“Deadpool” is not your grandfather’s superhero movie. Come to think of it, it isn’t your 13-year-old nephew’s superhero movie, either.
Blatantly, buoyantly vulgar and jam-packed with conspicuously perverse, often bloody violence, the film has been touted as Marvel’s first R-rated comic-book movie.
That’s not entirely accurate. While the wildly popular “X-Men” and “Avengers” franchises – including “Iron Man,” “Thor” and other feeder films – have never strayed beyond PG-13 territory, some Marvel adaptations occasionally have, such as “The Punisher” and “Blade.” “Deadpool,” however, takes itself far less seriously than either of those films.
Based on a Marvel character introduced in 1991, “Deadpool” is the origin story of mercenary Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool. After he receives a cancer diagnosis, Wade (Ryan Reynolds) is cured with a treatment that leaves him physically disfigured – hence the head-to-toe suit – but with his own latent mutations unleashed, leaving him with superhuman agility and the ability to heal rapidly.
As much of an embittered antihero as Wade is, he’s also hugely likable, if not entirely “good.” That’s because of Reynolds, who brings to his character a charmingly sarcastic verve that’s more tart than completely sour. If the actor was miscast in “Green Lantern” – and the “Deadpool” script is certainly not the first to admit that he was, lobbing several well-earned insults in the direction of that 2011 film – he’s pretty perfect here. Like Deadpool, who’s not afraid to kiss a guy, Reynolds exudes a pansexual appeal, at once hyper-masculine and ever so slightly homoerotic.
The forward momentum of the film is fueled by Wade/Deadpool’s attempt to exact revenge on the man who left him deformed (Ed Skrein), and who has kidnapped Wade’s prostitute girlfriend (Morena Baccarin). But that’s just the plot. Despite loads of eye-poppingly well-shot fight choreography, “Deadpool” is only 10 percent action. The other 90 percent? Attitude. It has it out the wazoo, to use a word that Wade never would.
At one point, he calls this movie a love story; at another, a horror movie. (There is a lot of direct-camera address, a hallmark of the character.) In truth, it’s a voraciously self-aware comedy, one that dines out on the inherent inanity of its own premise as much as it does the movies it’s competing with.
Deadpool may not be the first Marvel character for grown-ups. But this “merc with a mouth,” as he’s known, feels like the first one with real teeth. I’ll wager he’s got legs, too. The fast-talking, funny and filthy superhero “sounds like a (expletive) franchise,” to use his own words. As with nearly everything else that comes out of the character’s mouth, it’s hard to argue.