I’ve never read an issue of Deadpool, in fact my only exposure to the character before this movie was in the awful–and righteously panned–Wolverine: Origins. I can only imagine, then, that this must be the version of the character that all of the fanboys (including Reynolds himself!) have always wanted. Deadpool is a legitimately funny, winking send up of everything audiences have come to expect from comic book movies. There’s great action, bizarre characters, it’s gory, and has (by far) the most numerous good lookin’ naked people in any Marvel movie so far. It’s also complete, unabashed fan service.
The story, in as much as that bits important, involves an ex-soldier and low level gun-for-hire, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). Wilson, after having found the love of his life in Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), also finds that he has terminal cancer. As a last ditch effort, he volunteers for the Weapon X Program in order to be cured of his illness. Needless to say, that doesn’t go according to plan. A few things here and there go wrong and Wilson ends up as an immortal, corpse-faced assassin. Doctors, right?
This sets up Deadpool’s story of revenge to murder the Weapon X staffers who screwed him over. Along the way he runs across all kinds of fun secondary characters: two off-brand X-Men, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand); barkeep Weasel (Silicon Valley‘s TJ Miller); a vengeful cabbie, Dopinder (Karan Soni); his old, blind roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggams). Deadpool’s interaction with these characters are way more interesting than the shell of a plot.
In the context of the movie, in fact, the plot seems completely superfluous. Where this movie works best is the banter between characters (or between Deadpool and the audience, which is always a fun conceit) and the in-jokes about the super-hero movie industry. The movie plays a lot like the super hero version of Anchorman; the dialogue feels ad-libbed and is somewhat hit or miss, which is forgivable because some of the hits are really good. Reynolds, too, is all in on this movie and his earnestness really comes across in a good way. He desperately wants the audience to laugh and have fun and, for the most part, it works! All in all, this movie is funnier, gorier, and better than it ever had to be.
That being said, there are times when Reynolds and director Tim Miller fall back into regular super-movie tropes. Specifically, the overly long, boring half hour spent on the origin story. We’ve all seen the super hero origin story, a million times over. This particular one will feel awfully similar to the Wolverine origin story (Project X, you know) so there was even less reason to spend so much time rehashing it. Would it be so bad to do away with the origin story and put more of the stuff that works–the jokes, the violence, the swagger–in its place?
Deadpool, too, is one of the most fan service-y works this side of the Mad Men finale. There are easter eggs galore and many parts of the movie feel tailored to make the giddy fanboy (fangirls, too) erupt with joy. At a point where most comic books movie are chock-full of these moments to the point of gluttony, the construction of Deadpool is such that the fan-service doesn’t really detract from what this movie is: an irreverent action-comedy. In other movies fan service detracts from the movie as a whole because those moments distract from the main plot, or feel completely different in tone from the rest of the work. The real reason these moments work in Deadpool is because fan-service is the basic building material of the whole movie. They aren’t a distraction because the whole movie is a distraction. That may sound like a criticism, but a two-hour, excessive, funny piece of distraction on a cold weekend isn’t a bad thing at all.