My relationship with Deadpool is a tad amorphous as while I enjoy the character quite a bit I’ve never actually encountered anything featuring the character that I’ve liked. While I certainly haven’t rabidly pursued every last scrap of the Deadpool mythos I’ve been burned enough by the Merc with a Mouth’s misadventures to be a little weary of each successive one I embark on.
Luckily I now have an absolute go-to when I need my Deadpool fix, as director Tim Miller’s new film (written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick) does such an awesome job with the namesake character that it helped me understand why I like Deadpool in the first place.
Deadpool is a cartoon character running around in the “real” world. Space Jam style. He addresses the audience, he gets blown up and chopped to bits and lit on fire and he frequently exhibits a perplexingly acrobatic mastery over gravity. Deadpool occupies a space somewhere on a spectrum between Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote. I suspect fans wouldn’t think twice if he started stamping his foot and howling at a beautiful woman, was lifted off of his feet by the smell of a pie in the window or turned to camera and said “ain’t I a stinker?” The Deadpool film does a fantastic job of bringing the cartoonish smart-ass to life in his full Looney Toon glory and dropping him smack dab in the middle of an R-rated shoot ’em up.
But Miller’s film has a careful balancing act it has to perform, being both a superhero origin story and a Deadpool movie – a harder mash-up than one might think.
I’m sure somewhere out there Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote have origin stories, but do any of us really want to know them? When Bugs Bunny is in the process of tricking Daffy Duck into blowing his brains out all over the forest the last thing you’re interested in is a flashback to why a bunny is named “Bugs.” Similarly, while watching Deadpool massacre a bunch of nameless, faceless minions I don’t really want to halt the proceedings to find out why he’s called Deadpool.
That isn’t to say that the movie isn’t great. Ryan Reynolds turns in a pitch perfect performance as the titular hero and the action and humor are top notch but the flashbacks to how Wade Wilson became Deadpool felt like homework I had to do before I could go play outside with swords and pistols and the F-word.
Still, Tim Miller has made a film that is unequivocally Deadpool and should both please long-time fans and ingratiate itself with newcomers who have no idea just how obnoxious a superhero can be.