Since this film was announced my feelings have been along the lines of cautious optimism. I liked the test footage released and I admire that the fans helped get this film made but considering how badly the character was handled in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, along with the potential for the character to become incredibly annoying, my hopes weren’t too high, even with the excellent marketing campaign. After seeing the film I think my apprehension was justified. This isn’t a bad film by any means, it is incredibly entertaining, but it isn’t as subversive or anarchic as it thinks it is.
The film concerns Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces soldier who is working as a fixer, helping women deal with problematic men in their lives. One night, he meets Vanessa, who he starts a relationship with, which is curtailed with Wade getting diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer. In a bid to cure himself, Wade agrees to undertake experimental treatment which is actually being used as an excuse to torture Wade to unlock his mutant genes. Once his mutant genes are activated, he gets a regenerative factor but with severely scarred skin. Wade eventually escapes and becomes Deadpool to find the people who tortured him and force them to fix his skin. The main element of the film that works is the way the character of Deadpool is presented and the humour that comes about from him. This film could have gone wrong so easily and Deadpool could have become a really annoying character but the balance of jokes is handled in the right way, making sure no joke goes on too long. Sure there are some jokes that are really predictable but when the jokes hit the film becomes incredibly entertaining, especially with the fourth wall breaking jokes referencing the relatively low budget of the film, the nature of the X-Men series and jokes at the expense of Ryan Reynolds’ previous experiences with superheroes in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern. However, this is also main problem I had with Deadpool is that, without the character of Deadpool, this is an incredibly generic superhero film. I understand the decision to make the focus of the film Deadpool’s origin story but the film doesn’t do anything to subvert the tropes of the origin story, it plays this aspect completely straight and, considering this takes up around 2/3 of the film (as did my description of the film, along with all the trailers), it doesn’t leave much room for what we came here to see, Deadpool. Sure some of these elements work, particularly the romance between Wade and Vanessa because of the good writing and humour in these scenes (even if a recurring joke about them is just a retread of Four Yorkshiremen) but after Wade gets diagnosed with cancer it becomes incredibly generic and only becomes alive again once he’s fully become Deadpool. Some of the other aspects of the film, such as the Hooker With a Heart of Gold trope, could have seen a great level of subversion but instead are played completely straight and this makes the film feel les subversive than it thinks it is.
The acting from the leads meanwhile keeps this film strong. Ryan Reynolds is a perfect Deadpool and his clear love for the character comes across on screen. He nails the sarcastic, fast paced, fourth wall breaking humour of the character, playing him like a live action Bugs Bunny. He also does a great job in the romance scenes, having great chemistry with Morenna Baccarin who is brilliant at keeping up with the humour of Wade, with the perverse, kinky personalities of the characters bouncing off each other perfectly, aided by the performances by Reynolds and Baccarin. Stefan Kapicic meanwhile is a great comic foil for Deadpool, acting as a great straightman for the character’s actions and being a really well handled satire of the people who wanted Deadpool to appeal more for the family audience, including those who started a petition for Deadpool to be edited to a PG-13 in America, with Colossus wanting Deadpool to tone down his violence and join the X-Men. Brianna Hildebrand is a lot of fun to watch as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and the relationship the character has with Deadpool is really well executed, but I can’t get over the feeling that they want this performance and character to break out in the same way that Chloe Grace Moretz broke out as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass. However, the other performances are nothing to really write home about. Ed Skrein and Gina Carano as Ajax and Angel Dust are so bland and their characters so poorly written (but not in the subversive way the film wants) that less than a day after watching the film I’m struggling to remember anything that they did in the film. TJ Miller meanwhile is incredibly annoying as Weasel, his character is on hand to act as more comic relief but this doesn’t work as the film is focused on a comedic character already. All of the worst jokes in the film go to Miller, which is a shame as when he’s given good material Miller can be hilarious (such as his roles in Big Hero 6 and Gravity Falls).
The technical aspects of the film are really well handled though. The action scenes are brilliantly directed, all of them having a fast kinetic vibe to them making them a lot of fun to watch, even if the poor plot meant I wasn’t as invested with a lot of them. The costume design is well executed, especially Deadpool’s costume which is one of the most accurate page-to-screen translations I’ve seen. The CG work, especially considering the limited budget, is really effective, especially with Colossus who is an entirely CG character this time around. I also have to praise the opening and closing credits for having some of the best fourth wall jokes in the film and the design of them. However, the location work feels really drab and uninspired, adding to the overall generic feel of the rest of the film.
Overall, Deadpool is a very entertaining film with great action, solid humour (aside from the more crass jokes) and an excellent central performance by Ryan Reynolds, but it can’t get around the fact that the plot is incredibly generic, the villains are some of the blandest in any comic book film and it’s simply not as subversive as it thinks it is. This is a fun film, but in terms of the more anarchic, subversive takes on the superhero genre, Kick-Ass isn’t going to lose it’s crown any time soon.
My Rating: 3/5