It's rare when a film can fully live up to its hype. It's even more rare when a movie finds a way to capitalize on every ounce of its potential, and just flat out deliver.
I'm happy to report that DEADPOOL did exactly that.
Going into the film, there was so much talk about Fox's radical approach. DEADPOOL would be a fairly low budget, hard R-rated, fourth-wall breaking, genre-defying work of subversive rebelliousness that was born out of Fox shooting down the movie and an illegal test footage leak creating a wave of buzz that practically forced the film into existence. The film's backstory had the potential to overwhelm- or even undermine- the final product.
So I went into the theater guardedly excited, with the thought that this could be really cool, but will likely have some unfortunate corporate touches meant to tie it to Fox's greater X-MEN franchise. For the sake of comparison, I thought it might be similar to ANT-MAN, in that it started out as a unique, subversive idea from Edgar Wright and then ended up being a much safer, more square entry into the Marvel Studios canon by Peyton Reed.
Boy, was I wrong...
From the moment the credits began to roll, the filmmakers made one thing very clear: There would be no rules in this movie. Without spoiling a thing, let me just tell you that DEADPOOL has the best opening credits I've ever seen. I laughed out loud, my jaw dropped, and I felt like a kid on a roller coaster heading up for the first big drop.
Anyone who's read my reviews before knows that I'm not one to sum up the plot, or spoil anything that could detract from your experience. My philosophy is that if you want a plot breakdown, you can Google it. Not going to waste our time with that, so let's just talk about the movie.
Ryan Reynolds was born to play Deadpool. While that's been fairly obvious for anyone familiar with the actor's comedic ability, athletic prowess, and general passion for this project and the books on which they're based, what I was happy to learn was that Tim Miller was born to direct DEADPOOL; and that Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were born to write DEADPOOL. The film feels like a truly wondrous experience, in that the viewer is getting the chance to witness a rare instance of every possible star aligning in just the right way. The talent involved in this film, both in front and behind the camera, brought such a kinetic energy to the project that you can feel its presence everywhere.
The film starts at a breakneck pace, with the jokes, plot information, and meta references coming at you in a fast and furious way. It took me about ten minutes to lock into the film's rhythm, cause I was trying to absorb every little bit- but while I was busy laughing or reacting to one thing, there was something else happening right after it, so I'll likely have to see it again. Once I accepted that this train had left the station and there was little time to keep up with all of the jokes and references, I just decided to enjoy the ride. The pacing carried me all the way to the film's finale, which felt like we'd gotten there in an hour, when it had really been almost two.
One thing that surprised me, was that the few moments in the film designed to make you feel something really landed. With its tone, which takes nothing seriously, and where nothing is sacred, I almost expected the movie to never be anything more than an action-packed joke fest. Perhaps aided by the overall anarchic humor present throughout, the couple of times where things slow down to allow for some of the more somber beats of Wade Wilson's story to hit really worked. That's due, in no small part, to the spirited performances by Reynolds and Morena Baccarin.
As Wade and Vanessa, the two actors brought a surprising amount of nuance, chemistry, and heart. Their romantic subplot really is the beating heart of the film, even if its the film's hyperactive brain that gets all the press. Therefore the two or three times where we venture into themes of love, loss, and fear helped ground the story and never crossed over into eye-rolling "the studio demanded a romantic subplot" territory. The filmmakers should consider it a victory that I got a lump in my throat when Wilson was handed his first crushing twist of fate, and that was all thanks to Reynolds and his co-star taking the material seriously when it counted most.
The action is all expertly shot, and interspersed with enough of Deadpool's signature breaking of the fourth wall, that it breathes new life into scenarios we've seen countless times before. Shootouts, car chases, brawls with legions of henchmen, and a big "final boss" battle all feel fresh because of the film's unique voice. There were, maybe, two times where I saw something that felt awkwardly fake in the CG department, and those were the only moments where the film's budget seemed to rear its head. Otherwise, the action was all hard-hitting and smartly staged.
Anyone who's seen a film like this knows that a strong villain is almost as important as a great hero, and Ed Skrein's Ajax doesn't disappoint. The script makes him a truly cold, vicious adversary, and Skrein sinks his jagged teeth into the role. Gina Carano's Angel Dust is decidedly one-note, but that was clearly by design as the script has some fun with her quasi-generic "mini-boss" character, while still giving her a couple of moments to shine. Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and the CG-concoction used to create Colossus do a great job of adding the essential X-Men presence in the film, while also aiding the plot, contributing to the humor, and not just being some sort of corporate connective tissue to Fox's other movies.
All I'll say about T.J. Miller and his Weasel is that I could watch him and Reynolds do an hourlong improv of the scene where he describes to Wade what he looks like after what Ajax did to him. I have a feeling the alternate scenes and outtake reel in the film's bluray release are going to be epic. I almost wish there were more scenes for Miller and Reynolds together, but I can only hope we'll get to explore that friendship more in future sequels.
If I had to think of a negative note, it's that there were a couple of times where the film's plot felt entirely secondary to the characters. Aspects of Wilson's revenge quest were glossed over because the emphasis was clearly more on "watch Deadpool do his thing" than explaining how he got from Point A to Point B.
DEADPOOL was great; Full of surprises; Bursting with energy; A perfect marriage of talent and material and, at a time where some fear "superhero fatigue" at the cinema, it comes at a perfect time.
Last thing I'll say is that my knowledge of Deadpool is limited, so I brought my friend (and drummer in our kickass rock band!!) Greg with me. He's a hardcore, devout fan of the source material. When the film was over, I asked him if they nailed it and his response was a resounding "YES!" So the film worked for me, a more casual observer, and an obsessive.
Oh, and definitely stay after the credits.