[Click here to watch the R-rated “red band” trailer.]
FILM REVIEW – DEADPOOL. With Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand. Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick. Directed by Tim Miller. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity. 108 minutes.
DEADPOOL is the proof of the triumph of Marvel Comics over DC. Whereas DC finally has some hits on television (“Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl”) Marvel’s “universe” is what defines today’s superhero movies. How so? They’re now making major films off of spin-off characters who have cult followings, like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man.”
With “Deadpool,” they’re taking an educated risk. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is an ex-mercenary who, through some horrific experiments, has become virtually immortal. His wounds self-heal. Missing limbs grow back. Oh, and he not only has a girlfriend, but he and Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) have sex. It’s implied she’s a hooker but later on she’s seen working as a waitress in a strip club. This is not Superman fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way. Indeed, it’s earned the movie a well-deserved R rating, and they’re not fighting it. For Deadpool, it’s a badge of pride.
The plot is essentially an origin story, although not told in chronological order. We see how Wade Wilson becomes Deadpool, and why Ajax (Ed Skrein), the man who made him that way, becomes his sworn enemy. This is good for several action/fight scenes including a climactic battle involving a damaged battleship, with the sort of violence that might make the Avengers or X-Men squeamish if it popped up in their PG-13 rated movies.
If that’s all it was–a comic book movie with the sex and violence ramped up–it would be quickly forgotten. Instead, the real focus is on Deadpool’s snark, which includes not only the people he’s with, but us in the audience. The metallic Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) wants to bring him in to join the other mutants of the X-Men, but Deadpool has no interest. However later when he needs Colossus and the oddly named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) to help him, he can’t help but take a shot at the movie studio that wouldn’t pay to bring in some of the more famous characters.
Much of the success in bringing it off is due to Ryan Reynolds, whose film career often seen him trapped in roles that didn’t make good use of his talents, hitting bottom with 2011’s “Green Lantern” (a DC character), who was played largely straight. As Deadpool, he can do or say almost anything, including cuing the music for a fight scene. By sharing the joke with us both he and the film transcend its conventional story.
As with other Marvel films there are certrain expectations that must be met, including the Stan Lee cameo (Lee being one of the founders/creators of the Marvel universe) and the tag at the end of the closing credits, which isn’t afraid to go way back for a movie reference although one that should be readily familiar. Perhaps the biggest joke of all is that they’re opening it Valentine’s Day weekend, as if this is a great date movie.
“Deadpool” delivers, but it helps if you know what you’re in for before you buy your ticket.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.