Length: 108 mins
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Dir: Tim Miller
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein
I think that the main thing to remember about the Deadpool movie is that it very nearly didn’t get made. Reynolds revealed recently that he has been trying to bring this story to the big screen for nigh on 11 years. The intellectual property – owned by 20th Century Fox along with the X-men characters – was one of those rare Hollywood licenses that no one wanted to touch. And looking at the comic, it’s easy to see why.
Deadpool is a Marvel comic created in the 90s by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld. Nicknamed ‘the Merc with the Mouth’ because he never shuts up, Wade Wilson gets his powers from the same programme the Wolverine went through, and gains a similar healing factor, effectively making him immortal. Unfortunately, the process also makes him totally insane and horrifically scarred due to the fact that he had cancer when he gained his healing powers. Depicted as an anti-hero, Deadpool is an extremely violent, foul mouthed and unpredictable character who frequently has arguments with his two inner monologues (shown as different caption boxes in the comic). Uniquely, Deadpool is also the only character in the Marvel universe that is aware that he is fictional – he frequently speaks directly to the audience and references movies, TV shows and other comics. Storylines in the comic tend to feature him killing a lot of people, including a recent arc where Deadpool kills every single hero in the Marvel universe. Not exactly kid friendly material…
Of course, as many of you will be aware, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a big screen adaptation of Deadpool – or seen Ryan Reynolds play him, for that matter. Some of you may remember the utterly appalling X-Men Origins: Wolverine – I’ve personally tried to blank it out. Reynolds played Wade Wilson in that movie, but the writers – in their infinite wisdom – decided to have him drop out of the movie for the majority and come back at the end with his mouth sewn up and a load of extra powers. Too put it simply… this did not go down well.
So – the character is tricky, the subject material isn’t suitable for younger audiences, and the fans have bad memories from the previous abortive effort to launch the character. On paper, Deadpool must have looked like box office poison – going completely against the conventional movie-making logic of the major studios (the same logic that tried to insist that Westerns were the next big thing and wasted a shit-tonne of money on an live-action adaptation of a sodding board game). To be honest though, this one of the many things that I love about the movie and the main reason why you should go see it. Immediately.
I’m sure that 20th Century Fox would have preferred to forget about Deadpool and continue making X-Men movies until the end of time. That’s exactly what they were doing until roughly two years ago, when some test footage for a Deadpool movie found its way online. The clip (which I don’t think you can find any more) spread like wildfire, garnering an incredibly positive reaction. After mounting pressure from fans, Fox reluctantly green-lit the movie. But they still weren’t convinced – the studio was reluctant to put any serious money into the project, and it shows. But Fox’s lack of faith necessitated that the writers had to be both creative and economic, and they managed to make one of, it not the, most entertaining comic book movie ever.
For me, one of the core strengths of the film is its story. It’s comparatively short runtime is well managed and the movie does just as much in a shorter space of time as any of the bigger films. The budget constraints resulted in a tight narrative and a focus on the characters over CGI and set pieces. There are lots of scenes which are just walking and talking – but this is never boring. Deadpool narrates his own story and talks directly to the audience – like in the comic – but they smartly left out his two inner monologues, which wouldn’t have worked on the big screen. Reynolds excels here – his sense of humour, delivery and comic timing are what carry the movie, and you can tell he’s having the time of his life. He just is Deadpool.
That being said, if I had to criticise the film, I would say that it is very pleased with itself. By that I mean, it acts as if it’s the only movie that has ever included fourth-wall breaks – going as far to point them out when they happen, which gets a bit old after a while. On top of that, while the has a good go at being a send-up of comic book movie tropes and clichés (joking about the ridiculous three-point ‘superhero landing’, for example), it manages to include almost every single one. While this isn’t really a deal breaker and I still had a tonne of fun watching it – the sheer smugness can get a little grating at times.
All that being said, I still love this movie and I appreciate what it represents. The core team behind its creation – Tim Miller, Rhett Reese, Paul Wenick, and Ryan Reynolds – care deeply about the material and made the film because they wanted to, rather than because a studio told them to, and I respect that greatly. It’ll be interesting to see what the studio does with this franchise – they’ve already green-lit the sequel. Here’s hoping that Fox doesn’t jump in and ruin everything by throwing money at it.
Actually… that’s totally what they are going to do…