Why does Deadpool work when the super hero genre is littered with more undigestible matter than your cat's litter box? Is it an exercise in bad taste as some critics have complained? Is it the unfathomable attraction of the car wreck that others would have us detour? Or is it a clever re-framing of comic action to appeal to a wider, perhaps even more discerning audience?
Despite the naysayers, Deadpool is neither confusing, nor basically much different from the more milled product crowding multiplexes. The movie is narrative- and character-driven. Once the rigorous introduction to the chief protagonist and arch villain are set through extended combat, once the gritty dystopic landscape is rolled out, then we are presented with a fairly standard back story. Former mercenary with quirky friends meets girl, falls in love, encounters life threatening problems, is hideously disfigured, achieves super powers, loses everything, makes stunning comeback, finds evil villains who tortured him and battles them in final climactic scene.
Sure it doesn't start at the beginning, but neither did Sunset Boulevard. By now we are used to filmic manipulation of time. Used adroitly it may seize or prolong audience attention. Time is malleable. Flashbacks flourish. In this case, it also allows the film to set tone for the more sophisticated audience and pulverize with pyrotechnics those whose attention spans need a bit more lubrication.
The action hero elements are all there and amplified in Deadpool. Extensive explosions, a deafening soundtrack, the team of super powered cronies, an idiosyncratic sidekick, voraciously vicious villains and, of course, the damaged, disfigured hero.
To distinguish itself from more tepid, garden variety actioners, Deadpool does push the envelope. Director Tim Miller (A Gentleman's Duel) and Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, both of whom worked on Zombieland, forsake flowers and sunshine for the grunge of murky alleys and dank, dingy basements, a landscape of syringes and infections.
Ryan Reynolds' anti-hero Wade Wilson punishes the audience with a running commentary of action films, film direction and film analysis, including derogatory references to his own star turns. Into this framework, Reynolds spews enough caustic cultural references to force Quentin Tarantino to his Urban Dictionary. Between Reynolds and uber villain Ajax (Ed Skrein) not even Leslie Uggams clever cameo as Blind Al is spared.
Are these pushes against the envelope enough to score with critics and fill the seats? Reviewer's site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film hearty endorsement of 84%. Audiences concurred setting a four day record attendance of $150 Million, the largest February ever. A happy ending? It's an action film. What do you think?!