Eleven years is a long time. In eleven years, some people move to new places, try new relationships, have kids, change their careers, and become different people. Ryan Reynolds on the other hand, has spent the past eleven years wrestling his vision for a Deadpool movie out of development hell, dealing with uninterested executives and overly cautious investors. Between the misfortune of how films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern gave Reynolds a bad-rap for superhero properties, and Fox’s unwillingness to give first-time director Tim Miller a chance at something as risky as an R-rated film, it’s a miracle this film ever saw the light of day.
But man, am I glad they kept fighting…
Deadpool starts off right where you’d expect it to: a badass opening credits sequence with hilarious jabs at the production crew and easter eggs like “Rob L.” scrawled on a paper coffee cup – a chaotic action sequence on pause to give us a chance to take everything in, before getting sucked back in time to minutes prior while Mr. Pooly himself brings us up to speed. This is a tool we see used heavily throughout the film, as a good bulk of the first two-thirds of the movie alternate present day action with the backstory that ties it all together. An easy tactic to misuse, but tight dialogue and precise editing make the transitions very logical, and keep momentum flowing throughout the film.
Everything about this movie is incredibly lucid and fittingly self-aware, and not just in the expected, “Deadpool talks to the audience” moments. The writing is surprisingly intelligent, and as a result we get to see a relatable side of one of comic books’ more outlandish personas, but not in cringeworthy, “forced romantic sub-plots that weigh down the movie” or “forced vendetta stories” sort of way like we’ve seen in the past. The romance is one of the strongest I’ve seen in any movie lately, and its strength comes from its brutal honesty. We see moments of genuine humanity and humour that comprise real-life relationships, and they’re done so well that even something as brash as the repeated use of sex scenes feels important to the story of Vanessa and Wade, and how they grow as individuals through their trust in each other. Seriously, I thought the TV spots with Deadpool touting this as a love story were just tongue-in-cheek, but this is a damn good love story.
Without being needlessly “I gotta wrap this up with something meaningful” here, I think what struck me the most was the balance of comedy in contrast with life’s darker moments. While we are watching a film in which a murderous psychopath in a red suit, a giant metal Russian guy, and a dismissive teenager with the power to blow shit up fight a horde of armed goons while making dick jokes, there’s something deeper here – when we hear the diagnosis of incurable cancer, we have a brutally real moment of two human beings trying to cope with insurmountable odds, and handling it in their own ways. The writing and the performance face the frightening bleakness of cancer head-on in a way that makes you share in their pain, but also their resolve to overcome. It makes you feel empathy for everyone in real life battling odds of their own, and what makes this so impactful is that the comedy, in contrast, doesn’t just feel like a distraction from the heavy stuff – it feels like a triumph. Like a victory lap after being told there was no way out.
Deadpool is a hilarious, cringe-inducing, blood-spattered love letter that keeps you going after being kicked in the dick or having your hand cut off. It’s an emphatic “Yes you can!” to everyone staring down the barrel of something terrifying, and the best part of this triumph is the people you get to share it with. Just don't see it with your mother-in-law.