“Witness the beginning of a happy ending”
Director: Tim Miller
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin
Synopsis: A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool.
The latest entry in Marvel’s ever-expanding universe sees the studio placing one of its less heroic comic-book superheroes centre-stage after a supporting appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Deadpool’s origin story of is one of revenge by a man who chose superhero powers over a lingering death from cancer, and who then embarks on a personal mission of revenge over the man who gave him those powers. It’s a wryly irreverent take on a superhero genre which, after fifteen years, has shown distinct signs of fatigue, and it begins with a superb credits sequence in which the camera travels amongst the freeze-framed chaos and debris of a car smash in mid-flight. It’s no exaggeration to say that if the rest of the movie was as innovative and inventive as its opening sequence, it would be a truly sublime experience. Ironically, that beginning only serves to unrealistically heighten our expectations.
Former special ops soldier Wade Wilson Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds – Adventureland, Ted) is one of those cancer victims who show no symptoms of his illness until a sudden collapse alerts him to the fact that he’s riddled with the disease and his life is effectively in its final stages. Against his better judgment, he accepts an offer from a mysterious stranger (Jed Rees) who assures him there is a way to cure his cancer, but that his life will be forever changed. A side-effect of the treatment is to endow the patient with superhuman powers which he must subsequently use in the service of the stranger’s employer. What the stranger doesn’t tell Wade is that the treatment involves prolonged torture at the hands of the sadistic Ajax (Ed Skrein – The Sweeney, Northmen – A Viking Saga) and ends with the super-charged patient auctioned off as a super-slave to the highest bidder. Upon learning this, however, once the torture has triggered the necessary mutations in his DNA to give him superpowers and immortality, Wilson engineers an escape. Feeling unable to return to his girlfriend (Morena Baccarin) because of the gruesome physical changes the treatment has wrought on his body, he designs an outfit which hides his disfigurement from the public, renames himself Deadpool, and begins a quest to wreak revenge on Ajax and his underlings.
Deadpool is an exhilarating movie featuring an intoxicating blend of whip-smart humour and ultra-violence that will delight fans of the superhero genre, but there’s something about the hero’s so-what attitude that is a sad reflection of where we are today. Early on, while working as an urban mercenary, he makes it clear that he only harms those who deserve it, but his is the kind of attitude shared by so many selfish half-wits today who don’t give two hoots about who they harm or inconvenience. Thirty years ago, a character like Deadpool would have been the villain of the piece, but today he’s a role model whose exploits we cheer simply because he’s not as bad as the bad guys.
Deadpool’s irreverently satirical attitude is fun though, and the film revels in its own arch self-awareness. Our hero repeatedly breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience and is fully aware that he’s a character in a movie. He’s also a superhero with human frailties who is more than likely to interrupt his non-stop wisecracking to issue expletives in mid-fight when things don’t go his way, or shriek girlishly when surprised by an opponent’s unexpected move. The quality of the jokes in Deadpool is high enough to prevent the audience from growing fatigued by the rate at which they’re dispensed, and is tempered both by generous servings of explicit violence and an otherwise unexpectedly dark tone which includes a fairly lengthy sequence during which Wilson undergoes the tortuous treatment for his transformation.
A sequel is inevitable, it’s inferior quality likely: the success of a movie like Deadpool is largely down to its freshness, so by definition a sequel is virtually doomed to failure either because it will be a stale re-tread or find it impossible to recapture this film’s irreverent vitality. But Deadpool at least deserves praise for breathing life into a superhero series that was undeniably in need of resuscitation.
(Reviewed 24th February 2016)