Deadpool (2016) – Fox’s R-rated Comic-Book Movie risk that paid off big-time.

In 2005 Universal Pictures gave Joss Whedon the none-too-slight sum of $40,000,000 to make a film based on his own failed TV Series that ran for only 14 episodes between 2002 and 2003 before being scrapped. That show was Firefly and had a small but incredibly loyal fanbase and the subsequent film was Serenity. It barely broke even but was critically very well received and fans loved it. It was a film that should never have been made. The TV series had failed commercially, and making a film based on it was surely never financially viable but the Movie Gods were looking down on fans of Firefly and they gave them a film that more than did justice to their beloved show and nicely tied up threads from the series following its abrupt cancellation. Still to this day I’m stunned that it got made but as a fan of the show, I’m glad it exists.

What has that got to do with Deadpool you may ask? Well here we have another film that by all accounts should never have been made, albeit for different reasons. The fact that 20th Century Fox gave first time director Tim Miller $58,000,000 to make a film based on a Marvel character that had been so appallingly handled in the risible X-Men Origins: Wolverine is another miracle. Not only that but Ryan Reynolds was again cast in the role, Reynolds already having both the dreadful Green Lantern and the poorly received Blade Trinity on his CV. Clearly his forays into comic book adaptations had been somewhat cursed.

But as fans holding out for their dream Deadpool film would no doubt agree, Wade Wilson, The Merc with the Mouth is the comic book character that Ryan Reynolds was born to play. When news broke that Fox had green-lit a standalone Deadpool film with Reynolds in the title role, the next big question fans had was how does a film adaptation of a comic book that is so adult and subversive in tone fit the PG-13, cookie-cutter template that almost every major comic book adaptation has had to fit since this type of film became the phenomenon it is? Reynolds himself stated in an interview a few years back that he was certain that Fox would never release an R-rated Deadpool in cinemas as it was commercially unsound and went against their main aim of making as much money as possible. Yet here we are today with a Deadpool film, and soon-to-be-released sequel, that not only gave Reynolds another chance, but was hard R-rated. Just as Serenity was to fans of Firefly, so this film was to the millions of fans of the Deadpool comics, a dream come true, utterly faithful to its source material and incredibly subversive, knowing and entertaining.

The first Deadpool film was, unsurprisingly an origin story, and at times a love story and also very much a comic-book adaptation, but more than that, Deadpool is a comedy, a superhero-comedy if you will. From the hilarious opening credits to the final post-credits scene Deadpool is just as subversively funny and twisted as fans would have wanted it to be. It also parodies superhero films whilst also embracing what fans love about them. As the Deadpool of the comics frequently does, here Reynolds not only breaks the fourth wall but it’s done to such an extent that there aren’t any bricks left standing. Deadpool is so gleefully meta and self-referential that you can’t help but be in awe of just how far out of the window the comic-book movie rule book was thrown. Tim Miller’s direction is assured and the non-linear chronology is another refreshing and welcome element. Miller also handles the more personal scenes extremely well as Wade and Vanessa, played by the stunning Morena Baccarin, deal with the news of Wade’s cancer. These more somber moments are well integrated into the story and don’t jar in comparison to the wild tone of the rest of the movie. What Reynolds and Baccarin do so well is confidently sell their relationship and it never feels forced. Their scenes together offer the film the perfect balance to the chaos on show elsewhere.

As well as the fourth-wall breaking, many of the expected Deadpool tropes are here. My particular favourite moments involved a direct reference to the Danny Boyle film 127 Hours and another involving the effects of a cleverly placed knife. The action is well done and spectacularly violent with some perfectly timed uses of slo-mo particularly in the jaw-dropping freeway pile-up. Deadpool is absolutely NOT suitable for children, much to the chagrin of my superhero obsessed seven year old. Reynolds’ constant trash-talk and witticisms are pretty much a constant and I can imagine that many may tire of this towards the end but what’s here is at least in line with that of the Wade Wilson from the books.

There are a few areas that are less than perfect, main villain Ajax is rather one-dimensional and Colossus isn’t the most convincing CG character with some quite poor voice acting but these are minor gripes that don’t really take away from the main aim of the film which is to shock, amuse and above all entertain.

The Movie Gods have once again blessed us with their generosity. Loyal Marvel fans have been given a film they thought the rigid studio system would never allow. Tim Miller has done a commendable first-time job and delivered something that feels refreshingly different to the glut of comic book adaptations we’ve had this last decade or so and kudos to Fox for actually listening to the fans for once and giving them the hard R-rated film that the source material required.

Deadpool isn’t for everyone, it’s unlikely to earn you points with your better half if you pick it as a date-night movie, it’s not the best superhero/comic book movie ever made or the best comedy even. What it is is the best Deadpool film fans could have reasonably hoped for and it is most definitely the best superhero-comedy ever made. 

Deadpool has, in the two year period since its release, already become an important and influential entry in the swelling ranks of the comic book to movie adaptation. It’s huge financial success – it’s worldwide gross was a staggering $783 million on a $58 million budget – gave Fox the reassurance that Wolverine’s swan song could be the hard R-rated movie we’d always wanted, and that film, 2017’s Logan, was in itself a huge success and gave the genre a much needed credibility boost. With Deadpool 2 only a week away, and already looking every bit as fiendishly subversive as the first film, maybe it’s time to kneel in prayer and thank the Movie Gods for giving us that first film as occasionally, our prayers are answered. 

Film ‘89 Verdict – 8/10

Deadpool 2 opens in the U.K. May 15th and the U.S. May 18th.