Is this funny? That’s the profound question I had to ask myself while watching Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool limp around because he’d just been shot in the arse. “Right down Main Street!” he cries. Moments later, he kicks an old blind woman out of a room so he can masturbate in peace, but not before making fun of her age, disability and unlikelihood of getting laid. Haha?
That highly cerebral level of humour is exactly what you can expect from Deadpool, a comic book antihero that Reynolds has waited eleven years to play. Presumably it’s taken all that time to convince Fox that thrusting a crotch in front of a camera actually has an audience, namely pubescent adults with Peter Pan syndrome. Well, they were convinced.
So now we have Wade Wilson, an ex special forces operative-turned-mercenary who’s riddled with cancer. Not keen on the idea of dying and leaving his prostitute fiancé (Morena Baccarin) all alone, he accepts a dodgy proposal for a cure from a man that looks like a child molester, yet is surprised when a botched procedure leaves him deformed. Luckily, it’s also given him the power of regeneration, so now he can go and kill everyone responsible for making him look like Freddy Krueger’s scrotum.
But that origin story doesn’t come until half an hour into the film in the form of a flashback, which is a pleasant change to the bore by numbers structure of a typical superhero movie. Instead, it starts with Deadpool already in costume, killing people right off the bat in a genuinely creative opening credit sequence. If only it wasn’t followed by a barrage of flaccid one-liners.
About a year ago, I had no idea who Deadpool was. Well, I’d seen the interpretation of him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it’s easy to forget a character when his mouth is sewn shut and he has retractable swords built into his arms that inexplicably ignore the need for his elbows to bend. (That film was an abomination.) But within recent months this ‘truer’ version of the antihero has practically become part of my subconscious, thanks to an advertising campaign that even dwarfs Jesus Christ’s. The problem is the marketing used up all of the funny, leaving an empty sack of a film that really has to be squeezed to get any more laughs out of it, a lot like a whoopee cushion.
And there’s only so many times your annoying friend can press a whoopee cushion until you suddenly turn schizophrenic and decorate the ceiling with their entrails. You’ll get to that point quickly, too, when every single press comes in the form of a dick joke. However, this is the Deadpool fans wanted: a quick-witted (if you can call phallus gags wit) mercenary who breaks the fourth wall. He’s aware he’s a comic book character in a film and he even pokes fun at its low budget. “It’s like the studio could only afford two X-Men”, he says in reference to guest Marvel characters Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. In fact, he often highlights the flaws in the plot and production, as if doing so makes them excusable. Just because you’re addressing the audience, doesn’t mean you’re being clever, Mr. Deadpool! *Cough.*
Apart from priding itself on being meta, the rest of Deadpool is decisively average: a generic as they come bad guy (Ed Skrein), an underused T.J. Miller and a rescue the damsel in distress finale that could really do with a massive explo… oh no, wait, there is a massive explosion. It seems that in the process of fellating Deadpool’s character and making him true to Rob Liefeld’s comic book creation, they’ve neglected almost everything else. I went in expecting this to be Marvel’s best yet, but left placing it below Captain America: Winter Soldier, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and even bloody Ant-Man. I did chuckle a couple of times, but even then I felt juvenile for doing so.
Words by Chris Edwards
Chris’s Twitter @CMEcontent