Back in my sophomore year of high school, I remember arguing with a friend over Deadpool’s future. This was back when the first rumors of a Deadpool movie started to circulate and we still remembered the atrocious portrayal of the character in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” in which the Merc with a Mouth had his mouth sewn shut. I told my friend that there was no way Fox would ever have the guts to put out an R-rated Deadpool movie. If anything, we’d have to settle for a PG-13 movie, but I’m happy to have been proven wrong. “Deadpool” is a wild ride that takes full advantage of its R rating to deliver a violent, crude and hilarious movie.
The main feature that makes “Deadpool” work is the lead character himself. Fans will remember that Ryan Reynolds previously played an extremely different version of the character in “X-Men Origins Wolverine,” but he was, thankfully, given a second chance. Reynold’s charisma, physicality and his real love of the character make him a joy to watch. In fact, it’s impressive how much of Wade Wilson’s character he gets across considering that he spends most of the movie either in heavy prosthetics or the full Deadpool suit. He’s helped by the costume’s excellent design and some subtle CGI work on the mask, which helped him better express the character’s zany attitude. The last time an actor fit a comic book character this well was when Robert Downey Jr. stepped into the Iron Man suit.
As befitting to the character, this movie is full of comedy. Reynolds refuses to be quiet, delivering rapid-fire one-liners, put downs and nonsensical fourth wall breaks. The script itself is excellent, chock full of gags that start in the opening credits. When this many jokes are being used, it’s inevitable that not all of them are going to hit, but “Deadpool” has a surprisingly few numbers of duds. The audience I watched the film with was laughing for basically half the movie. Because the movie is R-rated, Deadpool is allowed to get as crude and vulgar as he wants. However, the movie’s funniest moments don’t come from the sex jokes or the non-stop profanity (although still very funny), but from the surreal aspects of Deadpool’s ordinary life. These moments include his first attempts at putting his blood-stained clothes through the laundry, hanging out with his elderly and blind roommate and putting his own spin on the film “127 Hours.” Also, “Deadpool” now has the honor of containing Stan Lee’s best cameo to date, in my opinion. And as with any Marvel movie, make sure to stay until the end of the credits.
One of the most clever parts of the movie’s ingenious marketing was that it was occasionally advertised as a love story. Morena Baccarin plays Wade Wilson’s love interest and adds a sensuous layer to the movie’s flashbacks thanks to her natural charms and wonderful chemistry with Reynolds. Unfortunately, she quickly becomes the standard damsel in distress that is a requirement for any superhero movie. This brings us to the very standard villain, Ed Skrein’s Ajax, along with his standard bruiser henchwoman, Gina Carano’s Angel Dust.
Outside of the humor and the violence, there’s very little done to break the standard super hero formula. Most unfortunate of all, Ajax continues the disappointing trend of boring comic book movie villains. I even question his status as a legitimate villain. His only true purpose is to be hunted by Deadpool. We get hints of a larger conspiracy involving selling mutant soldiers on the black market, but this is never fully explored and as a result, Ajax feels like a small-time chump and the stakes are never truly high for our loudmouthed hero.
One question on many minds was how this R-rated action comedy was going to fit into Fox’s larger X-Men universe, especially after the timeline reset in “Days of Future Past?” The movie is fully aware of this issue and solves it by bringing in Stephan Kapicic’s Colossus and Brianna Hildenbrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the Xavier’s School of Gifted Youngsters to try tying the movie into the rest of the continuity. Unfortunately, the presence of only two X-Men and the self-contained plot makes it feel as though Deadpool is stuck in his own corner of the universe. But the movie is fully aware of this and Deadpool even wonders aloud if the reason he only ever sees two X-Men is because the studio was too cheap to hire more actors or if the franchise’s status still isn’t set in stone after the reset.
Unfortunately, “Deadpool” doesn’t take full advantage of the character. While Deadpool started off as a very one-note character in the comics, he was eventually fleshed out and evolved from a wisecracking mercenary into a very tragic character. A part of Wade Wilson’s character that is mostly absent from this movie is his utter insanity and all the problems this causes. Underneath all the jokes and pop culture references, the fact remains that Wilson is a heavily disfigured, psychopathic mercenary who does horrible things to people and has had horrible things done to him.
Just when it seems that “Deadpool” is going to explore this material, the movie backs away and reverts to standard, bloody, superhero fare, despite Wade’s insistence that he’s not a hero. The best original Deadpool stories are the ones that balance humor with drama, but the movie seriously lacks the latter. With a Deadpool sequel officially in the works and amidst talks of an X-Force movie, humor alone is not enough to keep this character relevant. Additionally, the success “Deadpool” has seen is sure to tempt other companies to put out their own R-rated superheroes. I fear that Wade Wilson may eventually become irrelevant if Fox doesn’t take the risk of delving further into his fractured psyche.
Thankfully, the movie doesn’t hold back when it comes to violent scenes. The action throughout “Deadpool” is more than violent; it’s graceful. Not once does the camera shake as Deadpool uses bullets and blades to dismember his opponents amidst his ramblings about the number of bullets he has left, wondering how Ajax spends his Saturday nights or describing to the audience what exactly is going on. At one point, he even grabs hold of the camera and turns it away so we don’t see what he’s about to do.
Overall, “Deadpool” accomplishes what it set out to do. It wipes away the stain of Reynold’s earlier stints as Green Lantern and the Wade Wilson in “Wolverine.” It brought a fan-favorite character to the big screen in a truly accurate and uncompromising way. Finally, “Deadpool” proves that an R-rated superhero film can make back its budget three times over. Between “Deadpool,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Kingsmen: The Secret Service,” maybe Hollywood will realize that the return of the R-rated blockbuster is far overdue.