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Subversion of the superhero

Deadpool: an irreverent twist on the comic book movie

Kim Taylor-Foster

Reporter:

Kim Taylor-Foster

Subversion of the superhero

Deadpool (15)
Running time 1hr 48mins
Rating: ***


CAN comic book movies ever be the same again? With the release of Deadpool, a subversive,
irreverent take on the film genre adored by comic book fanboys, surely it means the likes of The Avengers and its spin-off movies can no longer be taken seriously by the cinema-going public?

This superhero spoof changes the landscape, even for those who have dipped a toe into humour and gentle lampooning; its wry humour and extreme fourth-wall breaking self-awareness serve to deconstruct the ‘traditional’ comic book movie and send it up – with the willing participation of an audience it gets onside from the outset, leaving us, as a result, unable to watch the output of Marvel Studios et al in the same way we used to.

Problematic? For Marvel Studios and its brethren, quite possibly. The full impact of Deadpool – a Marvel character committed to film by 20th Century Fox under licence – remains to be seen, but so far response has been unprecedented. It’s breaking box office records. From the opening credits – which list no names, instead substituting the usual roll-call of Hollywood talent for one-liners about overpaid directors and bloated stars – it satirises not only comic book movies but the film industry in general and invites the audience to snigger. As the film wends its way through its unremarkable plot, there are jokes about failed would-be superhero franchise The Green Lantern – in which Ryan Reynolds, our antihero in Deadpool, starred – and there are jokes about Hugh Jackman, as well as jokes about The X-Men. Heck, there are jokes directly about Ryan Reynolds himself.

I’d like to think that the representation of women in the film is a joke too – there’s burly, busty bitch Angel Dust (Gina Carano), sullen teen Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and former prostitute-turned-scantily-clad bar girl Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). But sadly, it’s not and it’s one of the few things that really lets this movie down. It does not fair well in the Bechdel test, that’s for sure but hey ho, we’ve come to expect it.

The plot is mostly inconsequential, since all we’re interested in is the script’s quippy wisecracks and Ryan Reynolds’ waggish delivery but it does speed along nicely and provide a decent canvas for the droll wordplay. And it’s constructed nicely, starting by dropping us right in the middle of proceedings, with a costumed-up Deadpool on his way to wreak revenge on some guy that’s wronged him. Namely, Francis, aka Ajax (Ed Skrein) – the person responsible for turning him into whatever he now is; a self-healing, Ted Danson-looking, super-powered superhuman with mutated face and body and an inability to feel pain.
Thing is, he’s bummed. Not only because he’s endured torture at Francis’s hands, but he’s also now ugly and no longer able to be with the woman he loves for fear of her reaction. Rewind to the moment he first meets Vanessa – she a lady of the night, he some kind of gun-for-hire – and a montage sequence depicting their blossoming relationship and the discovery that delivers him into his nemesis’ hands.

A revenge movie, Deadpool differs from other comic book films in
being more about killing for selfish reasons than saving the world, and it’s refreshing for it. For all his
super powers, Deadpool – or Wade Wilson – is arguably more human in his flaws and foibles than your
standard matinée idol. He’s certainly funnier.

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