Tim Miller’s Deadpool is entertaining. The 2016 film technically sits as the eighth entry in the X-Men series, with a quick screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The character, the creation of Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, has been standing in line for his own cinematic adaptation since around 2004. Ryan Reynolds portrayed the character in 2009 for Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
If Deadpool is the result of so many non-starters and also-rans, the wait was worth it. This is a deeply comic slice of entertainment and it rarely lets itself fall into sentiment or solemnity. The jokes keep coming and the Reese and Wernick screenplay has the good sense to offset its own clichés with a gag or two.
Reynolds is Wade Wilson, a special forces operative now working as a mercenary. He gets involved with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and they fall in love. Unfortunately for Wade, he winds up diagnosed with terminal cancer. He doesn’t want her to watch him die, so he decides to undergo what he believes is an experimental cure. It’s not.
Wade ends up subjected to various rounds of torture by Ajax (Ed Skrein), a sadistic man tasked with drawing out mutant potential. Wade eventually develops the ability to heal himself, but he’s grossly disfigured in the process. He steers clear of Vanessa after escaping from Ajax and elects to hunt down his torturer. Naturally, there are complications.
The plot of Deadpool is admittedly nothing special. There are X-Men involved to some extent, with Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) showing up with the hope of recruiting the protagonist. Gina Carano also stars as Angel Dust, an associate of Ajax’s who packs a serious punch.
But this is Deadpool’s story and subsequently Deadpool’s movie, which means there’s a lot of humour on tap. The character breaks the fourth wall and lets the audience in on the jokes. He cracks wise about how there are only two X-Men in the film, presumably because of a lack of cash. And the slippery timeline allows for even more “how did we get here” gags.
And the backstory is interesting enough, at least as far as origin stories go, but it’s mostly a prop for letting Reynolds bust out as many snazzy lines and in-jokes as possible. There are swipes at the X-Men franchise and cheap jokes galore, which illuminates the Merc with the Mouth as a character who won’t shut the hell up and fight.
There’s something kind of subversive about that. Reynolds’s Deadpool doesn’t care if other people think he’s funny. He knows that other people probably think he’s annoying. He’s amusing himself and forcing the world to watch at gunpoint, which makes its outright refusal to play by sassy superhero rules all the more rewarding.
Some of the picture does lapse into convention, like the plot and the action scenes. While the graphic violence is uplifting, the tendency toward the anticipated leaves Deadpool feeling a little flat in some areas. The climax is the most interesting, either, with the whole “rescue the damsel” thing somewhat undermining any previously accumulated currency.
Still, Deadpool has more in common with lighter and tighter fare like Guardians of the Galaxy than it does the orthodox “big” movies. It’s kind of the little bloody engine that could and it chugs uphill with enough profanity and violence in the tank to propel it through a body-hugging 108 or so minutes.
Deadpool is just the thing for fans of the comic book, for those wild and woolly 1990s-based nerds who never met a wisecrack they didn’t like and spent Friday nights role-playing in the corner table at Denny’s. It’s a smart-mouthed blast and it’s a whole lot of fun, with enough spirit and spunk to spawn a sequel or even a whole happy family of sequels.