When mercenary Wade Wilson discovers he has terminal cancer, he volunteers for a radical experimental treatment designed to cure his disease and give him superpowers. And so, Deadpool is born.
Kicking off the superhero slate in 2016, Deadpool is in an enviable position. It doesn’t have the weight of expectation it would have if it was released at the end of the year, and it’s following a lacklustre 2015 for comic book movies in general. But with a marketing campaign as effective as this one, there was always bound to be a significant buzz around Deadpool’s triumphant return to the screen.
The question remains: does it live up to the hype?
The answer is yes… and no.
We’ve made it no secret at What’s in Film how excited we were to see this movie. If you’ve been following my articles, that much will be clear. So sitting down in the theatre, I’d built my expectations unreasonably high, to the point where I was expecting the next Batman Begins.
Did Deadpool meet those expectations? In some ways: absolutely.
The biggest positive Deadpool has going for it is its star man. Poor Ryan Reynolds has been trying to get this movie off the ground since forever, especially after the shit show that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He never got a chance to do the character justice in that movie, reduced to the comic relief in the first act, and a butchered antagonist in the third.
In his first film as the centre of attention – and let’s face it, it’s always good to have Deadpool as the centre of attention – Reynolds imbues the character with the same frat boy shtick he’s been rinsing and repeating for years. Normally, that sort of thing can grate, but Reynolds has so much passion and love for Wade Wilson, he makes it work. While he does reel off one too many dick jokes at times, his delivery and humour for the most part hits hard. There’s so much energy and charisma squeezed into that red spandex suit, even his most ardent haters will find it hard to keep a straight face. Without any shadow of a doubt, Reynolds is the life and soul of Deadpool. He knows the character inside out. He connects with the character. And he finally has a role which allows him to let loose and swing for the fences. It’s been a long time coming in his career, but Reynolds has finally found his defining moment – and what a performance he gives.
The same cannot be said however for Ed Skrein as the chief baddie, Ajax. Fresh from a painstakingly horrendous turn in Transporter: Refuelled, he takes a character we’re supposed to hate and makes us hate him for all the wrong reasons.
Firstly, there’s no arc to his story. He’s a prick in the beginning and he’s a prick at the end. It’s like he’s being bad for bad’s sake, and the only thing that makes him want to be such a arsehole is that Wade knows his real name. His actions are despicable, I’ll give him that (he’s a real sadistic piece of work) but there’s no real gravitas or charisma to lend any credence to his ruthless streak. The Avengers had Loki. The Dark Knight had the Joker. Deadpool has… a shaven headed Brit who nobody really gives a damn about. I can’t help but feel as though the stakes would have been higher if we’d gotten a villain with a little bit of extra “oomph”.
After all, the story is supposed to be a revenge/damsel in distress tale, but there were few instances where I sat back and found myself genuinely rooting for Deadpool – the torture scenes are the only ones that spring to mind. In part, this might have something to do with the shortcomings of director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. They are massive fans of the source material, that much is clear, but Deadpool feels like it was made solely for the fans of the comic, without a wider audience in mind. For that reason, the characterisation of Wade is on the money and wholly true to form. In fact, I don’t think anybody could have done a more perfect job at bringing the Merc with the Mouth to life. But by focusing all their attention to this one character, the rest of the movie becomes hollow. Sure T.J. Millers gets some big laughs as Weasel, but we saw all his jokes in the teasers. Sure Morena Baccarin can keep up with the crudity – she really does play her part to achieve that R Rating – but her characterisation is sacrificed in the name of dirty jokes and edgy humour. Miller and co. do the best possible job capturing the spirit of Deadpool, but then forget to devote some time to a compelling narrative as well.
With all that being said, Deadpool is still a hugely entertaining movie, especially if you’re a fan of the comic book series. While the plot is non-existent, there’s a beating heart somewhere underneath all the sex jokes and innuendo, pumped into life by a spine of filmmakers who genuinely love the character. It’s not the game changer we were hoping for, but it’s a welcome detour from the typical superhero fare we’ve become accustomed to.
Movie rating: (3 / 5)