Film Review: Deadpool (MA15+, USA, 2016)

For a while there it looked like the only version of Deadpool we’d ever see on the big screen was the somewhat cringe-inducing one we saw in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Studio execs at Fox were unsure about how to move forward with the character and make it a viable film. But when some test footage got leaked online back in 2012 much to the surprise and rapture of fans the execs finally decided to push forward. Now some 4 years later we finally have the finished product. In the lead up there’s been a prolific marketing campaign full of gag infused trailers and promo spots, but can it truly live up to all the hype?

Wade Wilson (Ryan Renolds) isn’t a hero, he goes around roughing up low life criminals who prey on young girls, and as he so eloquently puts it, he’s a bad guy who goes and scares other bad guys. The woman of his dreams, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) is a prostitute and matches his kind of extroverted craziness. Their blissful sex-filled relationship however gets rudely interrupted when Wade gets diagnosed with terminal cancer that’s riddled his entire body. When Wade is approached by a mystery man claiming to be able to not only cure his cancer but to make him into a super soldier, in a last ditch attempt to save himself he signs up to the shady Government program only to to be tortured and experimented upon by the sadistic Francis aka Ajax (Ed Skrein). After escaping the facility, Wade under the alter ego Deadpool, armed with accelerated healing abilities, super strength and speed and a metric tonne of weapons must track down Francis to try and fix his mutation and get his revenge on the man that tortured him.

Surprisingly what you’ll notice with Deadpool is that it’s an origin story film but only to a point. The script written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (both from Zombieland) has an interesting narrative by beginning at the present point in time, then goes into flashback to Wade Wilson’s journey to progress up to present point in time again. At which point it then proceeds to move forward with the story. It’s an interesting take as it accepts that what is shown is enough for the audience to need to know about Wilson’s backstory and that it’s important to move on from there, it neither feels out of place or out of order nor that there’s any excessive fat in the storytelling. Regardless of what your preconceptions are of this film going into it from a genre perspective, this is actually a comedy film through and through. It just so happens to be about a comic book hero (or anti-hero) with super powers who has a really sweet love story going on and is littered with a lot of graphically violent fight sequences as well as some introspective existentialism. That’s a fairly all-encompassing description of what you’ll get.

For me the anticipation lay in waiting for the jokes, the easter eggs, and the puns, and there are a lot of laughs, so much so that you may miss some of the dialogue. There’s also A LOT of very specific pop culture references, Marvel in-jokes, outright jabs at Marvel characters, particularly Wolverine and X-Men, and see if you can spot the additional references like Hello Kitty or Adventure Time. Some of these may date the film in the future, but for now, they’re all spot on and laugh-worthy.

As with any big blockbuster comic book film there is a ridiculous number of action sequences in this, and they are all veritable slabs of visual eye candy. Some of which is helped by the slow-motion capture they’ve done which are littered with macro style detail that not only enhance the fight scene visually but give them an even more comic book feel. The only things we were missing is the “kapow” and “bam” sound effect bubbles. You can thank first time feature director Tim Miller for utilising his extensive background in visual effects for bringing us these great sequences.

The film though belongs to Ryan Reynolds’ performance, it’s not often an actor gets a second shot at a character but not only has he embraced Deadpool and all his nuances but gone above and beyond (most notably with all the added promo spots) to embody the merc with the mouth. Clearly revelling in the motor-mouth almost stand up comedian like routines and fourth wall breaking. And even though he does take up the lion’s share of the dialogue his interactions with his onscreen co-stars and their characters never seems to outshine them either; which is is particularly noticeable with the ladies. All three of the main female characters we see are strong, sassy and badass in their own ways. There are no real damsels in distress here and each of them hold their own in unique ways. From Vanessa, who rivals Wade’s horrible life stories, to Angel Dust (MMA fighter Gina Carano) who manages to lay the smackdown on Colossus (Greg LaSalle doing the face and Stefan Kapicic doing the voice) and occasionally Wade to put him in his place, to the quiet angst-y goth-y but also literally explosive Negasonic Teenage Warhead (newcomer Brianna Hildebrand) who ever so casually steps in to assist Deadpool when the need arises. The only disappointment is that we really didn’t get to see enough of these women but what we did was impressive and I loved all three of them for different reasons.

My biggest frustration lay in in our villain Ajax aka Francis who doesn’t have nearly enough development or depth for us to understand his motivations or care about him and the fact that they even make him a punch line that he’s British and a villain in the credits is obvious. There seems to be no real reasoning behind why he takes pleasure in torturing Wade other than that he’s a sadist. It seems to be a Marvel Cinematic Universe trait that they suffer the fate of boring one dimensional baddies. Frustratingly we haven’t had a decent MCU villain since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (Ultron was alright but only because he was sassy and voiced by James Spader and I’m not looking at the Netflix offerings because they are amazing but have the leeway of 13 episode character arcs). And my other gripe was the freeway action sequence which is one of the best I’ve ever seen that was given away in the trailer. Sometimes less is more and I would’ve been happy to see less footage from the film itself in the trailers, and more of these random promo spots like Deadpool encouraging men and women to check themselves for testicular and breast cancer respectively.

From the opening ridiculous credit sequences to the amusing post credit scene this film is a gattling gun of jokes being fired. Some of them may miss their mark, but you’ll be too busy laughing or gawping at the insane fight sequences to notice or care. Deadpool takes the comic book hero movie franchise in a whole new warped, dirty and fun direction and it wouldn’t have been possible to do without taking the risk of going with that US R rating (it’s MA15+ in Australia). For once the studios and creative team behind a film have managed to deliver a Deadpool that will appease the comic fans but introduce a whole new group of people to this vivid and crazy character.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 108 minutes

Deadpool will screen in Australian cinemas from 11 February 2016 through 20th Century Fox