When you think about it, it's a bit of a minor miracle that a movie like Deadpool even exists. The Tim Miller-directed comic book adaptation stars Ryan Reynolds as Marvel Comics' "Merc with a Mouth," a red-suited rogue created by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza who's built a fan fave reputation on wisecrackery and badassery. And while the R-rated film ostensibly exists within the same X-Men franchise that's given Twentieth Century Fox a steady stream of blockbusters since 2000, it's sort of off to one side of those other flicks.
After sixteen years and seven movies, this is actually the first attempt by Fox to go "shared universe" with their X-Men license, and in that sense Deadpool does kind of feel like the Ant-Man of the Marvel Mutant Movies. If you know how I feel about Ant-Man, you know that's a compliment. It's the scrappy little upstart that takes advantage of the connections, while also benefitting from lowered expectations. And really, it was hard not to go into this one with lowered expectations.
After all, Deadpool was first introduced cinematically in 2009's execrable X-Men Origins: Wolverine, still played by Reynolds, but in a configuration that bore practically no resemblance to the guy who'd been bouncing around the comics since the early '90s (for one thing, there was the inexplicable decision to have his mouth sewn shut). So, given the previous "meh" interpretation of the character, it's not so much a surprise that it took seven years to give him a own spin-off of his very own, but that one materialized at all.
Nonetheless, this was a passion project for Reynolds (who probably felt a fire under him to get a comic character right after 2011's disappointing Green Lantern), and after much cajoling and coercion his dream has been given form. Deadpool -- the "real" Deadpool -- is here. A do-gooder mercenary named Wade Wilson, he excels at inflicting pain and puns until he's sidelined by a terminal cancer diagnosis. Desperate for a cure, Wilson accepts a shady org's offer of superpowers, not realizing that the procedure will leave him horribly scarred and slightly (completely?) insane.
What follows is the usual superhero-style fisticuffs and computer animation, punctuated by Wade's mile-a-minute, profanity-laced witticisms, as he seeks out the man who left him in his deformed state. The script (by G.I. Joe: Retaliation's Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick) does justice to the character's snarky streak (and his propensity to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience), as does Reynold's inhabiting of the role. All of this will no doubt come as a relief to the fans who've helped make Deadpool one of the few latter day Marvel characters to have much of a footprint with the publisher.
I'm hardly an expert on the voluminous Deadpool output from the '90s to now, but I'm at least familiar enough to know that the diehards won't walk away disappointed. But as far as everyone else, that's a harder one to answer. Unlike Disney's "Marvel Studios" label, which is an indicator of uniformity across different franchises, giving folks a sense of what to expect even with properties they may be unfamiliar with, the X-Men connection is made here mainly to toss tomatoes at the concept (via the overly earnest X-Man Colossus, played by Stefan Kapicic).
While I have no idea how this will play if you're coming in completely cold, I went in fairly apathetic (given that I'm not one of the diehards referenced earlier). However, the evident affection that went into it won me over. Reynolds is having a blast playing his dream character, and he's given ample aid by TJ Miller as his sidekick and Morena Baccarin as his love interest. While Ed Skrein doesn't get to make much of an impact as main baddie Ajax, nor Gina Carano as his muscle Angel Dust, the whole thing is such a lark it doesn't really matter.
More than anything, the fact that we have a Deadpool movie at all is testament to the current appetite for superhero stories of all flavors, and the deep bench of characters to pull from. After all, the X-Men library is at least as expansive as the larger Marvel catalogue. And while anyone looking for more of a straight-ahead mutant adventure can get their PG-13 fix from the X-Men sequels that will continue to flow from now until the end of creation (including later this year), I'm glad Fox is willing to let the merc have his mouth, swears and all. B
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