It may have been a long time coming – and beleaguered by numerous pitfalls along the way – but Ryan Reynolds’s chimichanga-loving, fourth wall-breaking “merc with a mouth” Deadpool has finally arrived in cinemas, and Team Screening hit up our local Cineworld (other fine cinema houses are, of course, available!) to check out the not-inconsiderable hype.
Centring around the story of thug-for-hire Wade W. Wilson, Deadpool begins with Wade meeting the love of his life, rising Hollywood star Morena Baccarin (who you’ll most likely remember from looooads of TV shows including Homeland, The Mentalist, V and, most recently, as Detective Jim Gordon’s chief love interest, Dr. Leslie Tompkins, in the Batman origin story Gotham), before being told he has an advanced form of cancer. After being approached by a mysterious figure who offers him a way out of his predicament, Wilson is taken to a shady location where he believes he’ll be given a treatment which will cure him of his illness. Of course, it’s never that simple, and it turns out that he’s actually being experimented on to further the schemes of the film’s villain, Ajax, and, after being tortured extensively and escaping the facility, he takes on the moniker of Deadpool to enact revenge on those who wronged him, albeit now with the not-to-be-sniffed-at power of invincibility.
To start with, Deadpool as a character’s a bit of a funny beast – arguably neither a hero or villain, he falls somewhere in the murky grey area alongside fellow X-Men compatriots such as Mystique and Magneto, both of whom can be a great help or nasty hindrance when it comes to saving the world or exacting their own brand of personal justice, so there’s always the likability factor. Thankfully, though, comic book aficionados are well aware that Deadpool’s ‘hook’ is his insatiable taste for completely unnecessary and over-the-top violence, as well as his wisecracks and ability to speak directly to the audience through a process called ‘breaking the fourth wall’. Essentially, this gives us, the viewer, exclusive access into Deadpool’s thoughts and inner monologue, allowing us to engage with the character in a way never before seen from a Marvel superhero. With so much resting on this device, especially as it’s arguably the character’s most iconic and recognisable trait, it was important that Reynolds and co. got this just right, and I’m happy to say that they’ve pulled it off with aplomb! Deadpool’s unique brand of wit translates perfectly on screen and really gives it the edge in a movie which would be so different without it. Reynolds clearly understands his character like the back of his hand – which isn’t unsurprising, given that he’s been fighting for a true cinematic translation of the character since its failed portrayal in 2009’s relative flop, X-Men Origins: Wolverine – and it’s great to see the film explore Deadpool’s origins and characteristics with such accuracy to his comic book counterpart.
The plot, then, is pretty standard for an origin story, and while it does feel a little bit ‘been there, done that’ – a tad old hat, if you will – it doesn’t really matter. You can forget the narrative’s familiarity and get lost in the gratuitous cinematic devices on display here – and there’s plenty to choose from.
Deadpool‘s soundtrack perfectly befits the characters, and there’s a real thrill in seeing bullets fly and swords slash through the heads (and various other limbs) of nefarious henchmen in ‘pool’s quest for justice on Ajax soundtracked by songs such as DMX and WHAM! (yes, you did read that correctly). Aside from the commercial tracks used, composer Junkie XL (whose work we’ll hear in next month’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where he’s collaborated with Hans Zimmer to compose Batman’s scores on the soundtrack) seems like the perfect fit to soundtrack Deadpool, and his work – as always – speaks for itself.
The plot similarities are also eschewed by the film starting roughly in the middle of the narrative, with much of the first act being told in flashback before continuing in the more traditional linear fashion from around the halfway point. This deviation is great to see, and it means that you don’t have to wait… ummm… at all, to see Deadpool in action right from the film’s first scene – there’s no backstory to wade through before a super-suit’s even glimpsed!
Of course, with Marvel’s ‘it’s all connected’ ethos, you’d be remiss to think that you won’t see some links to other films in the MCU, as well as from 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, given Deadpool’s strong affiliations with that group. Whilst links to the former are extremely few and far between, except for the final fight taking place on what seems to be one of the downed S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there’s way more links to X-Men than I ever hoped to see in the film. It’s no secret that X-Men‘s Colossus plays a relatively large part in the film, along with new mutant, Brianna Hildebrand’s excellent, if ridiculously named, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, but there’s also loads of other X-references which – while I won’t spoil them – will have you clapping your hands in interconnected glee. It’s great to see that the oft-overlooked 20th Century Fox arm of Marvel’s characters isn’t suffering from a lack of connectivity, especially as this is one of the stalwarts of the MCU.
Deadpool, then, is an outstanding film, and 100% worthy of the accolades it’s receiving in the press. Its no surprise, then, that it’s Box Office takings are going through the roof, with the studio seeming to have severely undervalued the character’s popularity and appeal. This is particularly surprising when you remember that Deadpool isn’t X-Men – it doesn’t have the same franchise-winning gravitas as its originating saga, as well as the fact that it’s most definitely not a children’s film – you couldn’t take your kids to see Deadpool in much the same way that you could X-Men: Days of Future Past, for instance. It may only be a 15 in the UK – and rated R in the States – but it’s definitely worthy of the certification. There’s sexy time, foul language and just generally lots and lots of death and bloodiness, so to see it doing so well at the Box Office isn’t just surprising, but a feat to be heavily applauded. It’s on track to have the biggest opening of any R-rated film ever, a record previously held by Fifty Shades of Grey, and is also touted to set the record for 20th Century Fox’s biggest opening ever, according to a report by BoxOfficeMojo.
Ryan Reynolds and his team have created an excellent piece of cinema which totally stands out above and beyond other films in its genre, a difficult task when superhero films are a dime a dozen in today’s market (heck, there’s a further four out this year alone). They’ve successfully translated Deadpool into a household name whilst remaining 100% true to everything which makes the character so special and unique, all the while still grounding it squarely and firmly within the pre-existing universe to which its titular character belongs. Deadpool may not be one of the more famous superheroes to the casual cinemagoer, but his first true solo outing is certain to remain a fan favourite for year and years to come – one thing’s for sure, the rest of the Screening Team and I are already eagerly awaiting the much-hoped for and now-promised sequel!