Deadpool has been lurking around the primordial soup of supers since his debut print appearance in February of 1991. Striking a nerve with comic fans fancying some bite with their bark and some rabies to their Cujos, Deadpool arrived on the scene a supervillian before slipping into the moral grays of anti-hero-dom and donning those infamously R-rated wisecracks into his persona like a latex-tight getup. By the time he was leading his own franchise, a cultly rabid surrounded the merc with a mouth like bush flies buzzing around fresh-squeezed dookie. When transported to tinsel town in 2009’s much derided X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool found himself properly trounced; literally nutless, drained of personality and wit, with mouth rendered useless. The character was as effectively brain-dead as the project he found himself housed within. The tongue-tied, tatted-up war boy that was Deadpool circa 2009 was quickly relegated to the bin of supers who couldn’t withstand the transition to the silver screen and even the suits at Fox did all they could to forget this whole X-Men Origins thing ever happened in the first place.
Like an aborted Freddy Kruger nightmare made irreversibly tangible, Deadpool as a Baraka-like Weapon XI left a funky, diaper-esque taste in the mouth of fans and non-fans alike. When the execs at Fox treated the X-Men Origins moniker to a burial befitting the forlorn corpse of a 17-year old Las Vegas escort, burying it sloppily in the sands of time, Deadpool became a pox on the house of X. Ryan Reynolds’ evident (wet)dreams of playing the coarse crusader went belly up, like a pock-marked teenager huffing one too many canisters of cleaning duster. All was quiet on the Deadpool front. A once-beloved character was put out to pasture with all the good grace of Anton Chigur’s captive bolt piston.
Then came summer of 2014, where a widely-shared proof of concept video starring the handsome but hacky Reynolds as the black-and-red-studded super surfaced online. And the crowd went wild. With Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick behind the screenplay (which sat in circulation from 2010 on), viz effects animator Tim Miller rearing to get balls deep behind the camera for the first time and Reynolds happier than a Gérard Depardieu in shit, Deadpool was finally a reality. Admitted Reynolds on whether he leaked the concept video, “I would have, if I had known it would have caused that! Now, we get to make the movie. We don’t get to make it with the budget of most superhero movies, but we get to make it the way we want to make it.”
In this capacity, Deadpool would like to think that it’s the closet thing the superhero cinematic universe has to an independent film. (It’s not – look to Kick-Ass, Super or Chronicle for that.) With a rumored $50 million budget, Deadpool has budgetary restraints, a fact crudely commented on by the titular character at large, but none quiet so imposing that it should look as choppy and weightless as it does in the money shots. Let’s collectively point our critical sausage fingers at the directorially green Miller and his background as a viz whiz for directing with a decidedly “let’s not do that in-camera” take. In some regards, the limited duckets gives Deadpool snark fodder – his remarking that the other X-Men couldn’t show up because they’d come footing a hefty price tag isn’t mere riffing. Characters Cannonball and Garrison Kane were cut from the original draft because of ballooning expenses. In their X-place is the shiny and chrome Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) – a Russian do-gooder who’s treated to his own identity makeover after brief appearances in X1-3 – and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), a mutant trainee with an attitude as fiery as her abilities. Neither are indispensable and Deadpool acknowledges this fact. If anything, they’re two more diving boards for Deadpool to bounce off.
And while these financial constraints ought to make room for more clever writing, there’s a fundamental mistranslation that occurs somewhere between page and screen. This is a movie that exceeds on lipiness and yet eggs the action beat basket to its own detriment. Parlaying the trite superhero formula, action beats in Deadpool are scrubby at best and unnecessary at worst. Surely audiences demand a certain confluence of sword to skin with their ticket price ribbing but Deadpool works far better when its turning cronies into kabobs than when it’s trying to ape Avengers.
Herein lies the biggest problem of Miller’s flick; however much Deadpool protests that it is unlike the politically correct ilk of its super brethren, the irregularities are merely cosmetic. Beneath the vulgar facade and low-budg sheen lies a very self-safe origin story skeleton, one that lives and breathes by the beats of that whence came before it. Those familiar with his in-film origin will find irony in the fact that Deadpool functionally becomes a slave to the formula – the exact intention disposable British baddie Ajax (Ed Skrein) had for the character when conducting the fated experiments that led to his transformation (and subsequent butterface.)
But within the familiar walls of Deadpool’s mold is a genuine playfulness that eludes the girth of super fare trying (and usually failing) to pivot between snarky commentary and world-shattering stakes. Another occasion where Deadpool succeeds: the final showdown isn’t a battle for the sake of the world. It’s about a guy trying to save his mojo, and his dame (Morena Baccarin). Still yet, it’s a wide-shot CG blitzkrieg with hoards of faceless cannon fodder stacked between our hero and his nemesis. Expect chintzy explosions and perfunctory action figurine match-ups.
This blanketing adherence to norm comes at the expense of the Deadpool’s greater assets – the merc’s mouth. When Deadpool hits its stride, it’s a laugh-a-minute affair. The script from Reese and Wernick crackles with below-the-belt hits and pop-culture send ups that prove as deadly accurate as the titular character, having as good a time taking the piss as Deadpool does taking a life. Solid musical cues (DMX FTW), sassy fourth wall breaks and an invasive subversiveness gives Deadpool something to be proud of. And though Reynolds has missed cajoling us to his cause many times before, the red, white and black suit is a custom tailor fit.
CONCLUSION: ‘Deadpool’ is the superhero equivalent of Ace Ventura; a sub-social mold of swirly-giving irreverence; a modern day homo erectus arched over and talking out his butt. The shamelessly crass character proves (surprisingly) more fetching than felching, though an unmistakable stench of formula pervades the narrative integrity of his superhero antics.