Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story

Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story

Heroes are born, heroes rise, heroes fall, and heroes are risen again. Year-in and year-out, those are almost exclusively what moviegoers have been offered from the fine folks at Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers. The world watches them arrive with a thunder-clap, reacts with fear and wants them torn down, and eventually comes to realize how much they need them.

So maybe it’s time for something new. Perhaps it’s time for no great power and no responsibility. Perhaps a hero who knows what we’ve already seen, and even how ridiculous some of it has been.

Deadpool is a mercenary named Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). A trained assassin, Wilson dedicates his talents to protecting young women from male stalkers and harassers. As he makes his bones, he meets an escort named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and they fall in love. Only in the movies, right?

However it’s not all beer and pizza for Wade Wilson – turns out he has a staggering amount of cancer eating his finely tuned body, leading him to turn desperate. After slipping away from Vanessa in an effort to spare her the indignity of what he knows is to come, Wade heads to the sketchy lair of a scientist who says he has an answer. Once at the lab though, he is tortured for days on end by a specialist named Francis (Ed Skerin) and his cohort who goes by the name Angel Dust (Gina Carano). They are trying to trigger a genetic mutation in Wade, and eventually, they get their wish in a treatment that leaves him horribly disfigured.

After escaping from the lab, and Wade slowly takes steps to put his life back together, including hiding his disfigured face behind a mask as a revenge-bent mercenary named “Deadpool”.

The red-spandex wearing “merc with a mouth” continually addresses the audience, makes dirty jokes, and is hellbent on winning back Vanessa and taking out revenge on Francis and Angel (not neccessarily in that order). His efforts land him the attention of a pair of X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic (Stefan Kapičić and Brianna Hildebrand). The heroes are hopeful they can keep Deadpool’s wake of carnage to a minimum, and perhaps convince him to join their efforts…where rules and regulation are adhered to while evil is stomped-out.

They aren’t tremendously hopeful…

 

Ryan Reynolds in DEADPOOL

 

Meta-humour has a knack of getting carried away pretty quickly. What begins as a wink and a nod has a tendency to turn into a joy-buzzer and a whoopie cushion without much coaxing. Pretty soon what you get is less a commentary on the matter at hand, and more a version of it that would look at home on a shelf with SCARY MOVIE. In this respect, DEADPOOL knows how to stay onside. It recognizes its place both in a larger universe and likewise in the world the audience inhabits, and voices that recognition with a smirk that never becomes truly snide.

It doesn’t hurt that the opening credits themselves set the tone (“a british villain”, “the comic relief”, etc), telling us that this is a film that knows its place. In an age where most films of its ilk come with characters speaking in grave tones, all while droning brass and the thunder of drums blare on the soundtrack, the smartassery of DEADPOOL is a welcome switch. Likewise, the decision to leave money on the table and aim for an R rating. The film makes no bones about being something for wide audiences, and a toy that will accompany Happy Meals. Instead it says “I will be violent, nasty, and crude…and there is a place for that in this universe”.

We will always want and need beacons like Captain America and Wonder Woman to inspire us; to remind us of what we are at our very best. But while every family needs its patriarch and matriarch to set the example, it also needs its drunk uncle to keep things entertaining at Thanksgiving dinner.

For all the good stupid fun that takes place within DEADPOOL, the film comes along with a major failing that is somewhat inexplicable. The films coming from Marvel and DC arrive with an extremely high amount of time dedicated to developing their stories and how they will fit into a larger canon. Fox didn’t have that sort of issue with DEADPOOL – it came together reasonably quickly. Specifically, the script came together well after the call went out for greater representation of women within comic book films. Even if most of this script has been intact since 2009, it’s not so intricate that it wouldn’t allow for a a greater role for Nagasonic, Angel Dust, or Vanessa. All three are only in place to service Wade’s story and while that would have been a shame in 2009 (especially for a character with the potential of Nagasonic), it’s downright criminal in 2016.

Perhaps it’s something that this franchise will work on for its next instalment – which is coming after the success of this entry. Or perhaps it will be yet one more example of a big-budget film that believes only white boys go to see films like this. While this movie could have been something special, for now we will have to settle for it being a solid start to a genre within a genre. That’s the thing about comic book films; so far, they have really only been origin stories and team-ups. Very few have thought about being a spin on the western, or the political thriller, and with that, they are failing to evolve.

DEADPOOL wants to fuel the evolution. It wants to speak straight to camera and Ferris Beuller its way through bloody action, dirty jokes, and self-awareness. It’s a high-octane fuel for sure, but hopefully it finds a higher gear on its second lap.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
What did you think? Please leave comments with your thoughts and reactions on DEADPOOL.