It’s hard to finish Deadpool without a smug smile on your face. The best Marvel feature in years, it has exactly what the increasingly repetitious (but nevertheless entertaining) brand needs: bite. Meta, gory, acerbic, and brazenly funny, it is a neat packaging of superhero antics and hard-R political incorrectness, an abnormality among its fellow Avengers and X-Men counterparts. Part of me wishes it were released earlier — Marvel has always maintained their niche audience but has never really taken interest in riskier asides — but another is convinced that its arrival comes at the perfect time, as fatigue in response to supers is setting in and the inclusion of something insolent and unexpected is more urgent than ever.
But either way, Deadpool is a rambunctious good time for those willing to let its vicious sass into their hearts; take its disregard for by-the-book comic mischief seriously and you’d be better off getting your jollies elsewhere, though it’s highly unlikely that a differing action blockbuster will be as zingy, as lively in its personality, as this one is. It's a high point in 2016 already, and it’s only February.
Part of it has to do with Ryan Reynolds as the titular anti-hero, who gives champion smart-aleck Robert Downey Jr. a run for his money as America’s favorite in-on-the-joke superhero. Startlingly good at playing it sardonic, Reynolds’s Deadpool is a fourth-wall breaking, ‘80s referencing, immoral, egotistical, self-referential piece of work easily able to win over our hearts. A few minutes of experiencing his sarcastic digressions and we’re persuaded that Captain America or Wolverine just isn’t going to cut it anymore. The film is an origin story, but the baggage that always seems to come along with the wince inducing category (take into consideration how many times we’ve seen Superman come of age) is nowhere to be found — Deadpool’s self-mockery is so satisfying that we actually like getting to know the characters involved in its antics; never do we feel as though we’re going through the motions of a preface, waiting for an eventual sequel to spice things up.
Fans of the comics are surely familiar with how the film’s focal character came to be, but most aren’t so savvy when it comes to paperback tough-guys (me included). Unlike many of his peers, especially those of the X-Men, we find that Deadpool was not born a freak of nature with otherworldly powers. The victim of a difficult childhood and hard living, he has, for his entire adult life, acted as an unforgiving mercenary under his given name, Wade Wilson, in New York City, a special forces operative in earlier years. He’s unopposed to killing and stealing, but is also with enough of a conscience to prevent himself from losing his bearings in a world of sordidness.
His life changes, however, when he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a fellow career criminal who matches him in waywardness. So begins a robust relationship that peaks in a proposal, which unpredictably falls to pieces when it is discovered that Wade has terminal cancer. Desperate to prolong his time with his beloved, he takes a risky offer from an anonymous figure (Jed Rees) to participate in an experiment that will cure him of his illness and give him special abilities. Figuring he has nothing to lose, he accepts the invitation.
Bad idea. What at one time appeared to be a too-good-to-be-true deal turns out to be too bad to be true; headed by Ajax (Ed Skrein), a psychopathic mutant, incessant torture ensues, the mission not being to rid Wade of his cancer, but to condition him to bear special abilities and then be sold to wealthy consumers who might need his resources. In the process, he is badly disfigured and finds a villain to fixate his hate on — when escape becomes reality, his only motivations are to find Vanessa and kill the man who destroyed his well-being. He adopts the Deadpool moniker in order to keep himself enigmatic and feared. An excellent strategy for an anti-superhero trying to keep it on the DL, if you ask me.
If Deadpool sounds off-puttingly dark, don’t be one to let its overarching plot points get the best of you — it is knowingly light-hearted and frenzied, and will most likely be the best time you’ve had at a Marvel movie in a long time. Black humor aside (it takes a while before we can accept the way the film so often seems to be smirking at its audience, and the dire consequences of violence), we are a slave to its scrumptious wit, its comedy so succulent that it could stand alone as an Anchorman rival (tonally, I mean) and gotten away with it. (Rumors are circulating that a petition has been started to have Reynolds, in character, host Saturday Night Live, and I’m down with the absurd idea so long as it’s done right.)
But we also must measure its successes by how well it works as a superhero movie (and origin story), and in that sense, it is as equally slick, its action sequences exquisitely choreographed and with a no-holds-barred attitude eager to kill and maim, not take the usual high road. It’s a martini of escapism ready to reinvent the superhero movie. A sequel is the most pressing thing on my mind at the moment, and I’m sure that won’t be changing as soon as Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse roll around and I find myself thirsting for something a little more bombastic. A-