by Patrick Bromley
I was pulling for Deadpool, the latest attempt from smirking Canadian hunk Ryan Reynolds to jumpstart a superhero franchise. He's an actor who's passionate about this stuff and who tries really, really hard but who keeps getting stuck in movies like Blade Trinity, in which he was good but good in the weakest of the Blade movies, the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine (playing a version of the character he plays here) and most famously Green Lantern, which one might think would have ended his career as a movie superhero once and for all. Instead, Reynolds tirelessly pushed for a proper movie starring Deadpool, Marvel's wisecracking, murdering, fourth-wall-breaking mercenary created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza in the early '90s (and a character who, in the interest of full disclosure, I never got into). He would talk about it in interviews and on social media. After spending a decade being developed with no success, a visual effects demo that Reynolds had shot in 2012 leaked online in 2014 showcasing not just how the actor looked and moved in the costume but what the tone of a real Deadpool movie might be. Fans went crazy for it, and -- wouldn't you know it? -- a few months later Fox finally put the movie into production.
Now it's out and breaking box office records for February releases and has become the biggest R-rated opening of all time, pulling in over $250 million worldwide in its opening weekend. That's huge. Huuuuuuge. And for as hard as Reynolds has worked at getting this movie made the way it should be made, he deserves the success. The fans spoke, the studio responded and everyone should be more or less happy.
Because while Deadpool is extremely uneven, it works in many of the ways that it needs to work. The stuff I liked I liked a lot. The rest often felt like warmed-over early-2000s superhero moviemaking: dodgy CGI, characters that are much too big (non-Deadpool characters, I mean), a generic villain, too much origin. But then something will happen and the movie will roar to life and be lots of bratty, violent fun -- the filmic equivalent of one of those bumper stickers in which Calvin pees on things, only instead of being on the rear of a pickup truck of a douche you can't stand it's on the car of a guy you really like. He might even drive a Prius.
Deadpool's greatest advantage -- besides Ryan Reynolds' Tom Cruisian insistence on dragging the movie towards success -- is its timing. So many big budget, high profile superhero movies have been released over the last 15 years that to finally see one willing to call bullshit on a lot of the overly familiar tropes feels slightly revolutionary. The opening credits of the movie do the self-awareness best, pointing out just how generic this type of film has become; unfortunately, just pointing it out does not absolve Deadpool of embracing almost all of the same tropes that it mocks in the opening minutes. The movie tries to have it both ways, suggesting that we should roll our eyes at the things we've been conditioned to expect but then includes all of those things without irony.
So I'm torn on the movie. A lot of it works exactly as its supposed to. It introduces a superhero who's unlike any other hero to have gotten his or her own movie thus far; even better, it surrounds that superhero in a film that reflects the character's worldview at least half of the time. There's a real charm to that. It's combatting long sections of generic origin stuff and a "torture" scene that's at least twice as long as it needs to be. It introduces (or re-introduces) two X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and embarrasses both of them. Their stuff is much more reminiscent of the dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine than it is in the spirit of Deadpool, and though their presence allows for a few funny lines and meta jokes courtesy of the Merc with a Mouth, it all sucks in the way that we've gotten used to from Fox. Their need to tie Deadpool into their larger X-universe in his first big-screen solo outing unnecessarily hobbles the movie.