Film discussion

Looking back at… Deadpool (2016)

With Deadpool 2 hitting UK cinemas today, and 20th Century Fox (and everyone else with a stake in the budget) hoping for lightning to strike twice, it seems like a great opportunity to take a look at the man in red spandex to see if his first outing still holds up some two years later.

But let’s begin in summer 2014. A typical day in the office, scrolling through Twitter and watching nonsense on YouTube working tirelessly for those that pay me to do so, I came across the latest “leaked footage” of someone’s pointless project that would surely never come to pass. Tim Miller’s almost entirely CGI’d sizzle reel for his interpretation of Deadpool seemed to set the world ablaze with its foul-mouthed protagonist and break-neck action. But nothing was ever going to come of it, surely?

February 10th, 2016. I had the week off work and a free morning. Armed only with the ever fading memory of that footage and a half-time TV spot from the Super Bowl just days before, I sat in one of those fancy gallery seats at the local Odeon with a coffee and a pile of all-you-can-eat popcorn next to me, curious. Little did I know that in under two hours, I would be sitting in that same spot in complete awe of what I had just seen.

I took the wife back to that same screen that night for a second viewing; and came out completely in love with the film, the characters on the screen and how much it managed to make me laugh, even on a repeat visit.

As the weeks went on, I didn’t waste a single opportunity to see “The merc with the mouth” on the big screen again collecting a tally of visits hitting double digits by the time the curtain fell on the film’s theatrical run. 

The timing of Deadpool‘s release was a palette cleanser of sorts, hitting the screens just after Oscar season, weeks removed from some hard-nosed, hard-hitting dramas like The RevenantCreed, Room, The Big Short to name just a few; and boy were we exhausted. But where flawless marketing prowess and savvy releasing can create a perfect storm for an R-rated action comedy, it’s down the road where we see if the film really has legs.

On the surface, Deadpool’s success depended on star Ryan Reynolds just being Ryan Reynolds. In his three comic book movie appearances beforehand, the man has basically played the same character. Blade: Trinity and (obviously) X-Men Origins: Wolverine were the two that really stand out though. Cocky, potty-mouthed and action orientated, if these weren’t God’s Perfect Idiot crying out for the role of Wade Wilson, nothing was. But if dick jokes and great action were what sold you the film and got your bum in that seat, those that committed to it were rewarded with something special.

Captain Deadpool’s real genius only comes to light once his audience realise how wonderfully self-aware the film is. Between the constant breaking of the fourth (and sixteenth) wall and the pop culture references both old and new, your friendly neighbourhood pool guy took aim at everyone. Especially himself. The digs at Green Lantern easily the most obvious one to come to mind, it was all over every trailer and TV spot and gave us a very unsubtle hint at what we were letting ourselves in for now Reynolds had seemingly been let off his leash.

Taking aim at the broken, messy timelines of the X-Men universe, as well as the frankly ridiculous names some of these characters end up with, all the way through to the final battle that takes place on a S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier; Deadpool takes absolutely no prisoners and is equal opportunities in his abuse of anyone who may have wronged someone on the writing team. But importantly, at no point does it ever feel old or mean-spirited. On repeat viewings, the comedy remains and the action still delivers. After you’ve watched the film a few times, you run out of new things to spot and new easter eggs to get all excited over, but you’re still laughing out loud as our favourite mutant crop-dusts his room mate and feels around Colossus’ groin. 

Now legendary tales of how budget constraints gave us a near gun-free but action laden finale to keep costs down, or stories of how one of the best characters – Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead – came to be in the film because, as the masked anti-hero himself said, “the studio couldn’t afford another X-Man” all add to the charm was never supposed to exist. 

So back to the original question and the reason for these ramblings: Does Deadpool still hold up, far removed from the Oscar bait it was released next to and separated from all those headlines of record breaking R-Rated comic book movies?

Put simply? Yes.

Speaking as someone who has all but memorised the script to the film that gave Fox the confidence to make an ultra-violent Logan; I can assure you that yes, the film still has the same impact today as it did two years ago. It’s still unbelievably funny, it’s still a measuring stick for action on a budget(ish) and, most surprisingly, the film and its dump truck load of pop culture hits doesn’t feel dated at all.  And while I can’t speak for whether or not that will still be the case in five or ten years, right now, Deadpool is as much of a comic book movie masterpiece as it was the day it was released.

Let us hope the sequel keeps every promise it has made so far.

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