Earning that "R"
You’ll know from the opening scene if the Deadpool movie is for you. If a tracking shot through freeze-framed, close-quarters carnage while the title sequence credits people like "an entirely CGI character" and "a British villain" set to Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning doesn’t do it for you, I'm sorry to say you’re in for a pretty rough hour and a half.
But let's assume you're sticking with it. Good. Because Deadpool is a movie that feels totally in sync with its target audience. Lucky for me, I’m in that target audience. Hell, I might be the bullseye at the center of that target audience.
It's gratuitously violent. It’s puerile, crass, meta and it goes to the ends of the earth to earn that R rating. In short, it's everything Deadpool should be.
Here's a brief history of Deadpool: Ex-special forces Wade Wilson gets terminal cancer. A shady military-industrial plot point cures him, in the process giving him amazing regenerative powers, horrible disfigurement and a raging case of the crazies. Now he puts on a red and black suit and kills people.
It's the same Wade Wilson you might remember (but probably don’t) from 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, also played by Ryan Reynolds. In that movie, Wade is also experimented on and turned into something referred to as, yet entirely different from Deadpool, so that doesn’t really count.
It's okay if you're not up to speed on any of that; director Tim Miller expertly parcels out exposition in flashbacks as a break from the main plotline. Most of these take place before Wade dons the red and black mask, and provide some much-needed breathing room from Deadpool carving a bloody, irreverent path through countless mooks in his quest for revenge. It's still a superhero origin story (and a reboot at that), but by starting the middle of the story and working backwards it does it almost accidentally.
Prior to Deadpool, Miller's biggest claim to fame was this trailer for Arkham Origins. You'd be forgiven for walking into Deadpool with low expectations, but Miller does a masterful job at making sure the backstory doesn’t get in the way of the violence and the comedy. Because really, that’s what we came for.
Yes, Deadpool is a superhero movie. It's an action movie. But first and foremost, Deadpool is a comedy.
It's sprinkled with jokes for long-time fans, but not so many you'll sit stony-faced while your friend in the Deadpool shirt is laughing at every other line. The jokes are more in line with, "Man, Green Lantern was a shitty movie," than, "How about Liefeld and those leg pouches?"
Also sacrificed on the altar of comedy: Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman, Ikea, 20th Century Fox, and Ryan Reynold's career. Just like the comic book version, the fourth wall is no boundary for cinematic Deadpool, who addresses the audience with little tidbits like exactly what favors he had to perform to get his own movie.
The bulk of the comedy is scattershot, with everything from juvenile slapstick to '80s pop culture references. It's all delivered in such rapid-fire succession that you wind up laughing at everything--even things like worn out "how I got my secret identity" gags that normally wouldn’t even merit a chuckle.
Even the fight scenes are played for laughs, with one notable exception feeling like Bugs Bunny by way of Tarantino. That exception takes place in one of the origin story flashbacks, and get ready for some emotional whiplash. Wade is still delivering quips, but I was glad to see the character's original, sardonic edges start to show. The tortured past is well-trod ground in superhero fiction, but in Deadpool it was practically a necessity to give him a little (but not too much) depth.
Deadpool is backed up by three of his own comic regulars, Vanessa Carlysle, Blind Al, and Weasel. Providing a more literal backup is X-Man Colossus (who you might have heard of) and his protege Negasonic Teenage Warhead (who you probably haven't heard of, but now really wish you had).
In any other movie Colossus (he’s the 7-foot-tall dude with metal skin. You can't miss him) and his earnest, heavily accented moralizing would be the sleeper favorite. But Deadpool’s supporting cast is so pitch perfect that it's honestly hard to choose. Wade's romantic relationship with Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa is probably one of the best to be captured in a superhero movie, and it's done over the course of a handful of scenes and one excellent montage. Blind Al and Weasel give repartee as good as they get.
There are issues, sure. It's still an origin story, and you'll get your obligatory navel-gazing until Wade finally cowboys up and goes after the girl. Two mostly forgettable villains. A whole pack of jokes about pooping.
But the movie is just so fun that you won't care about them. For better or worse, this is the best Deadpool movie anyone could have asked for. Just make sure you really understand what you're asking for.