There aren’t many good moments in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but Ryan Reynolds turn as the motor-mouthed special ops agent Wade Wilson was one of them. Naturally, because everything in Origins is awful, they cut him from the picture early on and when he returns his mouth is sewn shut, Scott Adkins replaced Reynolds, and the character was clumsily referred to as both “The Dead Pool” and “Weapon XI”. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong with the studio’s treatment of the character, and the last 6 ½ years have been trying to give the “Merc with a Mouth”, who also has a devoted following from his fourth-wall breaking comics, the movie he deserves.
Director Tim Miller has accomplished this feat with Deadpool, which may be a little rote when it comes to rebooting the character into a fresh origin story (while still getting in some jabs at Wolverine—the movie, the X-Man, and the actor), but is an absolutely delight when it throws Reynolds into the black-and-red suit and has him slicing and shooting his way through hard R-rated mayhem. Although the movie can’t really do much with its thin “love story”, it’s enough to carry us to what we really want: filthy insults, a charming mix of clever and crude humor, and a blood-drenched, bloody good time.
Moving through a series of flashbacks, the movie slowly gets us up to date on the story of Wade Wilson (Reynolds), a former special ops soldier who now makes a living by being a bad guy to worse guys. While at his favorite bar, Wade meets and falls in love with the thin and thinly-drawn Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who’s just as messed up as he is. However, their bliss is short-lived when Wade gets cancer, and seeks out radical treatment from a shady figure who ultimately leads him to meet Ajax (Ed Skrein), a mad scientist who wants to unlock Wade’s mutant genes and turn him into a super-slave to the highest bidder. That sends Wade out on a mission of revenge and also with the hope that Ajax can reverse our antihero’s disfigurement.
While Wade certainly won’t be winning any beauty pageants any time soon, the film wants to sell us on an unbreakable love between him and Vanessa that’s also so fragile that she would go running if she caught sight of him. So when Deadpool tells us that this is a “love story”, it’s hard to take him one of his few serious statements seriously. But the character does need some positive motivation and his love for Vanessa is just enough to balance out his overpowering rage and insanity, which is where the film takes the majority of its joy.
The love story angle is basically a minor, half-hearted apology for the ensuing foul-mouthed, glorious bloodbath, and it almost makes me wish we could just skip ahead to Deadpool 2 where everyone is on board with this character, because Reynolds, Miller, and screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick know him inside and out. This is almost the best adaptation fans could have hoped for, and while he’s shackled to an origin story that sends us jumping back and forth in time, it’s the only way to get the film out to an energetic start. If the script had gone chronologically, most of the audience would have probably tuned out before things got really good.
Basically, whenever Wade is in full Deadpool regalia, the movie is electric. From the brilliant opening credits to the clever closing joke, Deadpool is dead-on with its sense of humor and incisive wit, and while it doesn’t thoroughly skewer superhero movies or take note of the current climate, it tends to nail any target in its crosshairs, including 20th Century Fox, Hugh Jackman, and others. There’s nothing mean-spirited in the movie’s tone; we just get wrapped up in the character’s irreverence.
Deadpool is just about everything you could hope for from a Deadpool movie given the boundaries of A) it’s an origin story; B) it has to bring in people who are unfamiliar with the character; and C) it’s upending traditional superhero tropes. Even with these restraints, the film is often an absolute blast that had me rolling over with laughter again and again. It’s a shame we had to wait so long for Deadpool to mouth off again, but hopefully he’ll be serving up some chimichangas in the not-too-distant future.