You really couldn‘t blame Fox for their trepidation. In a pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film adaptation landscape taking the chance on a balls out, R-rated, fully faithful representation of Deadpool, Marvel Comics’ murderous, foul mothed, fourth wall breaking, chimichanga loving acrobatic ninja for hire, would’ve been a huge gamble indeed, especially after similarly anachronistic 90‘s born heroes like Spawn and Hellboy failed to make much of a dent at the box office, not the mention the character’s laughable (and not in a good way) appearance in 2009’s disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The internet can be a remarkable place though, and after almost 15 years in development hell, leaked test footage created by SFX house Blur Studios received a rapturous reception from fans in 2014 and Fox finally fast tracked the project into reality, with Blur co-founder Tim Miller at the helm, using the highly buzzed about script by Zombieland’s Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and starring longtime project champion and character fan Ryan Reynolds.
The Zombieland connection is strong here because, just as he does in the comics, Deadpool begins addressing the audience almost immediately, detailing his history from cancer stricken mercenary with a heart of gold Wade Wilson to reluctantly un-killable death machine and his hunt for the man responsible for his deformed appearance (Game of Thrones’ Ed Skrein). The action is fast paced but easy to follow and most important of all, genuinely funny. In some video game and cartoon adaptations Deadpool’s shtick begins to grate after too long but here his quips are played to perfection, no doubt thanks to Reynolds’ commitment to the character, and extra comic relief from not so straight man Silicon Valley’s T.J. Miller, perfectly cast as DP’s sarcastically brainy comics sidekick Weasel, doesn’t hurt either.
Rounding out the cast is Homeland’s Morena Baccarin as Wade’s love interest Vanessa, miles more interesting, believable and likeable here than she was in that thankless role, Brianna Hildebrand as Grant Morrison created oddity Negasonic Teenage warhead (yes we’re at the point now where the off the wall crap from Morrison’s batshit insane early aughts New X-Men run is making it’s may into the movies, I vote for Tilda Swinton as Cassandra Nova) and Serbian actor Stefan Kapicic as a gloriously comics accurate version of virtuous steel skinned strongman Colossus who damn near steals the whole movie right out from under Wade’s red booties.
As befitting a project headed up by an SFX director, Deadpool’s fight and action sequences are jaw droppingly kinetic displays of cutting edge technological know-how and old school slapstick storytelling, naturally accompanied by a refreshingly hard-R maelstrom of expletives, potty humor, adolescent sex jokes, blood spatter, gore explosions and severed limbs. The bloody highway battle that’s all over the trailers (and that aforementioned test footage) is definitely the centerpiece, but each sequence leaves a lasting impression, including a hard hitting fist fight between Colossus and MMA badass Gina Carano’s Angel Dust that’s so brutal it’s almost hard to watch.
It’s not all blood, guts, crashes and explosions though. Wade and Weasel’s wisecracks keep the mood to light even during the film’s darkest passages, and there’s plenty of Deadpool’s patented breaking of the fourth wall, taking aim at the convoluted continuity and casting of Fox’s now extended X-Verse, pretty boy franchise figurehead Hugh Jackman, and even Reynolds’ former gig as DC’s much maligned movie Green Lantern. There’s something to enjoy here for everyone though no matter your familiarity with either the X-Men comics or movie lore, the in-jokes and reference dropping never feel too cloying or pandering, definitely no small feat and another thing this adaptation absolutely nails.
Deadpool sticks the landing just as deftly as it performs the dismount, cramming an origin story, revenge plot, romantic interlude, buddy comedy, rescue mission, franchise connections and wide open world building that usually bog down even the best superhero fare into a smartly neat package that remains entertaining throughout and definitely leaves the audience wanting a lot more, which Fox is sure to provide for years to come. Long a “secret handshake” type of character among nerd types, just as obscure and absurd heroes like Rocket Raccoon and Groot once were, Deadpool now belongs to the world, and this movie’s so damn near perfect that I doubt Marvel diehards will mind sharing him.
Deadpool opens everywhere on February 12th.