Genre: Superhero Action Comedy
Running Time: 108 mins.
Premise: The "Merc with a Mouth" finally gets his own big screen adaptation. Perpetual smart-ass Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) falls in love, but gets cancer. In an attempt to rid himself of the disease via a rogue experiment, he develops accelerated healing powers but ends up horribly disfigured. Adopting the moniker Deadpool, Wade sets out for revenge against those who wronged him.
Behind-the-Scenes: This is not Reynolds' first turn as Deadpool. He popped up in X-Men Origins: Wolverine back in 2009 in an embarrassingly inept characterization that neutered Deadpool by sewing his mouth shut. That film was not well-received, to put it mildly, and all hope for a spin-off died with it. But, Reynolds never gave up, and a few years later, he worked with director Tim Miller to do a 3-minute concept reel to pitch 20th Century Fox on the concept. But, a hard-R rated superhero flick proved a tough sell and the movie languished for years until 2014, when that test footage "leaked." The fan reception was ecstatic, and helped push the needle over to a greenlight. Who leaked it? Nobody's saying, though many speculate it was Miller or somebody who worked for him. Reynolds determinism paid off, when the movie finally opened to record numbers - over $150 million over the four-day President's Day weekend.
The Good: This is a pitch perfect realization of the Deadpool character. Reynolds was born to play the role, he commits 100%, and he's instantly iconic. Just as Downey Jr. is Iron Man and Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, Reynolds IS Deadpool, and he flat-out owns the screen here. The opening credits are hilarious - eschewing cast and crew names for cheeky one-liners that can't help but ring true, especially when the credits read, "Written by: The Real Heroes Here." This is a fantastically funny script by Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The jokes fly fast and furious, and while not all of them land, just wait because another five are waiting for you around the corner. The Deadpool character frequently breaks the fourth wall (and sometimes the fourth wall within a fourth wall) and cracks jokes directly to the audience, which plays out like gangbusters and proves to be a refreshing breath of fresh air in the tried and true superhero genre. The movie makes great use of '80s and '90s pop culture references - both in music and dialogue. The real connections to Fox's X-Men franchise are prominently featured, and suggest endless franchise opportunities going forward. Its success could pave the way for more diverse superhero films going forward - featuring lesser known characters and more adult (read: R-rated) material.
The Bad: As clever as it thinks it is, and frequently is too, the movie's origin tale is surprisingly pedestrian in the end. The plot itself is nothing new, and hits many of the same superhero beats that these movies usually do. The main villain is an indistinct drag, and his motivations are, at best, muddy, and, at worst, incomprehensible. While more jokes work than don't, the humor is definitely geared to the mindset of a teenage boy hopped up on Mountain Dew and skin flicks. Not a bad thing per se, but for some audiences it will be. The action peaks in the opening highway sequence, suggesting the filmmakers blew most of their budget on that.
Should You See It?: Yes. Probably helps if you don't get easily annoyed by Reynolds working in maximum snark mode, and if you are, ever were, or consider yourself still in touch with your inner 13 year-old boy self.
Star Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars.
Better Than: Man of Steel, Avengers: Age of Ultron
Worse Than: Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy
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