By Ian M. Woodington
It’s best to come right out and say it: R-rated comic book movies are just better. I’m certainly no advocate for more violence, or sex, in film, quite the opposite in fact. If it’s necessary to the plot, then it’s necessary. What it comes down to is that the parameters of a lower rating don’t allow for fully-realized development of most of these characters, or the circumstances they find themselves in. Tony Stark’s alcoholism was at best an afterthought in Iron Man 2. Hank Pym’s darker, abusive side was all but missing from Ant-Man. Between recycled plots and two-dimensional characters; the comic book adaptation is becoming no better than the machine that continues to pump out boybands and pop songs. They may look like they know what they’re doing, but you scratch just below that surface and you’ll find nothing but a hollow experience and the feeling that you’ve been duped. Quantity over quality is their modus operandi and there’s no end in sight. To look at the scheduled releases plotted out through 2020 and beyond, it isn’t any wonder the phrase “superhero fatigue” is one I keep seeing more and more.
So in our plight of bombardment from endless carbon copies, along comes Deadpool, an anarchist comic book movie. From the opening titles (seemingly high jacked by Deadpool himself), it boldly makes the statement that this is no family-friendly, action-adventure romp. This is fiercely uninhibited, brazenly over-the-top and a good old-fashioned violent tale of an anti-hero on the prowl for vengeance. Albeit with the twist that this spandex-wearing sociopath is 100% self-aware and invites us on to be in on the joke. The breaking of the fourth wall, a device I am highly weary of, is thankfully used sparingly and feels all the more special when Deadpool welcomes us to laugh along with him. At no point is he afraid to let loose with a barrage of insults, not only at his own predicament, but at the current state of the comic book movie and the studios producing them. A handful of my favorite one-liners are at Hugh Jackman’s expense and hopefully the X-Men veteran has a sense a humor. For those of you still reeling from the mess that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, rest assured, all has seemingly been made right, with Ryan Reynold himself having laid claim to Deadpool being “the most faithful adaptation of a comic book to a movie I’ve ever seen”. I’ll leave judgement on that particular quote to those of you more well-read on the subject than myself, but I will say that if the movie stands as even half as good as the source material, then I have sadly been missing out on some tremendously good writing.
Speaking of writers, justly credited during the opening titles as “The Real Heroes Here”, the two guys who brought us the surprise hit Zombieland have provided a script that allows actor Ryan Reynolds, finally, the room he needs to test his ability as a leading man. I’ve long been a naysayer of his, chastising those who believe he has anywhere near the chops it takes to carry a feature on his own. Before now, he’s always been, in my mind, a Jack Black-type, great in an ensemble and best taken in small doses. With failure after failure, particularly in the world of adaptations (Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern, R.I.P.D. and the aforementioned Wolverine flick), it emanates from his performance that this is a true labor of love and that it’s got to be all or nothing to do such an insane character justice. Reynolds, along with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and indeed all those involved, rightly deserve all the praise they should have heaped upon them for having the courage to make the politically-incorrect, genre-bending statement as they’ve made here, and if it wasn’t for such a formulaic second half (CGI-laden, large-scale destruction, damsel-in-distress and romantic catharsis all present and accounted for), Deadpool would receive flawless marks. Such as it is, and though to some of you it may not be perfect, remember far worse has been done to this and many other Marvel characters on screen.
In short, this is one for all you deserving fans disenfranchised with a genre that, in less than two decades in the mainstream, already appears to be wearing thin. Let’s all hope that Deadpool challenges the studios to take more risks and provides the well-needed slap in the face that shakes them from continuing to languish in contentment with lazy, sub-par adaptations.
4 ½ out of 5