*Warning: Potential Spoilers*
It is one thing for a superhero film to be enjoyable and funny. It is quite another thing for a superhero film to not be about a superhero, but rather a filthy-mouthed and vengeful mercenary, as well as being so explicitly funny that all children under the age of sixteen should be barred at the door. It doesn’t matter that this is a Marvel film (though there will be no Avenging in this universe, Deadpool is more closely tied with the X-Men, which you’ll realize when they toss out the forbidden “M word”), Deadpool is a superhero for adults, one that is not about good versus evil or right versus wrong (basically everyone is wrong in this movie). Deadpool is an enjoyable, sarcastic and crass man in a black and red suit with katanas and for the hour and forty-eight minutes that he has to charm you, he never pulls a punch or tries to convince you he’s the one to root for. He’s just there to amuse you. And for those of you, like me, who are not particularly familiar with the X-Men universe, don’t worry too much- all you really need to know is that the X-Men live/train at Charles Xavier’s school for gifted kids and that Hugh Jackman is Wolverine.
Wade Wilson (played by the lovable and quippy Ryan Reynolds), a mercenary who takes cases for some of the more helpless folk (but refuses to let himself be called a hero because of it) meets and falls in love with his ideal woman, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Just a year later, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer, but there’s hope- a mysterious organization offers to use him as a test subject for an experiment to kill the cancer. This experiment leaves him with accelerated healing powers, but horribly disfigured and tortured, so Wilson adopts the alter ego Deadpool and hunts down the head of the experiment, Ajax a.k.a. Francis (Ed Skrein) to make him pay for what happened to him.
There are many things to love about the humor in this film- it’s not all about the sexual comments or swear words that fly like raindrops in a hurricane. Literally nothing is off limits to Wilson- not even the man playing him, since Reynolds is pictured right in the opening credits as “The Sexiest Man Alive”. Jokes go from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine to the Green Lantern film in 2011 (which Reynolds starred in, it seems no one hates it more than Deadpool) to the Iowa State Fair (and as I was viewing this in a theater in Iowa, this was definitely a crowd-pleaser in my theater). Deadpool also plays with the fourth wall, and by play I mean Wilson does everything but take the camera himself and shoot his own movie. He talks to the audience, even when the other characters in the movie are around and questioning him, and he tries at one point to protect our innocence (HA) by turning the camera away from a gory torture scene. While the humor in this movie is definitely on point, those who wanted to bring their children to this should be warned- don’t do it. I can’t imagine they would understand half of these jokes anyway and even if they did, a butt-naked Reynolds fight scene and the constantly dark jokes are something that you probably shouldn’t subject them to anyway. This is a superhero movie, sure, but almost by association with Marvel more than by actual content- as dark as some Marvel movies can get, this is a new level of something else entirely. It has no problem with limited development on any characters but Deadpool, and no character has any filter at all because this is an adult’s Valentine, not a kid’s.
Now, an hour and 48 minutes is by no means a short runtime- it’s not even the shortest runtime by Marvel standards (that prize goes to Rise of the Silver Surfer from 2007), but there is no point where this movie feels like it’s lagging. If anything, sometimes you wish it would lag because there are so many clever jokes flying you feel like you need a minute to catch the next one. This is in part because of the light/dark tone of the film, but also partially because of its setup. Unlike most Marvel movies (or superhero movies in general) we start off in the middle of an action sequence, a year after Deadpool has taken his persona public and is hunting Francis in an explosive car chase. Then you cut back to Wilson meeting his girl and falling in love, then back to the car fight, back to Wilson’s disease, back to the car fight (where X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, played by Stefan Kapicic and newcomer Brianna Hildebrand respectively, join the party) before finally continuing in a more narrative arc to the epic conclusion. Because you’re not following a single line of thought the entire movie, you don’t ever feel like the story is slowing or want to cut to the next action sequence.
The last thing I ever thought I would be able to say about Deadpool is that it is subtle, in a certain way. And yet here I am, giving the merc with a mouth credit for subtlety. Like its predecessor Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the soundtrack to Deadpool is chock full of hits from the 80s, synth style. And you know what Wilson is listening to them too because he makes a big effort to show him setting up his music before fights and proclaiming his love for Wham! to Vanessa. But yet, somehow, the music choices never draw nearly as much attention as the music choices for Guardians did, and the movie almost works better for it. While in the back of our minds we’re making the happy connection to these songs, we’re not as focused on them as we are on the action on screen that plays into the music. The storyline envelopes the songs, the songs don’t overtake the script, and that keeps the audience from being distracted from Reynolds, which they shouldn’t be because he is the backbone of this entire movie. Without him, it would not be nearly as funny.
Now for the large amount of press I’ve seen given to the naked fight scene, it’s actually not nearly as graphic as it sounds- there is no below the belt action from the front, despite what has been suggested, though at this point Wilson has been hit by the chemicals that scarred him for life so it might not be something you want to see anyway. And like I said above, none of the characters besides Wilson are really developed at all- best friend Weasel is played by T.J. Miller, and I swear Miller is playing his parts from Big Hero 6 (2014) and How to Train Your Dragon (2010), only this time he throws in enough swear words for the grown-up script that he’s working with. The villains (Angel Dust and Ajax) are adorably one-sided, and our two X-Men buddies have personalities that seem to cater to the whims of Deadpool, so that he still runs the show even though they are meant to be part of a larger universe Deadpool only inhabits.
While not entirely without flaws, Deadpool is a nice break to the Marvel standard of PG-13 and thoughtful. Not to say that it is thoughtless, but you don’t have to do nearly as much thinking and it’s a fun time for all parties. Whether or not it will set a precedent for more subject matter like superheroes to be portrayed in a more adult context has yet to be seen, but for now we can enjoy the chimichangas of our foul-mouthed mercenary and just take the slurs for what they are.
The bad guys won’t see you bleed if you’re wearing red, so maybe you should consider wearing yellow pants to this movie. Just and idea.