EDITORS NOTE: With a movie as unique as Deadpool, its a given-in that it was going to get a polarizing reception. You may have seen Nerd Bastards earlier glowing endorsement of the movie (Review HERE), but now let’s hear an opposing and more critical review.
The Merc with the Mouth (aka Deadpool) is back. Actually, he was never here, not yet anyway. It just feels that way, a tribute (if “tribute” is the right word) to Deadpool’s genius-level marketing team. Over the last 6-7 months, Team Deadpool has been everywhere, online and off, in strategically released trailers, TV ads, mock-PSAs, and increasingly frequent appearances by star Ryan Reynolds, making a bid to reclaim the big-screen superhero title he lost almost six years ago (the less said about Green Lantern, the better for everyone involved). That’s all to the good – if we define “good” as increasing audience awareness and opening to relatively strong box-office returns – but ultimately Deadpool: The Movie has to stand or fall (or more accurately, fail) on its own apart from audience-friendly marketing, and unfortunately fail Deadpool: The Movie does, sinking under the weight of its fourth wall breaking, meta-joke heavy premise. It’s a premise that proves unsustainable across first-time director Tim Miller nearly two-hour, big-screen adaptation of Marvel Comics’ least likely superhero.
That marketing? It cherry-picked so many of Deadpool: The Movie’s best moments and scenes that there’s almost nothing left of any consequence to see, hear, or enjoy. Working from a screenplay credited to Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland), Miller initially mixes up Deadpool: The Movie’s narrative structure, opening with a bridge-set action scene that actually occurs near the end of Deadpool’s journey to extract bloody revenge from the British-accented villain, Francis/Ajax (Ed Skrein), who turned him into a scarred, super-powered, spandex-wearing, fourth-wall-breaking freak, and Francis/Ajax’s super-evil hench-woman, Angel Dust (Gina Carano, impressively lifelike, especially when she’s not talking). Deadpool quips his way through a slaughter of disposable henchmen (disappointingly, audiences have seen the scene, almost in its entirety, in the trailers already) before hitting the rewind button for a semi-standard issue origin story about a reluctant superhero. Ex-Special Forces operative turned Merc for Hire Wade Wilson doesn’t just take any hit job: He only brings his talents for corporeal punishment to the men who always deserve it (a stalker in one scene), hangs out in a combo dive bar/merc recruiting center run by superfluous sidekick/unnecessary comic relief, Weasel (T.J. Miller), and meets cute (“cute” in the Deadpool universe, that is, meaning she sells her body for a living) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), his “future baby mama.”
It all goes to utter and complete sh*t, of course, when Wilson discovers he’s been hit with a terminal case of body cancer. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, he agrees to a radical medical procedure that may or may not awaken long-dormant mutant genes. It does, but only after days and weeks of torture at the hands of the sadistic Ajax. Wilson also discovers that he’s not being suited up for superhero duty, but super-slave duty to the highest bidder. Narrowly escaping with his life – now essentially immortal, sharing Wolverine’s regenerative abilities, but not his hyper-trophied physique, adamantium claws and skeleton or his good looks – Wilson, now Deadpool (so called for the dead pool at the merc bar he frequented pre-procedure), goes on a slow-motion mission of revenge, taking out an assortment of low-level black marketeers Punisher-style, inching closer to Ajax/Francis and getting his old life back (just his physical appearance, though, the regenerative abilities are just fine). A couple of third-tier X-Men, Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic, under-rendered by a no-name visual effects company), a semi-literal Man of Steel, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), a sulky, monosyllabic adolescent, show up to recruit Deadpool into the X-Men (highly unlikely, given they’re in the PG-13 side of the universe).
Given Reynolds’ talent for playing any number and manner of smart-ass dude-bros (sarcastic, ironic, self-entitled, etc.), the Deadpool character fits him like a warm, sweat-lined spandex body-glove. It’s the role Reynolds was, for once, truly (re)born to play. Wilson isn’t called the Merc with a Mouth without reason: He never stops talking, either in voiceover, to other characters, or to the audience when he breaks the fourth wall to make a semi-well-timed remark or observation. Reynolds delivers every line like it’s the most brilliant bit of comedy ever created by man, woman, or screenwriting software, but more often than not, the “funny” bits aren’t particularly funny at all, over-relying on profanity where a clever one would have been preferable. There’s nothing wrong, at least in theory, with crude, vulgar, or otherwise rude humor, but an over-reliance on that kind of humor eventually becomes tiresome, as it repeatedly does here. When the crude one-lines aren’t flying, Deadpool: The Movie relies on a steady supply of in-jokes about the Marvel/X-Men universe (Hugh Jackman/Wolverine gets multiple shout-outs to rapidly diminishing returns), meta-jokes about superhero flicks (including Disney-owned characters, if only obliquely), and juvenile humor.
That humor, like the cartoon-level violence, veers heavily into unapologetic R-rated territory. It’s the relentless, callous violence (Deadpool’s artistry as a merc-turned-superhero extends to slasher-like levels of inventiveness when it comes to kills), though, that just as quickly becomes incredibly tired and tiresome. There’s only so much shock and surprise that can be gleaned from bullet-ridden, sliced-and-diced bodies, gun play, and sword fights (hint: Not long). Once past the half hour mark, the novelty of a foul-mouthed merc, and with it, the thrills, of Deadpool: The Movie’s hard R-rating – a significant departure for a Marvel/DC production (though Watchmen crossed the R-rated barrier for DC/Warner Bros. seven years ago) – begins to wear off. And with so little of Deadpool: The Movie left unspoiled by the neverending, months-long marketing barrage, there’s little, almost nothing left to recommend Deadpool: The Movie.