Deadpool breaks not only the fourth and sixteenth wall, but also box-office records by delighting audiences tired of the usual Hollywood superhero formula
Deadpool is a record-breaking phenomenon that will have a lasting impact on the film industry, but not necessarily in a good way. Once a concept becomes successful, studios try to replicate it in order to make a quick buck. Deadpool’s success can be explained by its self-awareness which is difficult to replicate. Throughout the film, the fourth wall is broken; references to real-life events and trends are (literally) thrown around and the ridiculousness of the whole premise is questioned. Thrillingly funny, overtly sexual, and deadpan honest, the film captured the audience. This was especially apparent by the number of audience members dressed up as the character and the unusual amount of cheering.
The film starts with a brilliant opening sequence which accurately described the writers as “the real heroes here” and the director as “an overpaid tool”. If the audience has not had the chance to see the trailer beforehand—which received a standing ovation and encore at the 2015 Comic-Con—they were drawn into Deadpool’s brash world from the first second. The film title is based on the Marvel Comics’ superhero of the same name. Ryan Reynolds seems to be born to portray the superhero; especially in the tight Deadpool costume, he managed to underline his constant puns with expressive body language.
Ironically advertised as a love story, the plot is about taking revenge on the British villain (Ed Skrein) who disfigured him and turned him into a mutant. Deadpool’s excruciating journey to his mutant powers is told in flashbacks which are integrated tightly into the narrative. After proposing to his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), he collapses and gets diagnosed with terminal cancer. Hunted down by a slimy recruiter, he is offered a place in a secret programme with the promise of a cure of cancer and superpowers at the same time.
The portrayal of his struggle with cancer was especially poignant. The hardest fact about cancer is that it will always affect the people closest to the sufferer. He does not want Vanessa to witness his physical deterioration. His motivations to join the secret programme did not stem from selfishness, but from wishing to lead a normal life with his fiancée. The bitter irony is that after his involvement with the programme, he will never look the same again, and his vanity does not allow him to go after her.
Unlike other superheroes, Deadpool made all the senseless decisions himself that led to his precarious situation: A disfigured body, a thirst for revenge to get his normal skin back, and no guts to confront his fiancée. Deadpool is a character with major flaws, and whilst he is aware of them, he does not try to fix them which makes him relatable. His rashness and pride make his life difficult but also define his persona. One point of critique is that the audience does not find out much about the scope of his superpowers, because the film focuses too much on his wacky personality.
I was curious to see the film’s portrayal of his pansexuality which is mentioned in the original comics. The R-rating allowed a lot of creative freedom contrasting other Marvel superhero films which played it safe in order to appeal to a younger audience. Deadpool does not care for subtlety, and sexual jokes are made throughout the film. These jokes are not condescending, but simply acknowledge that sex is a major part of our society and is nothing to be ashamed of.
The film managed to integrate Deadpool’s sexuality contextually and as a major comic relief. One danger the film might run into is the jokes on popular culture that, over time, could lose relevance and make the film less of a classic. On the other hand, there were enough jokes that were made without being time relevant, and I even spotted a few Monty Python references. The self-referential Marvel universe jokes will also delight anyone with a knowledge of the other franchises. And for a Ferris Bueller reference, do not miss out on the rolling credits!