I’m not going to lie, I was a little wary going into Deadpool (2016). I’ve loved most of the Marvel movies, but lately I’m starting to feel like they’re phoning it in. Neither Captain America movie has been particularly engaging and Ant-Man was a pure disappointment. It’s as if Marvel thinks that just because they release a movie, put a popular actor in it, and add some choreographed fight scenes, we’ll pay to see it. What pisses me off about that most is…I will. So, it was with some trepidation that I entered the theater for Deadpool and, well, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.
I will say that the greatest attribute of Deadpool is that it reeks of Ryan Reynolds’s smarmy, sarcastic, cocky self. Smart-assery is, perhaps, one of the characteristics I find most attractive in men (this is learned when I hated Jensen Ackles in everything…until Supernatural), and Ryan Reynolds’s particular brand of pop culture reference making, fourth wall breaking, metatextual abrasive humor is bleeding all over this thing. From the opening credits animations to the dialogue to the post-script (you stay past the ending credits right?), it is minute after minute of Reynolds cracking wise as Wade Wilson.
The plot is pretty standard: after A) falling in love, and B) discovering he has cancer, Wade undergoes an experimental treatment to give him more time with his leading lady. The treatment is nothing short of torture, run by a megalomaniacal villain named Ajax. (Side note: any relation to The Iliad’s Ajax? Am I looking too far for connection?) The treatment causes him to morph into a mutant who, while brutally scarred, has gained the powers of quick regeneration, à la Wolverine, and superior fighting skills, à la every superhero ever. After fashioning a sick superhero outfit and settling on his name (Deadpool, not Captain Deadpool), Wade sets out to seek his revenge on Ajax and his sadistic ways.
There’s been much talk of Deadpool heralding a new age of the anti-hero in superhero movies, but I’m not so sure we can call this new. Batman is certainly less than squeaky clean, Tony Stark is a womanizing alcoholic, and Wolverine is no Superman. These days TV shows are rife with anti-heroes – Tony Soprano, Walter White, Omar Little* – so perhaps a Deadpool movie merely provides in the superhero genre the greying of heroism we’ve already begun to find fulfilling in other media. Regardless, Deadpool was a well-written, well-acted, and unexpectedly hilarious addition to the genre. It’s fully restored my faith in Marvel.
*Why can I think of no female anti-heroes? Is this my fault, or pop culture’s? Does Patty Hewes count?