I had high hopes for Deadpool. Arriving in cinemas at a time when superhero movies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and familiar, its trailers and bizarre marketing seemed to mark it as just the irreverent shot in the arm we needed, a modern Blazing Saddles to spoof a genre almost as dominant as westerns once were.
Sadly, Deadpool is not that film. Yes, it pokes fun occasionally at superhero tropes, with Ryan Reynolds’ fast-talking mercenary breaking the fourth wall (as Deadpool has been doing in comic books since the late 90s) to crack jokes about Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, studio budgets and Reynolds’ previous stints as a superhero in Green Lantern and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but in the long run it falls short of real insight.
Instead, Deadpool just presents a slightly more adolescent take on a superhero story – mercenary meets nice prostitute, gets cancer, is tricked into becoming immortal but ugly and wreaks VERY bloody revenge while making dick jokes – that certainly entertains and feels different to other superhero fare, but also seems a little unimaginative.
In fact, due to its fairly limited scope (most of the action takes place as gun/swordfights with faceless goons in generic cityscapes and junkyards) and low budget, Deadpool ends up feeling more like an extended fan film with some really great gags than a full-blown superhero movie – and considering the personal connection that first-time director Tim Miller and star Ryan Reynolds reportedly have for this project, and how long they’ve been trying to get it off the ground (Reynolds was first attached in 2004), that description might not be entirely inaccurate.
None of this is to say that there aren’t some great parts to Deadpool. Reynolds’ take on the character is spot-on, the film is full of great lines and pop culture references and a couple of action scenes are actually pretty inspired. It’s just a shame that such a unique opportunity to pick apart our current movie obsession was squandered to make what is essentially a low-budget action movie with X-Men cameos in it.
Still, all may not be lost. While I can’t imagine Deadpool fitting neatly into future X-Men films (he’s too much of a scene-stealer), a decent success for this movie might give the filmmakers a second chance to create the off-the-wall, self-referential adventure the character deserves in a sequel. And maybe, just maybe, THAT movie can finally cast some light on the superhero films currently clogging up our multiplexes.