If you want to go in blind, we’ve mad e a few light hints at the references to the…well, the referential humour, so you’ve been warned.
From its opening moments, Deadpool establishes itself as the anarchic cousin of the X-Men franchise. Set to Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning,” the playful credit sequence pokes fun at credit sequences while examining a single moment in mutant fight. Like the sequence, the film straddles a line between the title character’s well-known sense of humor and the well-established X-Men action tone.
The film itself is origin story and revenge flick told in haphazardly timed segments. Ryan Reynolds stars both as the Merc with a Mouth and in his early form as contract killer Wade Wilson. He cannot escape his heart of gold and when it leads him to Vanessa, everything is gumdrops and rice pudding. When Wade’s body revolts against him with an aggressive cancer, he decides to put everything on the line for an experimental treatment. Unfortunately, it turns out to be an underground service creating mutated slaves. The procedure gives him an overactive healing factor that both scars him from head to toe and destabilizes his mind. Wade vows to escape and get the man responsible.
Holding it all together is the dedicated performance of Reynolds. Trying to get the film made for years, it easy to see him pouring his all into the project. A special charisma exudes from behind the red-and-black mask as he offers the viewer a cheerful hello, tries to figure out which continuity he is in, explain his situation to a cab driver or, merely, crack jokes.
And boy, does he crack jokes. Everything is up for grabs, including oblique and funny references to Reynolds’ first outing as Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which actor might play Charles Xavier and even shots at the star’s acting ability. It could be easy for the film to get lost in all the well-executed reference humor, but it also pauses to tell a familiar X-Men tale of corrupt agencies and a mutant looking for redemption (of a kind).
In fact, that tale might be a little too familiar for some longtime X-Men fans as Wade’s new film origin seems heavily influenced by the various tales told about Wolverine’s beginnings. No joke is ever made of this as the origin scenes are meant to create more of an emotional bond with the character. This intention is greatly aided by the presence of Morena Baccarin as Vanessa. Presented as an equally messed-up sex worker, she and Wade have instant chemistry. Baccarin is making a career of playing comic book character girlfriends, but she certainly gives Vanessa an offbeat charm and matches the crazy things Wade says with her own special brand of retorts.
In some ways, the film is a straight-faced love story as everything Deadpool does is with the intent to restore his relationship. It’s a surprisingly emotional undercurrent for the character and, for the most part, co-exists well with the fourth-wall breaking elements.
The switch in tones happens often enough to keep any element from wearing out its welcome. An early action set-piece opens the movie to its first extended flashback. Wade and Vanessa’s getting-to-know-you montage is entirely made up of sex scenes. Realizing he forgot to establish roommate Blind Al, Deadpool stops the movie to remind the audience that she briefly appeared in a previous scene. The tone is fluid enough for the film to earn absurd moments like Deadpool knocking on the front door of the X-Mansion.
And from the mansion comes a couple of welcome extended cameos by Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
Through a motion capture performance by Greg LaSalle and a voice from Stefan Kapicic, Colossus finally seems like the character from the comics. He’s brotherly — almost to a nauseating degree — and his constant lecturing on the responsibilities of a hero leads to great interplay with Deadpool. There is also the suggestion that Wade is a personal project for Colossus. Which, in itself, is pretty funny.
Brianna Hildebrand gives Negasonic Teenage Warhead the perfect amount of teenage petulance. Deadpool gets that and never runs out of great quips as a consequence. But when the cards are down, she becomes an able X-Man.
Besides the stars and the cameos, the film is backed by a fine roster of talent. T.J. Miller and Leslie Uggams deliver solid performances as Weasel and Blind Al. They never get enough time to shine as the film and its main character have a steely-eyed purpose, but they’d certainly be welcome faces in a sequel while attacking more punchlines.
Ed Skrien and Gina Carano give life to the villains who are a little one note in the scripting, but they do a good job setting up moments for Deadpool to comment on. They also handle themselves well in familiar X-Men action beats. Carano’s throw-down with Colossus is a highlight.
While Deadpool may be more of an X-Men film than some fans might expect, it is a well made X-Men film. Director Tim Miller shoots great action, finds the right moments for Deadpool-style humor and even gives the romantic element its proper place. Though not as anarchic as the marketing might suggest, it is certainly a solid debut for Deadpool (for real this time) and a much better film for the character and Ryan Reynolds than X-Men: Origins: Wolverine.
Deadpool opens on February 12th.