Up to Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds’ career was in serious risk of derailing. The number of high profile bombs (R.I.P.D., Self/Less, The Change-Up, and above all, Green Lantern) would have sent any other actor to oblivion (see Taylor Kitsch). Part of the problem was that filmmakers kept on misusing him: The Vancouverite’s sharp comic timing was going to waste as Reynolds was shoehorned into movies he had no business getting involved with. Anybody who saw The Captive knows what I’m talking about.
Reynolds himself had to course correct his downward trajectory by revisiting a role by all accounts he botched the first time around. We initially met Deadpool as a supporting character in the godawful X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Buried at the bottom of a large cast and constrained by a PG rating, the first film incarnation of the merc-with-a-mouth angered fans and was received with indifference by the rest of the populace.
Seven years later, it’s finally the right time to give both Ryan Reynolds and Pool another chance: Superhero movies have achieved critical mass and they are getting blander and repetitive: The Dark Knight’s gloominess is now a cliché and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has no edge whatsoever. Also, after the abject failure of Fantastic Four in every imaginable aspect, Fox is in the right state of mind to embrace change (i.e. desperate).
One could argue Deadpool is a traditional origin story: Just as [REDACTED] native Wade Wilson has achieved balance in his life — comely girlfriend, steady income, plans to start a family — he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. In despair, the mercenary undergoes an experimental treatment that creates super-soldiers by awakening an X-Men type mutation.
The procedure works, but leaves Wade horribly disfigured and unable to return to his beloved one. Too self-centred to become a superhero — much to the chagrin of X-Men liaison Colossus — Wilson uses his newfound powers to find the man responsible for his pain (and perhaps, in possession of the cure). His crusade, however, doesn’t stop him from having fun along the way.
While the setup is fairly standard, Deadpool breaks with tradition by messing up the structure: Most of the film takes place the course of a single action scene, constantly interrupted by flashbacks. The film breaks the fourth wall so thoroughly, it’s practically non-existent. I can’t recall a movie that disses the studio, its own cast and crew and the franchise that spawn it so gleefully. We are all aware of the epic levels of inconsistency within the X-Men cinematic universe, but only Deadpool can openly ask “Stewart or McAvoy?” when discussing Professor X.
The combination is winning and accentuated by very sharp dialogue. This is clearly the part Reynolds was born to play, and he is properly supported by T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) and Morena Baccarin (Homeland). Even the rather average villain (Ed Skrein, from the forgettable Transporter Refueled) is enough of a prick to keep the audience on Deadpool’s side.
The film could have used a few more X-Men (as pointed out by the antihero himself), but overall Deadpool is a blast, and may open the door for more adult, high profile comic-book adaptations. Who knew he had it in him? Three and a half pansexual prairie dogs.