Sunday, February 14, 2016
Smugness is the default setting for Ryan Reynolds. He is capable of more, but an actor can only take what’s put in front of him and the title role of the wisecracking superhero in Deadpool suits Reynolds awfully well. Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, is a second-generation Marvel character whose backstory, should you choose to look for it, covers a swing from villainy to a sort of heroism and a penchant for direct address - a stylistic choice the film retains. Ryan Reynolds also played the character in the film Wolverine, but here he’s working from a script (by Rhett Reese and Paul Warnick) in the spirit of the Fabian Nicieza/Rob Liefeld comic. The plot is an origin story: Wade Wilson is hired muscle who’s diagnosed with cancer shortly after meeting his true love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, getting to smile for once). Wilson makes a fateful alliance with Ajax (Ed Skrein), a man who can cure his cancer, and the result is a newly minted set of mutant superpowers including regenerative healing. That’s right, mutant. Deadpool - who takes his name from a macabre bar bet with his friend (funny T.J. Miller) - is nominally one of the X-Men, though his agenda is a good deal more selfish and bloody than Professor X would be comfortable with. The X-Men are represented here by a philosophical Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and the moody Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who I assume is getting her own CW series soon. Ajax puts Vanessa in danger, and we’re on the road to revenge.
Deadpool would feels stale if it weren’t for the way that Reynolds and director Tim Miller relentlessly wink at the camera from the opening titles onwards. Deadpool knows he’s in a movie, and in particular an off-season franchise picture that doesn’t offer the familiar comforts of a Jackman (who gets some ribbing) or a Lawrence. Reynolds nails the jokes - and there are some good ones - but as Deadpool’s search for Ajax gets bloodier the jokes begin to feel forced. By the time Deadpool is rooming with a blind woman (Leslie Uggams) and gathering his guns for the final assault it feels like we’ve already seen everything that the film has to offer. What do we want from our superhero films? For all of the nodding at genre tropes, Deadpool contains just as much stylized violence as garbage like Kingsman and when it’s all over it isn’t clear that our hero is much more than a sociopath - albeit one with a romantic side. There will doubtless be more Deadpool, a post-credits scene and a record opening weekend guarantee it, but we can hope the next installment is made with a larger helping of soul.