I believe it was last year when the legendary Steven Spielberg theorized that the rise in superhero films appears to be closely related to the rise of Western films almost a century ago. He also theorized that the superhero genre itself will soon fade away, just like the western genre did, going from exhilarating and very popular crowd-pleasing films, to novelties. It is difficult to argue with that reasoning, and I know that beginning a review to a superhero film with this may seem a bit bizarre, but it does serve a purpose – if the major superhero franchises such as the DC Universe and the Marvel Cinematic University do have any correlation to western films, it would have to be the films of John Ford and Howard Hawks, serious but very well-made films that go down in history as being pinnacles of cinema. However, having said this, we need to talk about Deadpool – because it is clear that Deadpool is the exact kind of superhero film that Sergio Leone would have made, and much like his classic spaghetti western trilogy, such as The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Deadpool will probably go down as one of the most strange and wonderfully twisted films in the genre.
I won’t pretend that I am an absolute expert on the superhero genre (in reference to comic books and graphic novels), but I do know my fair amount, and there are two things that I have always known (as have many others) – the first is that a Deadpool film was absolutely inevitable. The second is that this inevitable Deadpool film will have to be something completely revolutionary and never seen before, if the film was going to be faithful to the spirit of the character. It was a terrifying concept, because superhero films, even at their most dark, were always slightly conservative – they were intended to be aimed mainly at adults, but to be appropriate and to appeal to younger audiences, that also formed an important demographic for the films. It was relieving to say the least when it was announced that Deadpool would most certainly be aimed only at adults, not because there is some elitism, but rather because Deadpool as a character only works when at his most crass and vulgar, and foul language and ultra-violence was the definite order of the day when it comes to Deadpool. I was not disappointed at all with this approach – and kudos to the team behind it that made a definite adult-oriented superhero film.
Of course, one thing I have missed in most recent superhero films is something very important…humor. It seems around the rise of the X-Men films, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, superhero films started to become somewhat dour and dull and while often action-packed and definitely visually stunning, they weren’t all that entertaining (an unpopular opinion, I am well aware), and two years ago, Guardians of the Galaxy remedied this with its blend of goofy humour and intergalactic levity. Deadpool continues this tradition, and it is honestly not only one of the most enjoyable superhero films I’ve seen in a long time, it is also one of the most hilarious comedies, because while it is well documented that the humour within Deadpool is not all that popular with some people, it fits right into my wheelhouse, because I find the goofy and sarcastic, wry humour of the character irresistible. The humour can sometimes be incredibly stupid and juvenile – but that is what makes it so contagious and wonderful. I laughed in this film more than in most straight comedies, which I think was the intention all along, to be perfectly honest.
Now the lead of this film is someone I have had a complicated cinematic history with. Ryan Reynolds always struck me as being the vaguely pretty, but massively populist, young actor who couldn’t really do very much. Then I saw him in Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices, and my complete perception of him changed, and he proved himself to be a capable comedic actor, as he has a strange sarcastic charm. I will do something truly bizarre now, by comparing him to an actor who I see him having a similar career trajectory to – Michael Keaton. Both of them have a wise-cracking, sarcastic sense of humor with their acting, and both of them spent the early parts of their career in comedies ranging in quality, before having their breakthrough in a massive screen adaptation of a comic book character (we shall never talk of Green Lantern, as that film has been erased from my memory, as it should be from yours as well). Reynolds is wonderful, and while there were some slight moments where his dramatic acting failed him, his comedic moments were definitely on-point and brilliant, and even though it is very early in the year, he honestly gives a performance I am sure will be considered one of my favorites of the year. I hope Reynolds continues to play the character, granted the character always remains interesting and the films remain on this same level of quality.
I also need to praise Morena Baccarin, for playing a sensitive but very well-developed femme fatale, along with Lesley Uggams, who plays the profane Blind Al (and stole every scene she was in, in a role that could have easily gone to a huge star, but rather went to the multi-talented Uggams, who seems to have become more of a trivia item than a beloved contemporary performer). The only complaint I have is that Ed Skrein’s performance as Ajax/Francis is not as compelling as it should have been, and he is probably the weakest villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that is a minor complaint that I have with an otherwise splendid film.
Deadpool is so innovative, and that is mainly because of how strangely separate from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it is. For instance, very many times throughout the film, Reynolds breaks the fourth wall to deliver amusing anecdotes and jokes to the audience, which is not uncommon in cinema, but very rare in superhero films. Another is how it doesn’t shy away from being explicit and showing it all, which will certainly come as a shock to those who think this is an appropriate film for children (it isn’t…at all). Of course, for crazy film fans like me, you will adore the final post-credits scene, where Deadpool pays homage to the ultimate profane slacker, Ferris Bueller.
Two final short points – Deadpool has one of the very best soundtracks of any superhero film (matched only with Guardians of the Galaxy), and the opening credits are delightfully hilarious and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them become my favorite opening credits sequence. Deadpool is a great film, as it is funny, ultra-violent and wonderfully quirky. This isn’t the superhero film we wanted, but rather it is the superhero film we needed. Brilliant work, and I am anticipating the sequel more than any other superhero film. Great work (but once again, it isn’t for children – take them at your own risk).