offers Wilson a deal. If he signs up as a participant in the Weapon X program (which created Wolverine) his life will be saved. A series of experiments by Ajax and his partner Angel Dust (Gina Carano) activate Wilson’s latent mutant genes and he emerges with regenerative powers that enable injuries to heal, effectively make him impossible to kill. Although, when Ajax leaves Wilson in a burning building, the scarring he suffers doesn’t heal (?) so Wilson crafts himself a costume, becomes Deadpool and sets forth on a quest for revenge. When Vanessa is snatched by Ajax, Deadpool enlists the help of a couple of low-rent X-Men in Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) for a final face-off. Given that Deadpool tries so hard to challenge the conventions of the superhero flick and present itself as something darker and edgier, the clichés that pervade this final confrontation undermine any such efforts.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Deadpool is that none of the supporting characters are fully formed, leaving Reynolds to carry the entire film. He certainly takes on the challenge with gusto, injecting an energy that’s been missing from superhero movies of late. Baccarin (Spy, TV’s Homeland) is a talented actress whose character initially presents as a confident, capable woman before being reduced to nothing more than a damsel in distress by the third act. Should there be a sequel (which seems inevitable) it would be great to see Vanessa take a much more substantial role in proceedings. Serving as a meta commentary on superheroes, popular culture and those that take these things too seriously, Deadpool revels in mocking the self-righteous earnestness of the genre as a whole. Despite drifting into melodrama and predictability in the closing moments, Deadpool is a fun ride that combines dismembering, head-splattering action with myriad visual flourishes and an endless succession of jokes to deliver something that resembles Kick-Ass more so than a typical Marvel property.