Deadpool: The Second Coming of The Superhero Movie

In the spirit of reflexivity and self-awareness that Deadpool so gleefully brings to the forefront, I’ll try and be as candid and “meta” as possible in this review by...

In the spirit of reflexivity and self-awareness that Deadpool so gleefully brings to the forefront, I’ll try and be as candid and “meta” as possible in this review by first making a concession: I saw this movie by myself on a dreary, overcast Wednesday and didn’t even bother to put on real pants (I rolled up by my lonesome in a plain white Hanes V-neck and a pair of UConn basketball shorts. No jacket. Because when it’s 58 degrees in New England in mid-March you damn well better break out the summer-wear). That’s how “pumped” I was to see this movie; that was my level of preparation/excitement. Boy did I feel foolish once the opening credits rolled (credits that refer to the director as an “overpaid tool”).

I do not want to go on record and say I hate comic book/super hero movies, because they can be done, but only if they’re executed one of two ways: as gritty, stylistic, nuanced depictions of people with super abilities (The Dark Knight trilogy comes to mind, as does, and I may get flak for this, Shyamalan’s Unbreakable) or as flashy, in-your-face, meta-critical flexions of special effects and witticisms. Up until today I thought the latter did not exist, caught somewhere between myth and hopeless fantasy. But behold, the glory that is Deadpool: the second coming of the superhero movie. Behold a film that mashes eye-candy with smart, subversive humor; a film that undermines all your superhero expectations and leaves you feeling like a buffoon for actually kind of enjoying The Avengers (not Age of Ultron, though. That movie was a piss-poor cash grab).

I’ll save you the plot summary and tell you that it’s completely (but unapologetically) generic: anti-hero with his back up against a wall undergoes a procedure to gain super abilities (we’ve seen it in the Wolverine origin story, and we’ve seen it in the Bourne series (rewatch the series with that seed planted in your mind and tell me that it doesn’t make it exponentially greater)). Anti-hero goes on a rampage to hold those responsible for the procedure accountable for their actions. Madness and action ensues. It’s not a brilliantly clever or freshly unique plot structure by any means, but therein lies the rub: Deadpool knows it’s being unoriginal, and makes frequent reference to this unoriginality. Whether it’s through the frequent direct address to and acknowledgement of the camera itself, whether it’s through explicitly lambasting Ryan Reynolds’s subpar acting ability, or whether it’s through referencing the studio’s budget when making the film (“It’s almost like the studio couldn’t afford more than two X-Men”), Deadpool lets you know that you’re watching nothing more than an entertaining hour and forty-eight minutes of carnage and semi-decent dick jokes.

Reflexive films are nothing new. Techniques like direct address to the camera, self-referential dialogue that admits the characters are in a movie, and tacit acknowledgment of the camera apparatus, are not novel. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Austin Powers franchise, a plethora of bad B-Horror movies, and very recently The Revenant (watch Leo’s bear breathe on the camera lens, or Leo stare directly into the camera in the final shot). What makes Deadpool stand apart is it’s sheer disrespect for the fourth wall (the film even features, if you can wrap your head around this, a fourth wall break within a fourth wall break).

To the best of my filmic knowledge, nothing like Deadpool has ever been executed so successfully before. I am told, because I don’t read the comic books (because I’m not, you know, in 8th grade), that Deadpool’s paperback self makes frequent reference to the fact that he is actually in a comic book. In this sense, Deadpool is also successful as a faithful adaptation from text to text (be still my heart, fidelity to source material?).

On track to become the highest grossing R-rated film of all time (I would love to see it beat out that anti-Semite’s Passion of the Christ), it’s really no wonder people are flocking in droves to see this film. It’s intelligent, inflammatory, and all-around fun cinema. If you’re a “fan” of comic book/superhero movies, do yourself a favor and go see this film. It will make you realize what’s been lacking in the genre for many years now: respect for the audience’s intelligence and gratitude for the paying customer.


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