‘Deadpool’ Review | Laughter is the Best Medicine
There’s an excellent chance that you’ll be so busy laughing at the R-rated superhero comedy Deadpool that you might overlook the film’s flaws. Deadpool dedicates about half of its running time to a very old-fashioned origin story, and tries to hide that fact by constantly cutting between our hero getting his powers and a high-energy action sequence. It works for a little while, until you realize that not only has Deadpool spent half the film on the character’s origin, it has also spent that same half on a single, solitary fight scene. It’s not a bad fight, but it ain’t that great either.
So Deadpool is not the second coming of superhero movies, but that doesn’t mean it it’s bad. The film, about an ultra-violent mercenary with a penchant for bad jokes and a never-explained awareness that he’s in a superhero movie, hits all the conventional action movie beats but hits most of them in an unconventional way. And that starts right during the opening credits, which replaces all the actors’ names with stock archetypes like “British Villain,” and the writers’ names with “The Real Heroes Here.”
The plot: Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a mercenary who falls for the perfect woman (Morena Baccarin), then discovers to his horror that he has terminal cancer. He walks out on his lady love to spare her the pain of watching him die, then winds up in a secret government program that will cure his disease and give him superpowers… but only after torturing him, brutally, for months.
When Wade gets out he has healing powers but also a grotesque skin condition, and he vows to take revenge against the scientist who ruined his face. He also vows not to return to his lover because he thinks he’s too ugly to be loved, so all his time goes into finding his enemies – Francis (Ed Skrein) and Angel (Gina Carano) – and killing them brutally with his swords.
Ryan Reynolds was made for this role, quipping the quippiest quips and prancing about like a Batman villain who just happens to not technically be evil. More importantly he understands that the origin story, conventional though it may seem on paper, has significance. Director Tim Miller treats the tragedy of Wilson’s condition like the living nightmare it truly is, and only briefly treats the fantastical promise of a cure as a godsend. Like real-life cancer treatments, the process Wilson goes through is painful and, quite understandably, makes him feel damaged.
It’s easy to write off Deadpool’s inability to reconnect with his girlfriend Vanessa as a plot contrivance, or simple vanity, but it’s a truly human element to this otherwise cartoonish character that makes his mania seem forgivable. Like last year’s The Martian, what we see in Deadpool is a story about a good sense of humor getting people through life’s most difficult moments, and it’s inspiring to a point: you probably shouldn’t decapitate anybody but you can at least try to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.
Cameos from other X-Men characters – like Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and no one else because Deadpool says they couldn’t afford bigger stars – are welcome treats. The action is bloody and stylized and engaging, but functionally rather conventional; perhaps the funniest thing about Deadpool is that the hero is completely self-aware about everything except action movie clichés that are so old they could be Deadpool’s dad.
Deadpool may not go quite far enough with its self-aware shenanigans or its genre subversions to achieve genuine brilliance, but it’s an incredibly fun film. In many respects it’s the best X-Men movie yet, because it seems to care less about “world building” and “big ideas” than about a single interesting character with a unique voice, joking his way through a satisfying, albeit conventional story. The filmmakers’ affection for Deadpool rubs off all over us, and thankfully, rubs off hard.
Top Photo: 20th Century Fox
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.