I’m not the biggest fan of superhero movies. I’ve seen a few – Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, X-Men, Avengers – and some are more watchable than others but there is a certain sameness to them. For a start, the superhero is nearly always a man (looking forward to next year’s Wonder Woman), female characters are there for sex or saving (or both) and the plot rarely varies – ordinary guy, painful process, super powers, denial and rage, girlfriend captured by villains, saves her and saves the world. Deadpool doesn’t really depart from these archetypes but it is unlike any superhero movie I’ve seen before.
I knew nothing about Deadpool (the character) before yesterday (sorry Marvel fans) but now I know that the comic is a parody of stereotypical superhero stories. Deadpool wise cracks, shows remarkable unrestraint when it comes to killing people and breaks the fourth wall to laugh with us at the absurdity of the limitations of the genre. The opening scene is such a cracker – a slow-mo pan through a very graphic frozen action scene, complete with in-jokes and sarcastic titles – and it sets the scene for the whole film. You know it’s going to be violent and irreverent.
Ryan Reynolds reprises his role as Deadpool (seen before in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and it seems that this version is more faithful to the comic. The character was metaphorically bastardised in that first iteration, much to the dismay of fans, but in Deadpool, he has found his voice, his suit and his original powers. The movie is full of quick, pointed jokes that reference popular culture, often at the expense of previous Marvel films or Reynolds himself. Some of the supporting characters are excellent – my favourites are Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Weasel – although there is an expected two-dimensional quality to most of them, most disappointingly the main villain, Francis, who is just a thug. I did like his sidekick Angel Dust though, she held her own amongst all the white men.
What I enjoyed most about Deadpool is that it didn’t take itself seriously, something that more superhero movies should consider. There are some lovely moments where the tropes are subverted – International Women’s Day comes to mind, I wish they’d run with that one a bit more. Where it didn’t work so well for me was where it descended into earnestness, labouring over notions of love and vanity and redemption. Yawn. Seen that before. You can show people being decapitated and disemboweled but the ultimate sin, in Hollywood and with audiences who want to go along for the ride, is to tamper with the happy ending. It makes me think of the brief for Seinfeld – no hugging, no learning. Deadpool could have done with a bit more (or less) of that.
Bechdel test – fail