Despite its record-breaking opening weekend, Deadpool will likely be remembered as the film that almost wasn’t. Plans for a Deadpool film actually materialized all the way back in 2000, when Artisan Entertainment announced it would bring the ‘Merc with a Mouth’ to the big screen. In the following years, however, the project found itself caught in development hell, bouncing from studio to studio and director to director, never quite finding a home that was willing to give Deadpool the push it needed to get to production.
An appearance (widely considered one of the worst comic book character adaptations ever) in 2009’s global disaster, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, likely soured any interest Fox had in a Deadpool solo film. And, to make matters worse, Ryan Reynolds’ superhero stock sunk to an all-time low after the disappointing release of 2011's Green Lantern. As recently as 2014, Deadpool was considered a lost cause, with even Reynolds admitting his doubts on whether his divisive passion project would ever be made.
But just like that, everything changed. In July 2014, test footage from director, Tim Miller’s stab at the character two years prior, leaked onto the internet, immediately going viral, and giving Fox no choice but to fast track the project. Ryan Reynolds credits this fan response as the catalyst for Deadpool finally getting the greenlight; and, just two years and one ridiculously clever marketing plan later, fans were finally greeted with the Deadpool movie they've craved for so long.
Deadpool actually kicks off with a freeway scene based heavily on the leaked test footage, forgoing the traditional origin story, and instead exploring Wade Wilson's background through interspersed flashbacks. This unconventional narrative structure does a great job of immediately throwing us into the action and avoiding the possibility of a slow-to-go origin story that can sometimes plague comic book films. There were a few times when the movie jumped to and from a flashback that left me wishing the focus would stay on the narrative at hand, but overall, this didn't detract from my enjoyment all that much.
Additionally, by introducing the audience to Deadpool, post-mutation, fans unfamiliar with the source material are initially meeting the character when he's at his most interesting. Although, for what it's worth, the flashback scenes do a great job of painting Wade Wilson as a likeable anti-hero, and also develop his onscreen romance with Morena Baccarin's Vanessa Carlysle, in a way that does not feel forced. (Which, if you read my piece on Avengers: Age of Ultron, you'll know is a hard thing to pull off.) Ryan Reynolds reaches back into his old bag of romcom tricks, and the two actors actually demonstrate a charming bit of chemistry that helps the audience feel more invested in a love storyline that could have easily fallen by the wayside.
Baccarin does a solid job in her role, despite its fairly limited scope; and overall, the supporting cast is solid, headlined by the scene stealing TJ Miller (Weasel). There were some worries about Gina Carano (Angel Dust) and her acting chops, or lack thereof, but I'm happy to say that those worries are mitigated by the fact that she only has about five lines. Ed Skrein plays a decent villain in Ajax/Francis, but suffers from a lack of character development all too common for comic book movie villains, and does little to differentiate himself from the genre's brooding, sociopathic, sometimes British archetype.
Rounding out the cast are the two featured X-Men characters, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Negasonic is a newcomer to the X-Men film franchise, while Colossus gets a retcon (he’s Russian now!), as well as a new paint job. From a continuity perspective, these are the first two X-Men we encounter post-Days of Future Past; though, for the most part, references to the wider X-Men universe are limited, which is okay. This film needed to develop Deadpool as a viable solo character, but the shared interactions between the three mutants is just enough to whet the palate, and I’m excited to see where Fox takes these two properties in terms of future crossovers.
Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, Deadpool starts to veer towards the generic with the start of the 3rd act. In typical villain fashion, Francis takes Vanessa hostage inside an abandoned junkyard, forcing a damsel in distress situation that serves no purpose, other than to raise the stakes for a movie that desperately needs them. Deadpool’s formulaic plot, while a fair satirization of the comic book movie genre, really starts to unravel when you pull just hard enough at its threads. The climatic battle is a fun ride, although nothing we haven't seen before. And, while there are moments towards the end where the humor starts to feel a bit forced, the finale keeps this in check, for the most part, and manages to maintain the focus on the action.
Deadpool stands as an underrated testament to the power of fandom. Its legacy will live on for this reason, and as one of the best R-rated comic book films of all time. Yes, the plot is rather thin, and your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about Ryan Reynolds, but there’s a high degree of difficulty associated with a film of this nature, which Deadpool manages to navigate quite nicely. It's easy to look at Deadpool as nothing more than an appeal to the lowest common denominator, an endless mill of toilet humor and violence, designed to cash in on the cheap laughs you’d associate with an R-rated film. But don't let the poop jokes fool you. Every sexual innuendo, every 90s reference, every twistedly charming one liner is a calculated step towards engaging the audience in a fictional character and reality that remains true to the 4th wall breaking, over the top nature of the source material, while still remaining accessible to the casual filmgoer. This was one of Fox’s biggest fears. How would the general public respond to such an unconventional and quite frankly strange character? The answer so far is really f*cking well.
Written by A Play On Nerds Contributor, Garrett Yoshitomi. You can find his tweets @garrettweets