It’s the Monday after a big opening weekend for Deadpool, the really very entertaining new Marvel superhero movie. R rated but far from grim and gritty, Deadpool is raunchy, sweet, ultraviolent, and extremely funny—an odd combination of qualities to be sure, but one that the audience seems to be going for in a big way, giving this flick the best opening weekend ever for a movie intended strictly for grownups. Good taste, everybody.
As always, more under the cut, although honestly this isn’t a movie that’s easily spoiled.
First, in good faith, I feel like I need to start with a warning. If your idea of a superhero movie is based on the current Marvel Cinematic Universe outings or the X Men series, or even the various Batman series that seem to crop up every few years, this is not that thing. Oh, there are some superheroes in it, and they wear costumes and fight among themselves, but there’s precious little of the highfalutin’ heroics and cosmic world saving that you expect from that kind of thing.
Deadpool is a sordid, small scale tale of torture and revenge, with the all the brutal and explicit violence and high body count of a serious action movie. It’s also a filthy comedy full of really rough jokes, world class bad language and blatant disrespect for just about everything, including the tropes of superheroics. And then it’s also a sweet but very adult romance where lovers have sex (not gratuitious in any way, but pretty graphic) on camera and talk about it as well. Just sayin’. None of this is to be read as a criticism—all of it is pretty great, actually– but Deadpool is not the “intended for teenagers of all ages and fine for older kids” PG-13 movie some might be expecting. Treat that R rating with lots of respect, although I would have loved it when I was 15.
Second, I went into the theater last Friday having never read a Deadpool comic. Of course, I am familiar with the character—the “merc with a mouth”, a snarky unkillable breaker of the fourth wall—but we had never crossed paths. So I have no idea if the Deadpool of the film is true to the character in the comics. But he is a pretty great character. I have never been a huge fan of the actor who plays him, Ryan Reynolds, but I think he does a bang up job here. Deadpool is violent, immature, impulsive and smartassed to a point that would be actively suicidal in a character that wasn’t somehow impossible to kill, but he is also smart, funny, and a loyal friend and lover, and somehow you can’t help liking him.
And as Deadpool is a successful character, Deadpool is a successful movie. From the opening credits, which are utterly brilliant and worth the price of admission in themselves, to the clever post credits tag scene, it is well shot in a fairly low key realistic style, with a complex narrative structure that folds on itself in an entertaining way. The superhero origin story is not exactly unfamiliar ground, but the writers of Deadpool manage to bring some freshness to it. The standard stock superheroic supporting cast are all there and manage to fill their roles in unexpected and interesting ways. The film looks great, with interesting use of color and music (ranging from classic oldies to vulgar and catchy hip hop) and a real world setting, the use of language is fresh, if filthy, the dialog is snappy and Stan Lee enjoys his own cameo a whole heck of a lot.
Above all, Deadpool is filled with meta. Watch for clever takedowns and analysis of the X-Men, superheroes, superhero movies, movies in general, and storytelling as a concept, all of which makes a solid base for all the fun stuff. This is good movie, and not a guilty pleasure at all. It’s a bit early to start talking about the best of the year, but Deadpool will certainly still be a contender in December. The February release lists often include unexpected treats; and it’s nice to see one meet with the success it deserves.