2016 is the year of superhero films.
An unprecedented total of six movies are coming out this year and if each proves the audiences’ current appetite for the genre insatiable, that total number is bound to grow. Many question how long the superhero fad will last. But with the arrival of Deadpool and its record-breaking opening, the superhero genre once again demonstrates that it is alive and well.
Never heard of Deadpool? Don’t worry, most people haven’t.
Initially introduced to comic book fans in early 1991 by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Rob Liefeld, Deadpool is not the typical superhero. First, he is actually aware he is a fictional character and often breaks the fourth wall or makes incredibly meta references. Second, he does not consider himself a hero; he kills without pause and excels at it. His talkative nature and sense of humor earned him the nickname, the “Merc with a Mouth.”
Deadpool is the origin story of this character. When Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) gets diagnosed with cancer, he leaves his fiancé Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) without an explanation and agrees to join a secret program that promises to cure him. The treatment he undergoes triggers a mutation that gives him accelerated healing powers that leave him immortal. And horrendously disfigured. His appearance makes Wilson unwilling to return home until the very man who turned him into what he is forces him to face his past.
Superhero films are often criticized for their supposed lack of originality and preference to spectacle over substance. Based on its plot alone, Deadpool follows the same formula as other superhero origin stories and does nothing to silence those critics. However, plot has never been a superhero film’s greatest strength; its strength relies on the characters. Due to its titular character’s self-awareness, Deadpool stands out from other superhero films by offering audiences a protagonist that is allowed to make fun of himself, the situation he is in, and the very genre he is a part of. The R rating also frees the movie from restrictions that most blockbusters face in order to connect with a broader audience. These factors promise a unique experience for both fanboys and casual filmgoers alike.
Yet, the film does not fulfill that promise completely.
Ryan Reynolds has joined Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr.’s club of actors that play a character so well, no one else in the foreseeable future can ever play them again. His commitment to the character allows audience to embrace Deadpool’s insanity. He also does not forget about the man beneath the mask and makes Wade Wilson as memorable as his costumed persona. His chemistry with Morena Baccarin is incredible and the love story of Wilson and Vanessa is a highlight of the film.
Despite all of this, the film feels surprisingly tame. Some of the humor, especially with T.J. Miller, is not that funny. Deadpool does not break the fourth wall as much as he should and the film’s marketing seems to upstage the film when it comes to being meta. Deadpool’s greatest scenes were between Deadpool and Colossus, who is part of the X-Men. One cannot help but think that Deadpool would be better off as a supporting character in a team-up movie, where he would be allowed to riff on the superheroes he would be surrounded by and the cinematic universe he is connected to.
Without a doubt, the film’s greatest weakness is its villain. Not only is Ed Skrein devoid of any charisma, but his character also lacks any real threat to Deadpool. They fight on so many different occasions that by the end of the film, the audience is bored by their combat. His motives are never explained and the plot’s predictability diminishes his character’s importance even further. Gina Carano’s character had one big line and with that line she proved to be a far more entertaining villain. If only she had been given a larger role.
Deadpool may not be the best superhero movie, but it certainly is one of the most unique. For the comic book purist, the film is exactly what they were longing for. It may not deliver on every level but with its amazing soundtrack and protagonist, it is by far the most interesting film in theatres this weekend. It is crazy to think that this is the first film by the director, Tim Miller. The film’s inevitable success will hopefully give him and the writers the confidence they need to really go all out in the sequel.
Deadpool was released nationwide on February 12, 2016.