It’s a rare thing indeed for the often creatively-moribund studios of the Hollywood system to set aside a formula that works and allow the production team of a film to not simply think outside of the box but bust it wide open until only gaping wreckage remains.
But that’s exactly what appears to have happened with Deadpool, directed by Tim Miller to a screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, which spends its endlessly superlative running time ridiculing, subverting, blowing apart and generally have a gloriously well-realised, thumping good time with the very genre of which it’s a part.
Sure, it follows the usual pattern of origin story meets present reality with a Big Bad of sorts (Ajax/Francis Freeman, played by Ed Skrein) thrown in for good narrative-pumping measure, but within and without that framework, Deadpool plays fast and loose with the rules, particularly with that of the Marvel storytelling universe, and the X-Men franchise in which the film notionally resides.
The result is one of the most refreshingly clever, funny, raucously and irreverently over the top F-bomb-laden superhero movies ever – it’s worth noting that Deadpool, in one of his inspired Fourth Wall-shattering moments makes it clear he is anything but a hero thank you very much; just a Merc with a Mouth and that’s fine – that is way more heartfelt and meaningful that it might first appear.
It’s essentially the X-rated sibling of Guardians of the Galaxy which also saw fit, though in far less in-your-face, flipping the bird kind of way, to take the rules of the game and cavalierly chuck them out of the window with a fully-lit flamethrower following shortly thereafter.
It’s well nigh impossible to fully convey just how hilariously funny, how intensely emotional, how anarchically violent and how richly-subversive the film is; there is not a scene or characters too many, and every visual flourish and witty oneliner, every character interaction and grandiose action piece feels like it truly, utterly belongs.
Deadpool manages that rare feat of balancing sincerity and parody, a backstory (mercenary with terminal cancer offered cure; super-healing mutant powers follow for far too high a price tag, which must be avenged) and a present day storyline (vengeance on a grand, bloody and frequently funny scale), searing emotional intensity and bombastic good humour, action and interlude with nary a misstep.
We’re introduced to the world of Deadpool through one of the funniest opening credit scenes since Monty Python gave us suggestive llama poses in The Holy Grail; actors aren’t introduced by name but by their cliched designation “Hot Chick”, “Moody Teen”, “Gratuitous Cameo” and so on.
Just like Deadpool himself aka Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), this is not a movie that is going to be overly precious about stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter such as ego or position; if it’s really important, such as Wade’s relationship with the love of his life Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), it’s given all the sincerity and room to breathe in the world.
But everything else, including blockbuster cinema’s addiction to the conventions of the genre such as milking a franchise dry through every possible permutation of a franchise’s characters, it’s fair game and deservedly so.
Deadpool doesn’t just enjoy its unwillingness to play by the rules; it flaunts and revels in it, with Deadpool frequently addressing the audience to deliver refreshingly meta commentary on the sheer ridiculousness of this or that storytelling element.
For instance, we only ever see two X-Men in the whole film, Colossus/Piotr Rasputin (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), something’s that all the more obvious in Xavier’s sprawling, oft-destroyed big mansion, leading Deadpool to remark that the film’s budget mustn’t have stretched to any more mutants.
And on and on it gloriously goes, skewering, belittling, mocking and jibing, lining up all the sacred cows you could ask for, and shooting them to bits before barbecuing on a great flaming pile of affectionate cynicism.
This is not it must be said a film for the fundamentalist superhero true believers but for those willing to have some bloody fun with hackneyed, well-worn convention, Deadpool is the answer to all your foul-mouthed, hilarious dreams.
Quite apart from the beyond excellent script, much of the script for the film’s utterly immersive sense of meaningful fun, has to come down to Ryan Reynolds, a long time fan of the character of Deadpool, who clearly relished to chance to just have at it with out having to observe the usual superhero niceties.
So gleefully does he trash the idea of the polite well-mannered superhero that he makes wisecracking, thumb their noses at the rules characters like Iron Man look like meek bystanders afraid to voice an opinion.
This is what happens when a great hunking dose of reality and envelope-pushing of the highest order is thrown into the genre mix and an actor is given free rein to make the most of it.
The magnificent thing is that Deadpool manages to completely and utterly re-invent the superhero genre on a far smaller budget that most movies of its ilk have at their command.
There are essentially only six main characters throughout the film, all of whom are given their chance to shine, do their thing and have an immense amount of fun doing it.
You’d hardly notice budgetary constraints in terms of the action set pieces, which memorably take place on a freeway at the start of the film, where the ways to die are as varied and memorable as Deadpool’s endless supply of quips, and the near-obligatory finale showdown – yeah not even this renegade Marvel character can escape that fixture – where a cast-aside S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier makes for a dramatic set piece.
But even in these dramatic set pieces, there is a wink-wink-nod-nod feel to proceedings, a subversive glint in the eye that creeps in or jauntily saunters with no apology, whenever things look like getting too conventionally serious.
Again Deadpool doesn’t mock the important stuff such as love and romance, commitment to friends and lovers, avenging great personal loss, and the looming prospect of death and separation from those you love; essentially if it doesn’t make up the basic, important building blocks of life, and let’s be honest, much of the trimmings of superhero movies don’t, then it’s up on the chopping block and have your way with the satirical axe.
The message if it’s serious, venerate it; if not, make merciless, endlessly wisecracking fun of it, and oh, kill the bad guys spectacularly in-between.
Deadpool may not be your grandmother’s nicely-mannered superhero but after a tautly-paced 108 minutes in his maniacally anarchic quip-filled world, you will fervently hope and pray he is forever the most crass, clever, hilariously, intensely-serious Marvel character to ever come down the genre pike, and never, ever changes.