Ryan Reynolds plays a blinder in this meta heavy Marvel superhero movie
With an advertising campaign positioning it as a cheeky alternative to Valentine’s Day schmaltz, Deadpool is an extension of the X-Men series, focusing on the titular wisecracking immortal. Marvel’s comic book adaptations have increasingly balanced their po-faced heroics with a more irreverent comedic edge so a sarky, chatty superhero is nothing new.
What Tim Miller’s directorial debut does promise is to bring a more X-rated brand of action to the table which, after the bloodless battles of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is welcome. But, if the content is undeniably more adult, with the violence packing a proper punch, the tone is unashamedly more infantile.
Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, Deadpool hit the comic scene in 1991, first as a supervillain, then an antihero. Ryan Reynolds returns to the role he got his first run at in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, although the character has been significantly tweaked since that underwhelming cinematic outing, reverting to something closer to the comics.
We watch as cynical crook Wade Wilson finds love with Vanessa (Homeland’s Morena Baccarin – going from punky ball-grabber to distressed damsel) and contracts terminal cancer. In his desperation he agrees to undergo an experimental procedure that will supposedly transform him into a superhero, but instead he’s subjected to a hideous ordeal at the hands of Ajax (Ed Skrein) – emerging scarred and bent on revenge.
Deadpool overdoes the knowing humour from the off, initially coming across as pretty obnoxious as it simultaneously acknowledges its derivative nature and distances itself from its numerous peers with a running commentary on events. Nevertheless, the emphasis on slapstick is a lot of fun and the snappy screenplay from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland) has its moments as it extends its middle finger to the concept of suspension of disbelief with repeated fourth wall breaks, while the references come thick, fast and proudly unsubtle.
That Deadpool grows in likeability and swagger is due in no small part to Reynolds who was, quite simply, born for this shit, with his delivery both exuberant and expertly withering. He’s a formidable weapon in the film’s arsenal, perhaps its only big gun (Skrein comes across as a mid-level henchman rather than a worthy adversary), and manages to make something out of even the weaker material. ‘Deadpool, that sounds like a franchise,’ Wade’s pal Weasel (TJ Miller) comments hopefully, as the pair bandy about suggestions for a superhero name. He might just be right.
General release from Wed 10 Feb.