I had been cool, to say the least, toward the comic comic-book-movie Deadpool. It looked like a crude, choppy mix of cheap humor, sex and violence. The trailers ran the gamut from “maybe that’ll be good” to “oh, that looks terrible.” The Boy concurred with my assessment, although he pointed out that Chris Hastings, author of the amusing (and very similar in tone) “Dr. McNinja” webcomic had signed on to write the Deadpool comic (though no credit on this film).
That said, The Boy took his girlfriend to see it, and enjoyed it. So months later, at the last possible moment, I saw it at the discount theater.
It is, in fact, a crude, choppy mix of heap humor, sex and violence—and that’s okay.
The story is that our anti-hero, Wade (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern, Mississippi Grind), is a miserable lout of a human, using his powers of violence to make a fast buck, but finds happiness in a relationship with Vanessa, a hooker-with-a-heart-of-something-or-other (Morena Baccarin, Firefly), only to discover that he has advanced cancer. His prospects are basically “get horrible, debilitating treatment, then die,” and in looking for a way out, he ends up in the clutches of some Mad Scientists.
The Mads agree to fix him up, in exchange for his soul—well, okay, in exchange for him working for them, but they really want to turn him into a mindless super-powered drone, but he thwarts them and escapes. So, the good news is he has super-regenerative powers, a la Wolverine, and can even grow limbs back, as well as the typically never explained super-acrobatic/strength/whatever-the-plot-needs powers that seem to come with it. Oh, and he doesn’t have cancer.
But, his face is messed up, and he’s so shallow, he figures Vanessa will be too. He then embarks on a mission to capture the Mads who did this to him and force them to fix his face. He hides from Vanessa, but she ends up getting captured anyway (’cause that’s what happens in these situations), and he has to have a big confrontation with the baddies at a ship graveyard full of dead aircraft carriers with only a couple of C-list X-Men to help him (Colossus and, I’m not making this up, Negasonic Teenage Warhead).
There’s a lot of meta-humor, with Wade talking to the camera, and demanding that he not be turned into a green glowing superhero (which superhero, I thought he was fine as, frankly, even if the movie was rough), and this works because, well, superhero movies have gotten so serious, it’s nice to see the air taken out of them a bit.
But what’s funny, to me, is that the movie works a lot better on an emotional level than most superhero movies these days. It’s a common theme here that the movies have to constantly escalate and escalate, such that on his rebooted outing Superman has to, basically, destroy Metropolis to save the world. There’s nothing to hang on to, to relate to.
Deadpool’s interests are aggressively personal. He wants his girlfriend and his face back, and so the movie plays out in most respects like a straight-up revenge story. Even with the constant breaking the fourth wall—which really ends up feeling more like he’s narrating rather than actually “breaking the fourth wall”—you actually care more about the characters and their struggles here than in in, say, Iron Man 3 or (I’m guessing) Batman vs. Superman.
It’s still a superhero movie, though, so, you know, you gotta be in the mood for that. It has the most graphic sex scenes in the costumed vigilante genre since HBO’s “Spawn” cartoons which are part played for laughs, but most certainly as a kind of Firefly fan-service. And the humor is much like the TV show “Archer”, though nobody’s going to be dropping in an analysis of “Animal Farm” or a reference to Thomas Elphinstone.
Eh, it’ll probably be my favorite superhero movie this year. Have I mentioned that I’m done with this genre, though?