I’ll be honest… I didn’t expect Deadpool to make the box office wave that it did. I tried to see it the day after it came out, early in the morning to avoid the crowd… only to be turned away by a guy who looked as baffled as I was when he told me it was sold out for the entire day. I went home and, for the first time the mass chaos of Harry Potter midnight showings, I ordered tickets online. On Valentine’s Day at 11AM, there were just a handful of remaining tickets left. I scored a pair and made sure to get their early.
You know what, though? I shouldn’t have been shocked. I mean, I had no problem scoring seats for the Avengers, Captain America, and Thor flicks on opening weekend, and Deadpool didn’t have the luxury of that in-universe build-up that Marvel Studios affords its heavy hitters. What it did have, though, is perhaps the most loyal and rabid fans to ever be scorned by a Hugh Jackman film. I think every geek remembers where they were when that Deadpool test footage dropped, showing fans what Wade Wilson’s adventures would look like in a world far, far away from Wolverine: Origins… a world that was true to the craziest, most profane, and cartoonishly violent superhero comics to ever come out of the House of Ideas. Soon after, the film was announced and probably the most insane, clever, and at times relentless marketing campaign ensued.
It was almost as if the marketing was conceived by Deadpool himself from beyond the utterly shattered remains of the fourth wall. I mean, there were the many in-character spots with Deadpool addressing his audience and a few gut-busting trailers, but I’ve never seen a marketing campaign play so directly to fans. The poop emoji poster comes to mind:
Considering all that, the fact that this is a superhero film coming out on Valentine’s Day weekend rather than in summer with the rest of the blockbusters, it was either going to sink or fucking soar… and from the way the opening weekend looks, there was a method to Deadpool’s rule-breaking madness.
Beyond its success, though… do Deadpool’s antics really work as a film?
I wasn’t sure about how it would all go down, but I was really impressed. A lot of it – most of it – works. Most of it even works very well. I see a lot of fellow comics folks raving about it, and while I’m not balls-out crazy about the flick, I had a great time throughout and I was even moved by parts of it. Deadpool, especially at first, is exactly like its promotion, more so than any film I’ve seen. To borrow from what I said earlier, it’s clever, insane, and at times relentless. Especially earlier in the film, before we have a handle on who Deadpool is as a guy, his mile-a-minute jokes, references, and constant references to sex sort of feel like a South Park-obsessed teenager got his hand on the script and added about five solid minutes of jokes that we really didn’t need. It takes humanizing Wade Wilson, by flashing back to his origin, to give us something to care about – to ground the character. Because while Deadpool is funny as a blood-soaked Bugs Bunny, the film really got me when it showed him as a person that we can care about. And that, that foundation of character, makes the film even funnier.
Ryan Reynolds seems to be thrilled out of his mind to be finally playing the Deadpool that the fans have yearned for – that he has yearned for. He has previously gotten a hell of a lot of flack for his roles in Wolverine and Green Lantern, and while I don’t think either of those were his fault at all, he’s clearly having a party on screen in Deadpool. See it as setting things right, see it as redemption – whatever it is, it feels like the perfect fit. The two X-Men that make up the supporting cast, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Stefan Kapičić as Colossus, steal the show in parts. While less interesting characters (like Ed Skrein’s Ajax who isn’t given much to do as the Big Bad) are there to react to Deadpool’s antics, Negasonic and Colossus play off of Deadpool rather than just getting talked at like the villains. Gina Carano as Angel Dust isn’t given much more depth than Ajax, but the threat she poses is far greater, and her fight with Colossus and Negasonic was one of the visual standouts in the film. Morena Baccarin as Vanessa is stellar as always, and she’s probably the most sympathetic character in the film.
Besides a few jokes that didn’t really work, the only actual problem I had with the film was that Wade Wilson chooses to leave his girlfriend Vanessa instead of showing her the scars on his face. In context of what we know about them in the film, the choice makes no sense. He is scared that she’ll reject him for being hideous (he tells his hilarious buddy Weasel that he believes looks are the most important thing), but this is the woman who refused to let him go through cancer alone. She was one-hundred percent ride or die, and he thinks so little of her that he doesn’t even give her the chance to see him? He gets called an “asshole” for it later on, and that’s apt; beyond that, though, it feels like a plot convenience to keep him away from her until the climax because not only is he given no reason to believe she’d leave him, he is explicitly given reason to believe that she would stay no matter what happened to him.
Beyond that weird disconnect, the movie is an absolute blast. The action is awesome, it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious in parts, and even though the opening feels a little like an assault on the senses, it quickly strikes just the right balance between humanizing Wade Wilson and going full-on cartoon with him. It’s the Deadpool that folks have been waiting for… and if the tag at the end of the credits is any indication, we’re in for more stories featuring the fourth-wall-breaking, dick-drawing, ball-punching, chimichanga-eating Merc with a Mouth.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Robyn Hood, Family Pets, Hellchild), novels (Charmed for HarperCollins), and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). He recently moved to New York from sunny San Diego, home of the world’s best chimichangas. The world just isn’t the same…