So after a truly magnificent marketing campaign, we finally get to see the finished product. Ryan Reynolds’ dream project has come to life and has done so in a way that both figuratively and literally sticks a middle finger up at the studio system which took the best part of a decade to give it a green light.
Reprising his role from the god-awful Wolverine movie, Reynolds plays the true comic book version of Deadpool and seems born to it. What’s so great is the balance Reynolds maintains between being self-deprecating, self-aware and totally badass at the same time. He’s unafraid to show his pale backside whilst wearing nothing but a Christmas jumper, and he is equally fine to blow the brains out of numerous thugs whilst giving another villain an epic wedgie. It’s playground humour mixed with boyhood ambition to rain down bloody justice on wrongdoers. For that, Deadpool earns kudos.
There’s also some great anti-superhero movie sentiment (maybe not so much anti, but definitely satirical to the point of mockery) in the numerous fourth wall breaking monologues, and the instances of the movie ridiculing its own extended universe – at one point Deadpool visits Xavier’s school and finds only Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead there, before noting that the studio obviously lacked the money to include better mutants in the film.
Less worthwhile is the villain, Ajax, who is even referenced in the opening credits as a generic British villain, but sadly falls flat of even this less-than-lofty title. Ed Skrein seems more like a background actor who was brought into the foreground at the last minute, lacking the charisma to pull off a big bad in the way that notable brits before him (Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman) excelled.
The simple answer is that Deadpool is a really good film. Really good. But never great. It’s very funny in places, and in others the scattergun approach to constant gags and improvised riffing falls flat by comparison to the much better planned set piece moments.
The highlight for me came early in the movie, where Deadpool attempts to beat up the metal giant Colossus and ends up turning himself into a modern day version of the Black Knight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. And I wished for more moments of laugh-out-loud humour, but instead found myself just sniggering as I registered the myriad pop culture references and meta moments.
But what mustn’t be underestimated is the amount Deadpool has done to squash naysayers and disprove studio execs who for years tried to keep it in the doldrums of development hell. The box office figures have already secured a sequel and for once we can say that an R rated superhero film was worth the investment, whilst also being true to its source material and delighting its legion of fans. The key must be in the talent; a group who truly believed in the character. So congratulations to Ryan Reynolds, director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. You might not have made a classic, but you may just have changed something for the better in Hollywood.