We’re supposed to think that Deadpool isn’t like other superhero films featuring a popular character from Marvel comic books. That’s the message pummelled home by its witty and inventive marketing campaign, and Ryan Reynolds’ recent revelation that it took 11 years to get this film made. According to the actor, Twentieth Century Fox honchos were only persuaded to give Deadpool a green light after test footage leaked and fans responded with feverish anticipation.
In truth, Deadpool doesn’t really revolutionise the superhero movie, but it could be risqué and brazen enough to give the genre a shot in the arm. The plot follows Reynolds’ badass mercenary Wade Richards as he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after falling for Vanessa (Homeland’s Morena Baccarin), a fellow badass mercenary who can match him quip for quip. Petrified of death, Richards agrees to subject himself to an experimental regenerative mutation treatment performed by a masochistic mutant called Ajax (Game Of Thrones‘ Ed Skrein). As promised, the treatment rids him of cancer and gives him superpowers, but Richards is left hideously disfigured. When he reveals his ravaged face to best mate Weasel (Silicon Valley‘s T.J. Miller), his friend tells him drily: “You are haunting. You look like an avocado had sex with an older avocado.”
Events take a fairly predictable course. Richards fears Vanessa won’t find him attractive any more so he reinvents himself as a masked anti-hero called Deadpool as he tracks down Ajax, the only person who can reverse his deformities. The film’s action sequences aren’t as thrillingly violent as you might expect, but its sense of fun is definitely infectious. Director Tim Miller keeps the pace brisk as Reynolds, clearly having a blast, delivers an endless succession of meta references, knowing in-jokes and super-crude innuendo, often breaking the fourth wall. “I’m touching myself tonight,” he winks at us after taking out a series of adversaries. Deadpool’s wise-cracking charisma comes at the expense of other characters, some of whom are thinly drawn, but this is probably a price worth paying. Deadpool is a stylishly salty antidote to bloated recent superhero movies like last year’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron.