Fourth wall jokes can’t save Deadpool from mediocrity.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not keyed into the comic book mythology behind the wisecracking, profane spandex superhero, but I didn’t find Deadpool to be the bout of fresh air that it was touted to be. Beyond the quipping, the fourth-wall breaking, the R-rated action and the small-budget feel, Deadpool is just another contrived variation on the superhero origin story.
The story focuses on Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, in one of those this-character-was-made-for-them roles), former Special Forces turned mercenary, who finds love with escort Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), but whose happiness is curtailed by the discovery that he has multiple cancers. Desperate, he accepts the offer of a shadowy organisation to cure him in return for his services as a henchman, but said organisation subjects him to excruciating tortures that turns him into a disfigured mutant with freakish powers of regeneration. Horrified at his appearance, he avoids Vanessa while fixating on finding the people who made him into what he is, in order to force them to restore his appearance.
It’s ironic that for a character famed for his genre savviness, the film’s Deadpool falls for one of the oldest tropes in the book – the whole “I need to heal my deformity to be able to face the one I love” conflict. And it isn’t half as bad as the one depicted in the comics – he’s afflicted by crisscrossing keloid wrinkles but at least his facial proportions remain the same. And in the end, Vanessa does accept him for who he is, which, of course, he should have realised but doesn’t.
It’s symptomatic, really, of a bigger issue with this film – which is that Wade’s vulnerable, human side and his manic, hyper-violent fourth-wall breaking side don’t really jive very well into a cohesive whole. Perhaps the cocky, mouthy Deadpool persona is a way for Wade to mask his insecurities and anger under spandex tights, but it comes across in the film as Wade just vacillating erratically between either extreme, governed only by the rules of comedic expediency.
And Deadpool is already the best thing about the film, even if some of his quips try a little too hard to be provocative (cf “I’m touching myself tonight”). Colossus and Negasonic are endearing but somewhat tangential to the plot (and, as Deadpool says, the only X-men character licenses available on the limited budget). Everything else screams B-movie campiness, especially the cringingly evil bad guy Ajax, who is the ultimate in forgettable generic villain, evil for no other reason than sadistic impulse. Oh, and he can’t feel pain and therefore doesn’t feel anything at all, I guess.
Ultimately the film coasts entirely on the strength of the Deadpool characterisation and on extrinsic qualities: being an R-rated film in a PG sea of superhero movies, that defers to comic book fan sensibilities by remaining faithful to the spirit of the source material. But I suspect some things are best left in the medium in which they were created.
I give this film: 3 out of 5 severed hands