Two years ago, I described Deadpool as such: If Quentin Tarantino, George Miller, and Edgar Wright had a threesome for eight hours and for whatever reason one of them gets pregnant, has a kid that grows up to be a supermodel and that supermodel masturbates on a rainbow, the mixture of the supermodel’s love juices and the rainbow’s residue would be this Deadpool movie. I stand by that statement. This movie is absolutely ridiculous. It is also one of the most important pieces of cinema this generation has to offer.
I know I sound like I’m coked out of my mind. I just compared Deadpool to love juices and rainbows and then claimed that it’s a vital piece of art. Fu*k it, I’ll do one better: This Ryan Reynolds comedy is a revolution. Think about it. Deadpool is a 100-minute long middle finger to conventional studio wisdom, a wisdom that for the longest time suggested that comic book movies should always be PG-13, made to appeal to the widest possible audience; that comic book movies should be big budgeted extravaganzas; That comic book is a specific genre with specific parameters.
I know, The Dark Knight came before it. But seeing as how The Dark Knight is helmed by Christopher Nolan — who can walk into a studio, pitch a movie about starring at wet paint, and probably walk out with $US 200 million and seven blowjobs — I argue that it’s an exception to the rule, not the rule. There’s also the likes of Dredd and Watchmen, both very unique comic book adaptations. But considering they made jack shit at the box office, they do more to reinforce conventional wisdom than stand up against it.
Deadpool is a different beast altogether. It’s an R-rated comic book comedy about a superhero that had as much mainstream appeal as Coldplay (pre-hipster era). Yet on top of being a smash hit among critics, it also managed to rake in more than US$ 783 million at the global box office. And it did so with a mere US$ 58 million dollars budget. To put things into perspective, Deadpool, which made 13 times its budget, is more profitable than The Avengers which pulled a revenue six times its budget. This movie showed studios that people will go out in droves to watch a movie, so long as it’s of quality and marketed well. Without Deadpool we would not have gotten Logan, an R-rated comic book movie that went on to get an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay.
But this isn’t just about money. Deadpool really is THAT good. The premise is as basic and generic as it can get. It’s just your standard revenge plot with absolutely no surprises nor twists and turns. But that’s the whole point. In fact, it quite literally addresses that in the opening credits sequence (starring “a hot chick”, “a British villain”, etc), which I believe will stand the test of time as one of the smartest bits of comedy ever. The genius of this film is in its storytelling. Here’s a film that knows what it is — a piece of crap — and focuses all its energy on being the best, most beautiful piece of crap the world has ever seen.
There’s a glorious action sequence at the start, where the fully costumed Deadpool kicks a bunch of bad guy booties, all while trash talking and being the motormouthed dumbass that he is. He slaughters all of them in a ridiculous, ultraviolent manner (a motorcyclist gets his head sliced off, while another guy gets smashed into a billboard) before bumping into Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who are trying to recruit him to join the X-Men. Where are all the other X-Men you ask? Well, the movie addresses that — “It’s funny that I only see two of you. It’s like the studio couldn’t afford another X-man.” By the way, in case you didn’t know, Deadpool is part of the X-Men film franchise, though it’s unclear where exactly it fits in the timeline. And of course, Mr. Pool pokes fun at that too — “Stewart or McAvoy?” There is also another fun action sequence at the end, though it doesn’t hold a candle to the stellar opening fight.
Interspliced between those two action sequences are flashbacks, where we learn about the man underneath the mask. I’m at two minds about this creative choice by director Tim Miller and writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. One the one hand, the flashbacks don’t exactly mesh well with the present ongoings. In fact, one can argue that it’s just lazily glued together (there are a couple of times where Deadpool literally pauses mid-action sequence, for no apparent reason, to tell us about his past). On the other hand, this format solves the problem most people have with origin stories — it just takes too damn long to get to the superhero-ing. I for one love origin stories, including the ones with lengthy backstories, like we see in Batman Begins, and so wouldn’t have minded if Tim Miller used a more conventional structure. But what the heck am I talking about? Deadpool is all about shitting on the orthodox.
Besides, there is something beautiful about intercutting grotesque violence with an almost-tragic love story. That’s right, much to everyone’s surprise Deadpool is actually a love story about a former special forces operative, now fulltime lovable jerk named Wade Wilson who falls in love with a sexy hooker, Vanessa. They meet at a bar, go on dates and everything culminates in a montage of sex and banging and boning and SEX. A lot of sex. Including one moment where Vanessa uses a strapon to Happy International Women’s Day his ass. It’s actually rather romantic.
I would even go as far as to say that Deadpool has one of the best portrayals of romance in a superhero film, right up there with Bruce Wayne and Rachel in The Dark Knight and Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl in The Incredibles. No, I did not miss out Clark Kent and Lois Lane from Richard Donner’s Superman, I just don’t care for it. There is a level of sincerity and purity to the fu*ked upness of Wade Wilson’s and Vanessa’s (Morena Baccarin) relationship. You genueinly buy that they’re in love. My eyes filled with tears when Wade proposes to her with a plastic toy ring (it’s the kind of thing I would do) and it makes sense that she found it cute.
But just as things are going smoothly, Wade Wilson gets diagnosed with terminal cancer. He leaves Vanessa without warning so that she will not have to watch him die. This is when a mysterious man a mysterious man approaches Wade, claiming that there’s an experimental procedure that’s able to cure cancer. He sends Wade to Francis, also known as Ajax. Ajax tortures and experiments on him, with the intention of turning him into a super slave. The process awakens Wade’s latent mutant genes which in turn activates his regenerative abilities, cures his cancer but also turns him into a walking grandpa’s butthole.
Ajax is a terribly bland villain. We learn nothing about him nor his motivations. He’s pretty much just someone who does bad shit because he’s a bad guy and bad guys do bad shit. Thankfully, Ed Skrien is charismatic enough to elevate the material and make the character work. But for the most part, we root against him not so much because of what he does, but because we’re invested in Wade Wilson, who’s desperate to get back to the love of his life. That’s what makes the torture sequence difficult to watch.
But character beats and emotional moments aside, the cement that holds the film together is the comedy. If the comedy doesn’t work, the movie crumbles. But who are we kidding? Deadpool is penned to near perfection by the geniuses that wrote Zombieland: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. This movie oozes confidence and spunk, so much so that it seems silly that anyone ever doubted the success of this film in the first place. Almost every single line in this movie is comedy gold and it keeps coming at you at an incredibly rapid pace too. Jokejokejokejokejoke!
The best part is, the comedy isn’t just reserved for one character. The relationship between Weasel (TJ Miller) and Wade, offer some of the funniest moments in the film. In one scene, Weasel tells Wade, “You look like Freddy Kreuger face-fu*ked a topographical map of Utah.” Who on earth thinks of lines like these? But Wernick and Reese also do the smart thing and not make every character a comedian. Colossus (a much better version than what we see in the earlier X-Men films), is a straightlaced character who wants Deadpool to do the right thing. The contrasting personalities of Deadpool and Colossus present us with some hilarious, laugh till your abs hurt, situational yucks. The scene at the end where Colossus delivers a monologue on doing the right thing only for Deadpool to not give a shit and blow Ajax’s brains out always gets me. GENIUS.
That said, there are also some jokes that simply do not work. It didn’t bother me when I watched the movie in the cinema a couple of years ago, probably because I was enraptured by the phenomenon that was taking place before my eyes. But I definitely cringed more than a couple of times in my most recent rewatch. A lot of the sex jokes feel forced, including and perhaps especially the unicorn masturbation one.
For the most part, though, Deadpool still kicks serious ass and deserves the massive respect and adoration it has gotten. This is one ballsy movie and I sure as hell can’t wait for its sequel.