Movie review: ‘Deadpool’ a gleefully subversive Marvel film

deadpool-gallery-03Iron Man may be the resident bad boy of the Avengers, but he is practically a saint compared to Deadpool, the Marvel Universe’s famous (or infamous) “Merc with a Mouth.” Deadpool doesn’t play by anybody’s rules but his own, and even those are subject to change on a whim, and he can barely be classified as a “hero.” However, he’s also wickedly funny, and a definite fan favorite. He finally has his own film, out in theaters this past weekend: a violent, joke-filled, fourth-wall-breaking action comedy that definitely earns its R rating.

This actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen the antihero on screen, or even the first time “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds has portrayed the character. Deadpool appeared briefly in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” a prequel that did not seem to be a big hit with fans. It offered a filtered version of the character, with toned-down humor and no signature red suit. However, the uncensored version of Deadpool this time around is a lot closer to what fans were expecting — and wanting — to see.

“Deadpool” is a typical superhero origin story — with a twist. Deadpool is aware he’s in a movie and regularly talks to the audience and makes meta-jokes about other X-Men movies and Reynolds’ own sometimes rocky acting career, including his appearance in the Green Lantern movie. The character definitely doesn’t take anything too seriously.

The rise (or descent) of Deadpool begins with a mercenary named Wade Wilson who learns he has cancer. Believing he has no other option, he signs up for a risky medical treatment that promises to cure him but actually turns him into a disfigured mutant. Angry that he has been mutilated and lied to, Wilson does find a use for his new super-healing powers. He decides to become the masked vigilante Deadpool and seek revenge on the evil scientist who experimented on him.

Even though Reynolds does have clear comedic talent, he has not always made the best acting choices, and his career, which once seemed to hold a lot of promise, has faded. (Remember when he was People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive”? “Deadpool” references that too.) However, it’s tough to imagine anyone else playing Deadpool, and he tackles the role with obvious glee, firing off a new joke every few seconds. Not all of those jokes necessarily land, but by the time you process them, he’s fired off another one.

“Deadpool” does break ground for a Marvel movie, and it’s decidedly NOT family friendly. It’s funny and entertaining, and was brilliantly marketed. Still, after the film was over, I couldn’t help thinking that as much as it had pushed the envelope, I wish it had pushed the envelope just a little more. The humor was definitely edgy enough, but it wasn’t always wacky enough (if that makes sense). The character is funny and crazy, and I wanted to see more off-beat humor and even more fourth-wall breaking. There’s a scene where Deadpool takes a knife to the head and is lying on the ground and looking at his girlfriend, and he’s hallucinating and imaging a bunch of cartoon animals jumping around her. The “Deadpool” movie needed a little more of that. The origin story plot also was more formulaic than I was expecting.

Still, for now, maybe it’s enough that we got to see this movie at all. I’m glad the Marvel executives were willing to take a risk and try a hard R Marvel movie. (And hey, there’s even a Stan Lee cameo — and it’s great, as always). It’s an experiment that certainly seems to have paid off, with an impressive $130+ million opening weekend that far exceeded expectations. Since the first one has been a success, I’m certain there will be a sequel. With the origin story out of the way, hopefully Deadpool can have an even more madcap and unexpected adventure next time.

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