Deadpool

5 Stars

With the way Hollywood is assembling franchises these days, we see plenty of announcements and discussions about sequels and spinoffs that never materialize. Even when a movie is a complete bomb, there will be periods of time where, technically, a follow-up is on the calendar – even though it’s fairly obvious it won’t come out (see: Fantastic Four 2). Given the overall reception to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a standalone film with Ryan Reynolds returning to the role of Deadpool seemed like one of those films. And yet, here we are nearly seven years later with a Deadpool film starring Ryan Reynolds. Sure, it’s technically one that doesn’t narratively tie into Wolverine, but we’re talking about the one high-profile comic book character who can get away with it. And the passion that kept Reynolds hard at work pushing for the film has obviously paid off in getting the film made and released, but does it redeem the character’s previous film appearance?

Yes. And this time, Deadpool is on screen in all of his foul-mouthed, hyper-violent and 100% adult ways.

As told through a lengthy series of flashbacks, Deadpool – a.k.a. Wade Wilson (Reynolds) – is a former special ops soldier now working as a mercenary for hire; he’s a bad guy, but only to worse guys. One night, he meets a stripper named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) who’s able to match his particular level of crazy. Their relationship is everything either of them could want, until Wade is diagnosed with stage four cancers all over his body. Wade eventually decides to undergo a radical treatment he’s offered, which leads him to Ajax (Ed Skrein), a scientist determined to unlock mutant genes in his “patients” in order to turn them into super-soldiers he can sell off. While Ajax does cure Wade of his cancer, and with a newfound ability to heal, Wade is left horribly disfigured.

Did I mention that this is all told in flashback? When we first meet Deadpool, he’s fully costumed and hunting down Ajax, with the hope that Ajax can fix his body. Complicating his plans, though, are appearances from a pair of X-Men: Colossus (Stefan Kapcic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Colossus wants to recruit Deadpool into the X-Men, which Deadpool isn’t having. And why would he? Deadpool would have to be neutered to fit into the PG-13 world of the X-Men. See: X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Deadpool will be sure to remind you.

It’s worth pointing out that yes, Deadpool is in many regards a fairly standard origin story. On top of everything mentioned above, Vanessa is eventually put in danger, which requires Deadpool to spring into action. What makes Deadpool work is not an original story, but a willingness to play with and poke fun at the formula. First and foremost, this film is meant to introduce Deadpool to a larger audience, which means getting them used to a major film take on a comic book character who is far more violent, sexual, and foul-mouthed than what audiences expect to see. And from the opening credits to the final shot of the film, Deadpool frequently shows Deadpool being meta, or breaking the fourth wall.

So much of this works because of Reynolds. I know plenty of people who had their doubts about Reynolds returning to this role, between Origins and his move to DC with Green Lantern. The Deadpool in this film, though, is Reynolds at his best. Reynolds doesn’t do sincere well. But he does do well at ridiculous, and this version of Deadpool finally gives him a character that runs with that ridiculousness.

Beyond Reynolds, the film also works by keeping its stakes unusually low. The world isn’t threatened, with Deadpool as humanity’s only hope for survival. No, the chase and fight between Deadpool and Ajax is purely personal, and the stakes are ridiculously low-key. Quite frankly, after seeing humanity threatened for the umpteenth time in an X-Men film, this sounds fine to me.

Deadpool is the first “superhero” (for the sake of argument) film that’s getting a release in 2016, with several more coming from Fox, DC/Warner Bros. and Marvel throughout 2016. It’s a crowded market, but if anything, Deadpool proves that there are still plenty of ways for these films to stand out. I’m curious to see where Reynolds and the Deadpool team go with an inevitable sequel, and how (or if) Deadpool will further connect to Fox’s X-Men universe. Maybe he can take a katana to the Fantastic Four and figure them out for the studio. In any case, Deadpool is the movie fans have wanted on screens nationwide for years. It’s an absolute blast.

Deadpool • Rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity) • Runtime: 108 minutes • Genre: Action • Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarat, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Leslie Uggams • Director: Tim Miller • Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick • Distributor: 20th Century Fox
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