“Deadpool” is going to grab headlines and long be remembered as the movie that proved a hard R superhero movie will lure audiences when done well. I hope that that isn’t the only lesson learned here. Deadpool deftly weaves a tale of a flawed hero and villain within genre-defying violence and equally raunchy humor for a crowd-pleasing package with more of a soul than it has any right to have.
Deadpool has been billed as a different superhero, fond of over the top violence and humor that pushes all boundaries of good taste. No punches are pulled for the genre – this movie earns its R rating gleefully. The jokes are rapid-fire and relentless to the point where it’s easy to miss entire chunks of the movie as they are drowned away in laughter. The majority of the best lines come at the expense of the genre, especially the X-men movies themselves. You don’t need a great familiarity with other superhero movies to get the bulk of the references, but fans of the genre will certainly appreciate them more. Unfortunately, several lines do miss the mark, mostly thanks to being too sophomoric. This is a major problem in the first third of the movie, but luckily, this falls off. The violence is certainly hard and heavy, but I wouldn’t call it gross by any measures. “Kingsman” still has Deadpool beat from that standpoint. Gratuitous for sure, but not overplayed just because the movie can get away with it. The bulk of the violence is of course played for laughs and works well.
While it would be commendable for Deadpool to just nail the major beats and have fun, what pushes it into the upper stratosphere of the genre is how it treats its titular hero. Deadpool is an unstable personification of id, and his journey never lets the audience forget that. Both he and his antagonist Ajax’s motivations are the basest of human emotions and flaws: vanity, pride, wrath, and greed. These thread their way through the action of the story, resulting in something that ultimately is more interesting than your typical superhero fare that you’d see in other origin stories. Deadpool is self-assured, and he stays that way right until the conclusion that was true to the characters built in this world. However, from an action and spectacle standpoint, it was a little underwhelming given that we live in a post-Avengers world. That can be written off to the rather paltry $58 million budget, and I’m sure Deadpool 2 will remedy this.
The story remains fully focused on Deadpool, and the supporting characters help fill out that character. It would have been easy to gloss over the relationship between Wade and Vanessa, but I enjoyed the lengths the movie went to to show the uniqueness of their relationship. Colossus could have easily been mutant filler, but having him as Deadpool’s “angel on the shoulder” was smart and resulted in some great moments. Ajax, as previously mentioned, is a villain with understandable motivations used as an effective parallel to Deadpool. The remainder are there for either comic relief (Weasel, Blind Al) or battle filler (Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Angel Dust), and they accomplish their goals.
Ultimately, Deadpool is better than it has any right to be, and it meets the lofty expectations placed upon it. It could have been nothing more than a laugh-a-minute bloodfest and been perfectly fine. However, it takes a character that shouldn’t be interesting enough to warrant his own story and turn it into a potential franchise. Now, who’s going to play Cable in Deadpool 2?