To look at a static image of one of Deadpool’s katanas is to watch the film itself. Deadpool is a shiny, violent, perfectly sharp but also completely flat film that seems annoyed at itself for requiring such petty things as “story” or “a villain.” Deadpool treats traditional movie concepts as “characters” or “the fourth wall” as paltry trivialities, aiming instead to be what results in one long admittedly clever dick joke.
Deadpool revels in the freedom afforded by its R-rating. Freed from prepubescent eyes, cartoony gore gleefully splatters the screen while constant references to asses and blowjobs abound. Even the credits don’t escape, depicting a little cartoon Deadpool whose erection grows like a Pinocchio nose upon the increasing “hot”-ness of each successive actor. Yet despite the lack of mature humor, Deadpool the film is just as often smart as it is smart-ass. It openly mocks both the conventions of superhero movies and its own creators. At one point Deadpool insults the studio for not granting the film enough money to get any better X-Men, a quip that may or may not be related to the film’s last minute budget-cuts.
But all this humor stands on shaky legs. Deadpool’s story is as thin as it can get. Wayd Wilson, portrayed with sass by Ryan Reynolds, is a hitman with a heart of gold, “standing up for the little guy” even as he intimidates and threatens a pizza delivery boy because some blond girl accused him of being a stalker. Reynolds stands out as the only lady-killer (not literally…except once) among his crowd of hitman-buddies, one of whom is called “fat Gandalf” by a sex worker (Morena Baccarin, who, with both this and Firefly under her belt, is dangerously close to becoming the strangely specific typecast of “prostitute in a sci-fi movie”) who later turns out to be the main love-interest/damsel in distress. Wilson gets cancer, decides to run away so that his girlfriend “will remember him how he is” and yadda, yadda, yadda. The drama is so thin the film seems to be aware of it, sneaking in more and more one-liners and pop-culture references to break up scenes that contain only empty shells of emotions. The romance is barely developed; all we know about the couple is that they connect over their mutual crappy childhoods and over constant sex.
Once Wilson escapes he ends up in the hands of a shady organization that aims to cure him by unlocking his repressed mutant genes. And the only way to do this is to torture him because, reasons. And his final mutation makes him look like a monster because…other reasons. It’s all facilitated by a bald British man with a pair of the worst, least threatening superpowers ever to grace a Marvel film. He: 1) can’t feel pain, but no-one in any action/superhero movie can ever feel pain anyway, and 2) has really good reflexes so he can get a high score in the Deadpool videogame. This man’s unthreatening name quickly becomes the crux of an over repeated, annoying joke that’s only funny once.
All of this is delivered in a back-and-forth flashback structure that quickly becomes tiresome. Though the attempt at telling the obligatory origin story in a different way is admirable, it stalls any sort of cohesive narrative from evolving until almost halfway through, making Deadpool appear wholly without structure.
Eventually, other “characters” become involved, like the recognizable Colossus and a teenage X-man with a name like “super teenage atomic bomb” or something along those lines. The former has a mildly entertaining fight scene that mostly just steels screentime from Deadpool. Colossus serves as the necessary “reaction” character to Deadpool’s slapstick. The other X-man is a teenage stereotype, with few lines and little purpose other than to trigger the final action-set-piece.
Deadpool only has two “big superhero-y” scenes, and if you’ve seen the trailers, one has already been given away almost in its entirety. Despite the relatively low amount of fighting, Deadpool goes to Jackie Chan levels of mixing comedy and combat. First-time director Tim Miller gives us battles that are refreshing both in style and content, unafraid to give the occasional long-held-shot to fully show the on-screen acrobatics or casually introduce a (often brutal and bloody) visual gag.
Ultimately Deadpool is a one-trick pony. It’s a dumb, funny film with nothing else to offer. It’s as two-dimensional as the original comics (in all meanings of the word “two-dimensional”) and its story and relationships are nothing but an absolute waste of time. I became bored near the end once my dick-joke tolerance became a bit too flaccid, and I suspect most moviegoers will be turned away by the pointless story and constant, constant lack of maturity. But Deadpool does not want to entertain most moviegoers. It wants to entertain the man-child craving to see on the screen the equivalent of a two-hour middle-school sleepover. And that, it achieves perfectly.