RYAN REYNOLDS IS a failed superhero. That’s both a summation of his career of big-budget comic adaptations, and a decent synopsis for Deadpool.
From the questionable facial hair of Blade Trinity, to the $200 million disaster of Green Lantern, the Canadian’s luck has been slim in his career so far. He’s been fighting for the chance to play the role for over a decade (after being compared to the antihero in the comics) and, following a visual effects test by Blur Studio in 2014, it looked like fans might finally get the chance to see him in his own movie.
Given the last appearance of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a unmitigated failure or a boring X-Men film even by the standards of the franchise so far depending on who you ask, seeing a Reynolds Deadpool vehicle, and one rated 15 at that, is kind of unbelievable, in a joyful sort of way. And from the opening credits onwards, that feeling rarely left.
Still within the X-Men cinematic story but rebooting his character within it, Wade Wilson is a former soldier-turned mercenary who volunteers for dangerous procedures to combat his terminal cancer, leaving behind partner Vanessa. (Firefly and Gotham’s Morena Baccarin).
After being terrorised and mutated by Ajax (Ed Skrein) Wilson gains the standard superhero powers – agility, cell regeneration – but becoming disfigured in the process. The movie begins with Wilson already suited up as Deadpool, tracking down Ajax and explaining the story up to this point directly to the audience and in flashbacks, making sure to kill plenty of people along the way.
Deadpool, as in the comics, is endlessly self-referential, breaking the fourth wall on multiple occasions to bring up everything from the Hollywood movie system that he’s now a part of, the X-Men franchise in general, Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, the credits of his own movie, the budget, and the various injuries he sustains and inflicts on other people. “You may wanna look away for this part”, Deadpool says, and literally pushes the lens in the other direction while his victim screams.
Films like Kick-Ass and its dour sequel proved that there was an audience for true comic-book violence on screen, but – and maybe this reflects badly on my character – the film feels very selective in its action sequences. There’s an underlying sense of playing it safe in Deadpool – the result of an over $8 million reduction in budget at the last minute, coupled with studio Fox’s presumable hesitance to go too big, or too violent, or too tongue-in-cheek with a movie whose fans might not bring in the money they’d need to stay afloat – and it’s obvious but never distracting. The otherwise bog-standard Action Movie Final Sequence has jokes that make it engaging, what action there is remains bloody and entertaining enough, and the film never spends too long on its more serious origin story, preferring to keep us focused on Deadpool’s narration above all else. For the film to succeed Reynolds had to do the work in the role; and luckily he acts like he was born to do it.
His delivery and physical comedy makes it the funniest Marvel production since Guardians of the Galaxy, refreshing given the joyless (though probably still impressive) Civil War looming on the horizon. A full house at the Commodore is always vocal in its approval, but especially on opening night for this film.
Leslie Uggams does a stellar turn as Deadpool’s eccentric roomate Blind Al, and some of the best laughs come from the cab driver who takes him to the opening fight, Karan Soni as Dopinder, but the supporting cast has its gaps. Baccarin isn’t given a lot to do – especially disappointing given that, in the comics, Vanessa is also a mutant. Skrein as Ajax is also not too compelling a villain; despite help in the form of Fast and Furious 6’s Gina Carano as Angel Dust, who shares some brilliant moments with Colossus and the stupendously-named Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the two X-Men licensed for the film.
Deadpool, like the character, is a bit of a mess under the surface but gratefully fast, focused and fun all the way through. It’s always clear when a film has been enjoyable to produce, and with the film already bigger than X-Men Origins, and with a sequel already greenlit, the team behind Deadpool’s first outing is sure to perfect the superhero formula in a few years’ time.
The hard part will be writing the sequel joke.
Deadpool is in the Commodore Cinema until Thursday