From the opening joke credits through to the knowing post-credit sting, Deadpool is hilariously, filthily, irreverently funny. Nobody is safe from ridicule: the producers are credited as ‘Ass-hats’, the director is ‘An overpaid tool’, Ryan Reynolds mocks himself and his career, the budgetary restrictions of the film are noted, the confusing timelines of the X-Men movies are referenced, the breaking of the fourth wall is mocked; even the ‘gratuitous cameo’ is hilarious and mocking. The Deadpool movie has perfectly captured the comedic sensibility of the Deadpool comics at their best and created something enjoyable in a cinematic format. I’m so glad that the film has had the highest opening of an R-rated movie of all time, because it means we will definitely get a sequel.
The film is an origin story for Deadpool, played to perfection by Reynolds, throwing you straight into the action before flashing back to how Wade Wilson went from former soldier to Merc With A Mouth, involving a shadowy organisation infusing him with serum and then torturing him to kick-start mutations in his genes, resulting in a man who can’t be killed but who looks repulsive. The plot engine of the rest of the film is Deadpool trying to find the man who made him indestructible but hideous so that he can fix him (Ajax, played by Ed Skrein) so that Wade can return to girl he loves (Vanessa, played by Morena Boccarin), all while the jokes fly thick and fast and Reynolds narrates throughout.
After the taster of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that didn’t work out, this is what a Deadpool movie should be. Funny and ultra-violent, it also has a heart (the relationship between Wade and Vanessa is actual rather sweet), which means it can lay into superhero movies because there is genuine affection for them and the lead character. Director Tim Miller manages to find the tone that allows for carnage and dick jokes and inventive swearing, while still being a (relatively) traditional superhero film – the plot is secondary to the gags and Deadpool himself, with an uninteresting villain in the form of Ajax, but he’s not really necessary because Deadpool is anti-hero and part-villain in his own movie.
When a film is really funny, people can forget that it was scripted and the writers (credited as ‘The Real Heroes Here’) Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have packed the script with great lines, sharp retorts and in-jokes. This is helped by Reynolds – it’s tough to break the fourth wall in film and do it well, but his easy charm pulls it off with aplomb (and he would make a joke about ‘pulling it off’ while doing it); his turns to camera in the middle of a shot make the movie sing. Even the way the white eyes in the mask change shape to reflect the dialogue is great.
I’m can’t tell if the film works as well for a general audience as it does for a comic book-savvy audience because I’ve been reading comic books for nearly three decades – for my sins, I bought the first appearance of Deadpool in New Mutants #98 when it came out, and I’ve got the excellent run by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness in my collection – so having Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead turn up seems completely normal. However, because we’ve had so many superhero movies recently, and ones that are good and seen by lots of people, it means that everyone can get the jokes; in fact, the delay in getting this film made has worked in its favour, because now everybody understands what Deadpool is about. I’m just happy we live in a world where an extremely funny and good Deadpool movie exists.