Well, I don’t think anyone saw that coming.
With a record-breaking $135 million opening weekend, it’s safe to say that everyone who had cast doubt on director Tim Miller and producer/star Ryan Reynolds’ vision of an R-rated DEADPOOL movie is firmly eating crow this week. And I’ll have to admit to having been in that company, at least for a while. Not lately, of course; once DEADPOOL’s clever and innovative publicity machine got rolling, and I got a glimpse of the film, I went from cynical to cautiously optimistic to downright excited.
But over the last few years, every time I’d hear Reynolds talk about how he was still trying to bring Deadpool to the screen, I’d roll my eyes, not exactly looking forward to the prospect. And who could blame me, after the double whammy of the godawful version of Deadpool we got in the first WOLVERINE film (which admittedly wasn’t Reynolds’ fault) and Reynolds’ frontlining of the atrocious GREEN LANTERN. Let’s just say I wasn’t dying to see Ryan Reynolds get back in the superhero business.
And hot damn, was I ever wrong. DEADPOOL is a foulmouthed, joyfully crude hyperviolent romp that completely captures the spirit of the best of the comics, while still managing to inhabit the world of the X-Men as we’ve seen in prior movies, and in some ways doing it better. Specifically, in the surprising inclusion of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead as supporting characters, with Peter Rasputin (looking and sounding, finally, like the Colossus I grew up reading about in the comics) trying in vain to get Deadpool to join up with the X-Men, with his surly teenaged X-trainee in tow.
While Colossus and Negasonic were delightful surprises, it’s Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson and Morena Baccarin as Vanessa that really carry the film, which for all its gore and obscenities is far more romantic than anyone could have expected. As two broken people who find a way to make each other happy, only to have that happiness snatched away once Wilson is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Reynolds and Baccarin give the whole proceeding a sense of emotional depth, which is totally necessary in a film like this that otherwise delights in bending the rules of moviemaking and often completely shattering the fourth wall.
If DEADPOOL has a flaw, it’s in the villain department, with Ed Skrein as Ajax (or rather, Francis), the man responsible for both Deadpool’s powers and his hideous countenance. Skrein does what he can with what he’s given, but Ajax just isn’t much of a compelling antagonist. And maybe that’s okay: Deadpool really should be the star of the show here. Gina Carano as Angel Dust, Ajax’s muscle and right-hand woman, is much more enjoyable to watch, and her brawl with Negasonic and especially Colossus is one of the most fun sequences I’ve seen in a while.
But it’s Ryan Reynolds who’s front and center here, and rightfully so: his performance is a joy to watch, especially when he’s in the full Deadpool suit and manages to wring every possible laugh out of his physicality, even as he’s murdering thugs left and right. Combine that with assured, innovative direction from first-time director Tim Miller and mile-a-minute jokes from screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and you wind up with the best kind of comic-book movie: one that feels completely fresh. Don’t miss it. Just leave the kids at home.