Just Call Me Angel of the Morning
It's interesting going through the X-MenLaunched in 1963 and written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men featured heroes distinctly different from those featured in the pages of DC Comics. Mutants who didn't ask for their powers (and very often didn't want them), these heroes, who constantly fought against humans who didn't want "muties" around, served as metaphors for oppression and racism. Their powerful stories would form this group into one of the most recognizable superhero teams in comics (and a successful series of movies as well). films and, eventually, coming to Deadpool since, really, this film is barely an X-Men movie. Oh, sure, the School for Gifted Youngsters is shown, and versions of a couple of X-Men show up in the film, but Deadpool feels about as off-brand for the series as it can be. That is, of course, by design: despite looking like Slade Wilson's weird cousin, Deadpool was really designed to be the guy that broke all the traditional rules of comics. He has no fourth wall, purposefully addressing the audience while playing merry hell with continuity, panel borders, timelines, and good taste. Say whatever else you want about Rob Liefeld (and I'm sure I have), but Deadpool was his creation and the character is brilliant.
When it came time to make a Deadpool movie, Fox was, understandably, hesitant to make a film featuring the Merc with a Mouth. How would a Deadpool movie even work? Could the character translate to the Hollywood system, and should he? Looking for a way to test the waters for a Deadpool flick, Fox put Wade Wilson into X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As played by Ryan Reynolds even then, the early scenes of Wade Wilson cracking wise and being his mouthy self worked really well. But then the film has to find a way to make him Deadpool and totally destroys the character. And yet, despite this, it wasn't X-Men: Origins that killed future plans for the Merc with a Mouth. Instead, the problem was (a) a long development time for the movie and (b) Green Lantern.
If you haven't seen the 2011 Green Lantern, don't bother; it's garbage. It was such a spectacular failure that not only did it hurt Warner Brother's bottom line (since they produced and released the film) it also spooked Fox into canceling Deadpool. If Reynolds couldn't make that superhero movie work, how could he lead the one Fox was making about a mutant no one knows about? The one person still on board with bringing Deadpool to the big screen, though, was Reynolds, and he fought tooth and nail to get the film made. Test footage was produced for Fox, directed by future Deadpool director Tim Miller, and despite the footage being awesome, Fox still passed on the project. Then, a couple of years later the footage leaked, was met with overwhelming adulation, and Fox was back on board. They even green-lit the R-rated version Miller and Reynolds wanted to make, just with a smaller budget than most superhero movies received.
It's hard to argue with the results, though, Released in February of 2016, Deadpool went on to become the most successful X-Men film up to that point, beating out all the main-line titles to rule the roost. Fox had a bona fide hit on their hands, and going back to watch the film now it's easy to see why it was such a success. Deadpool doesn't just gleefully poke fun at superheroes, it trods all over the conventions of the genre acting like a breath of fresh air in the super-serious series its a part of (and the genre as a whole). It's as close as we'll probably ever get to an superhero anti-film and, because of that, it really works.
Despite what some comic book fans might have wanted, Deadpool does have a plot (I know a couple of friends that were upset it wasn't just the character randomly killing people and quipping for two hours). In the movie we're introduced to Wade Wilson (Reynolds), a one-time soldier-turned mercenary for hire. But he's a mercenary with a heart of gold, killing people that deserve it and refusing to take money from people that can't afford his services. Wise-assed and constantly talking, Wade meets his match in Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a hooker with a heart of gold that can dish out the quips as quickly as he can. They quickly fall in love and everything seems to be going well until Wade suddenly falls over one day. That's when he learns he has cancer, and it's aggressive. Seeing no other route to healing (since he kind of needs his brain, liver, prostate, and lungs), Wade signs up for a radical therapy that will, supposedly, heal him and turn him into a superhero.
Things are quite what they seem at the clinic, though. The facility is run by Ajax (Ed Skrein), a former soldier healed by the process (which essentially puts the patients under extreme duress until any latent mutant X-gene in their bodies is activated) who's taken over the facility and uses it to make super soldiers (that he then sells to wealthy buyers). The process horribly scars Wade, even if it does heal his cancer and give him Wolverine-like healing abilities. Once Wade breaks free of the facility he has one goal: to get revenge on Ajax (aka Francis). Well, and get back together with his girl. So two goals. Well, and help out a taxi driver he befriends. So three goals. Well...
It's not that I don't understand why some fans of the comics might have been upset by the direction Deadpool takes. This film is very much a love story (in much the way that its sequel, Deadpool 2 was a family movie). It is profane, and hyper-violent, but it also dresses itself up in the trappings of a romantic comedy to tell a different kind of superhero story. People just looking for Wade to wander around and crap all over the X-Men while shoot his mouth (and guns) probably didn't care much for the romance angle (I remember more than a few reviews by Deadpool fans that were displeased), but this is a Hollywood movie so some consideration towards the wider audience was in order.
And honestly I feel like Deadpool purposefully subverts as many of the tropes of Hollywood romantic comedies as it can while still playing in the same sandbox. The two lovers meet and immediately fall into bed. There's no will they/won't they, no tentative steps towards the bedroom. These to land in bed immediately and have a year long montage of sex. Hell, even their meet-cute is them finding each other in a bar before telling profane lies about how awful their upbringing was before going off to play ski-ball. It's as if Fox said, "give this movie a romantic story to pull in the ladies," the writers returned this story, and Fox was too afraid to tell them no for fear of how much worse it could get.
But that's part of the charm of it. Our hero is obviously in on the joke of the movie from day one (and not just because he's commenting, narrator style the whole time while, sometimes, literally talking to the screen). Deadpool is, essentially, Ferris Beuller, just given guns, mutant powers, and even less fucks (a parallel the movie makes explicit with a tag ending poking fun at the end of Ferris Beuller). The movie really is one long series of violent, wacky antics with a running patter to keep us entertained. The romance, then, acts as a glue, a motivator to keep our hero focused on his goal. He has to get healed, somehow, so he doesn't look like an avocado hate-fucked by an older, angrier avocado (a description taken directly from the movie) so he can go back to the girl he loves (who he hasn't seen in close to two years).
Of course, if you don't care all that much about the love story there's all of Wade's wacky antics and constant patter. Fans of Van Wilder already knew Reynolds could do the constant comments and hilarious ad-libs, a skill Hollywood had been trying to put to good use with varying levels of success ever since. Deadpool is the best distillation of Reynold's abilities, the perfect vessel for him to riff to his heart's content. Those times where I saw him in the past and thought, "wow, someone should give this a vehicle, like a Fletch film, where he can sit above the movie while ambling through the story," I was clearly just waiting for this film. He is the driving force of this movie, the reason it exists, why it works as well as it does, or functions at all. Like removing Chevy Chase from Fletch, removing Reynolds from Deadpool would destroy the film. He is Deadpool.
That's not to say the rest of the cast doesn't do well with what they've given. Baccarin's Vanessa is a charismatic treat, while T.J. Miller is amusing as Wade's buddy Weasel (even if T.J. Miller was outed as scum afterwards), and Skrein is decent enough as villain Ajax (Skrein is just not a good actor so "decent" is high praise). But the fact is that Reynolds is the star of the show. Whatever else the movie may want to do -- be a romance, be a superhero villain -- it's really "Ryan Reynolds Presents the Adventures of Ryan Reynolds, Starring Ryan Reynolds". If his shtick works for you then this movie is everything you're going to want it to be. If you don't like the actor, though, then you may as well skip this movie. For everyone else, Deadpool is a hilarious treat, start to finish. It may dress itself up as a superhero adventure, but this is pure, low-brow comedy and it's glorious.
Continuity and Issues:
As we noted back in the original run of X-Men movies, Colossus has been recast here from American actor Daniel Cudmore to Serbian Stefan Kapicic. Plus they make reference to Colossus's wife which, if we're following comic continuity, would be Kitty Pryde. Kitty, of course, was with Iceman in the movie continuity (at least until the timeline rebooted) so lord only knows who is married to Colossus at this point. And I guess the timeline reboot is to blame for Colossus being Serbian now.
Oh, the references to X-Men Origins: Wolverine are rife in this movie. The movie starts with a Deadpool action figure from that crappy movie. Then there's the reference to "sewing your mouth shut." That one was especially funny. Plus, of course, we have the references to non-X-Men Ryan Reynolds projects, most specifically the failed Green Lantern film. He really likes to make fun of that movie, not that it didn't deserve a fair amount of shade thrown at it. That movie is awful.
I suppose we don't even need to track all the other references to prior X-Men Continuity, like the jokes about Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy, and all the cracks at Wolverine and Hugh Jackman. Reynolds really loves making jokes about Jackman.
One thing worth noting is the crashed helicarrier that serves as the final set piece of the film. This came out before Disney bought Fox so there wasn't any expectation of Deadpool getting into the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe., but now I wonder if this helicarrier is actually continuity (or will be once Disney finds a way to merge Mr. Pool into the main series).