The Marvel comic book character Deadpool developed from a villain into a popular antihero. After a brief appearance in the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the eagerly awaited Deadpool movie has been a hit with both audiences and critics. The film’s hilarious marketing campaign pushed the character’s playful self-awareness, attracting fans as well as those interested in something different from the usual superhero fare. While the film is a mixed bag of juvenile humor and graphic violence, it has something most viewers can’t help but respond to: energy.
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a wisecracking mercenary and former member of special forces, falls in love with the lovely prostitute Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Through a series of holiday sexual liaisons, they realize that they are a perfect match. Unfortunately, doctors diagnose Wade with terminal cancer, and he takes up the offer of a mysterious man who claims to be able to help him. It isn’t giving too much away to say that a cure comes, but at a price. The private company turns Wade into the deformed, slightly more insane, and nearly indestructible Deadpool.
Deadpool’s abilities include possessing great taste in music (the exuberant soundtrack includes DMX and Salt N Pepa) and breaking the fourth wall. He speaks to the audience and makes references to Ryan Reynolds and superhero movie franchises. The opening credits attempt irony by playing a romantic song during a freeze-frame image of a violent scene but actually succeed at humor in replacing names with labels like “A British Villain” and “An Overpaid Tool.”
It feels pointless to criticize the film’s humor for poor taste since it prides itself on being offensive. The comedy is crude but not exactly subversive. One of the only people of color is a blind black woman who is the butt of several jokes. The movie is slightly better about misogyny. Fully-nude women dance away at one strip club, but Vanessa, while gorgeous, is also a believable match for Wade. The other female characters, though still attractive, are super-powered muscle rather than vapid eye-candy.
In terms of violence, there are threats of rape and careless mentions of molestation, blood and broken bones. This “hero” doesn’t think twice about chopping up enemies or even himself to get his own way, spewing out a stream of pop cultural references and insults all the while. Deadpool, who hates the word “superhero,” is both grating and entertaining because he is madcap id.
Deadpool kicks off a rather dark year for superheroes. Batman and Superman aren’t getting along. Neither are Iron Man and Captain America. The X-Men face a mutant named Apocalypse, and the Suicide Squad comprises a team of unreliable villains forced into government servitude. It is doubtful any of the films will be as violent as Deadpool, a rare R-rated comic book film. Its excellent editing keeps the story clear as it flashes between past and present, and the tone remains consistently irreverent though its scenes shift from revenge, to romance, comedy, and horror. Some will find the movie aggressively unpleasant and tediously self-satisfied, while those who enjoy the action, laugh at the jokes, and can stomach the violence will consider it a rousing good time at the cinema.