Well, that was so much better than I expected.
The latest Marvel movie to hit theaters is Deadpool, from the Sony pictures slate that has included mostly lackluster X-Men movies, diminishing returns on Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four flicks that have ranged from not–good to last summer’s appalling cinematic abortion. So a movie about a hyperviolent, crude, smartass mercenary with horrific facial scarring, set to be the first R-rated Marvel flick? And a character I have zero personal interest in? I was not holding high hopes.
(Parents be warned: It isn’t just violence; this R-rated flick has nudity, and explicit and protracted–and funny–sex-scene montage that might require you to explain certain sex toys and atypical positions to your comics-loving youngsters.)
I really enjoyed the film. It really revels in its violence, but there aren’t any more bullets and blowups than in the last Captain America flick. (More splattered human intestines, though. To be fair.) Deadpool’s trademark lowbrow humor and fourth-wall-breaking were in evidence, and enjoyable, and even if that’s not your preferred flavor of comedy, it doesn’t overwhelm the film. By telling much of its story in flashback, before Wade Wilson becomes the costumed and superpowered Deadpool, we get lots of time with hearthrob Ryan Reynolds unmasked, and unscarred, which helps us connect with the character. And, against all odds, we get an enjoyable, strong love story.
Also, a couple of X-Men show up for laughs and bonus action, and to balance/contrast the unheroic Deadpool. It plays to good effect, and highlights the potential joys of these shared-universe projects.
There are lots of loose threads to tug at. The actual plot only makes marginal sense (more than 2015’s Fantastic Four, less than maybe half the X-Mens …), but keeps moving. The underground medical operation that creates Wade, and is led by his primary antagonist, is really weird, and I can’t figure out why that bad guy is even qualified to be running the joint, nor what he’s really trying to achieve. Blah blah, here’s a bad guy, let’s fight. If you want more, you’re barking up the wrong genre.
Also, Wade Wilson starts out as a damaged person who finds love, but the horrors that turn him into Deadpool leave him insane. Except, kinda, when dealing with his (ex?) girlfriend. The shifting between zany, murderous Deadpool and Reynolds’ more human Wilson doesn’t quite gel.
What does gel is Morena Baccarin as Wade’s trashy-sexy, highly damaged, oversexed Vanessa, who is perfect as a person weird enough to fall in love with Wade, and to survive the world of Deadpool, and still be someone the audience emotionally connects with. If her role or performance had fallen flat, the film would’ve been nothing but loosely plotted violence and gore.
As it is, we’ve got a good movie. The Sony equivalent of the main Marvel slate’s delightful Ant Man—a lower-tier, shadier character, played for more laughs and “heart,” with lower stakes and a more subversive feel, than the various Avengers flicks. A week ago, I’d have said the world would be a better place if Sony stopped making superhero movies, but now, I wouldn’t mind a Deadpool sequel one bit.