An eager Ryan Reynolds aims to atone for past mistakes in this obnoxiously meta comic-book caper.
It’s difficult to review or critique a film that essentially reviews and critiques itself throughout, such is the laboriously self-aware nature of Tim Miller’s Deadpool. The film establishes its meta-ness within seconds, as the opening titles proudly declare it “Directed by Some Overpaid Tool” etc. As Dan Harmon and Charlie Kaufman have often proven, uber meta-ness can be magnificent. It can also be immensely frustrating, particularly when exploited by corporate studio halfwits who lack the appreciation for why is works so well in Adaptation and six seasons of Community. Removing the fourth wall can remove all sense of scale, stakes and suspense, which is hugely problematic in a film such as Deadpool which is, in honesty, yet another explosive action-packed comic-book movie. When Deadpool, the scatalogical fast-talker played for the second time (following a small, ill-judged role in 2009’s universally bemoaned X-Men Origins: Wolverine) by Ryan Reynolds, has the potential to turn to camera at any moment and joke about his masturbation habits, the proceeding CGI-filled fighty/explodey bits are uniquely lacking in tension. A filmmaker like Matthew Vaughn, who’s brought us two of the century’s most brilliantly subversive action films (Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service), might have taken the necessary risk of excluding the formulaic superhero third-act punch-off, but inexperienced director Miller and a nervous 20th Century Fox (estimating how much they’ll have to write off on this R-rated marketing nightmare) stay far too close to the formula of Deadpool’s PG-13 counterparts, and the end result is consequentially quite boring.
Deadpool begins well, with an interesting Tarantinoesque narrative framing device launching into a standout freeway chase. One gets the impression that the script was written in chronological order, as the quality and wit of the dialogue decreases rapidly as the film heaves itself forward. Deadpool introduced himself with a reasonably witty tirade of pop culture references and jokes about the film’s troubled development, Reynolds’ career and Hugh Jackman, but within half an hour the Merc With A Mouth is reduced to gay panic, Big Bang Theory-level cliche and using the word “fuck” as a punchline. Like Deadpool himself, the filmmakers’ arrogant overconfidence is their own downfall. The arrival of the Love Interest (Morena Baccarin wasted in an unflattering role) and The Villains (the sleazy Ed Skrein and characterless Gina Carano) brings the enjoyment of the opening to a halt, as we suffer through long expanses of screentime without a single Deadpool-ism. Some of the depicted origin story material is so dark and miserable, it occasionally makes one long for the chirpy tone of Origins: Wolverine.
Reynolds is the one saving grave amidst the dullness of the film’s latter half. His dedication to the property offscreen is admirable, and his work onscreen is equally impressive, undeserved of the poor writing that serves it.
The primary purpose of Deadpool, in reality, is to give comic-book fans a thoughtful realisation of the beloved character that was so harshly mistreated in Origins: Wolverine. In theory, Miller’s film is successful in achieving that. The character Deadpool looks cool, has a funny voice and has been cast superbly. If this version of Reynolds’ Deadpool does comics Deadpool justice, Deadpool hardly does justice to either Deadpool.