Deadpool

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Release date: 10th February 2016/Watch the trailer here

Deadpool is one of those rare superhero films that you can enjoy effortlessly without having needed to watch all of its many predecessors to have the slightest clue of what on earth is going on. In fact, you’d probably enjoy Deadpool even if you’d never seen a superhero film before in your life. Some prior knowledge of the X-Men universe is preferable, of course (this is an X-Men film, after all), but as long as you know your Wolverine from your Professor X, you should be okay.

So, for those of you who are unaware: Ryan Reynolds previously played Deadpool, ‘the merc with a mouth’, in 2009’s dire X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film which is best left forgotten. Ryan Reynolds also played another superhero – Green Lantern – in 2011’s even-more-dire, even-more-forgettable movie of the same name, so he’s no stranger to squeezing himself into a tight costume. ‘Please don’t make the supersuit green – or animated,’ he jibes in Deadpool in a not-so-subtle reference to his ghost of superheroes past.

Following the disappointment of Deadpool’s first cinematic outing, Ryan Reynolds was left determined to do the beloved comic book character justice. In 2012, he shot a test reel in an attempt to convince the studio heads to give the film the green light. Then, in 2014, the test footage leaked online. It was so overwhelmingly popular that the studio had no choice but to begin production – and judging by the finished result, I’m betting they’re glad that they did: Deadpool 2 has already been given the go-ahead.

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The problem with superhero origin stories is that, more often than not, at least half of the film’s runtime has elapsed before the hero becomes, well, super. Some films – Iron Man, Batman Begins – succeed in making the actual origin part of the story interesting and entertaining, others – every iteration of Spider-Man, for example (how many times does poor old Uncle Ben have to get shot?) – not so much. Deadpool has a clever way around this problem by beginning the film right in the midst of the action, the story of how Wade Wilson came to be a red-suited potty-mouth with a mutation that allows him to heal every wound (seriously, he grows back a lopped-off hand) told through a series of flashbacks.

As superheroes go, Wade Wilson – a mercenary who falls in love with the beautiful Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) only to have his happiness shattered by a diagnosis of terminal cancer – has a pretty rough origin story. After being subjected to a rogue experiment at the hands of the villainous mutant Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his super-strong right-hand woman Angel Dust (Gina Carano) that Wade is led to believe will cure his cancer, he is left with accelerated healing powers and scarring that covers his entire body, leaving him virtually unrecognisable (looking ‘like a testicle with teeth’, in his own words). Fuelled by his desire for revenge on the man who ruined his life and determination to win back the love of his life, Wade Wilson adopts the alter-ego Deadpool and goes on a bad guy killing spree, with occasional aid from fellow mutants and X-Men, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who are unsuccessfully attempting to recruit Deadpool.

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Deadpool has been marketing itself as rude, lewd, crude and very, very violent – and it is all of those things and more, yet the profanity, sex, and violence never feel particularly gratuitous or excessive. Deadpool wouldn’t be Deadpool without all of the above. This is a film that’s genuinely, hilariously funny, achieving far more laughs than the majority of films that market themselves as ‘comedies’ these days. Deadpool is at its funniest when it’s being clever: Deadpool breaks the fourth-wall with full awareness that he’s a comic book character starring in his own movie. Hugh Jackman references? Check. Ryan Reynolds jokes? Check. When Colossus attempts to take Deadpool to meet X-Men boss Charles Xavier, he quips ‘McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing.’

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Deadpool is a different kind of superhero movie. There’s no ensemble cast of fan-favourites, there’s no threat to the whole of humanity in the form of an entire town turned into a devastating meteor/alien invasion/etc. if our hero fails. It didn’t have the awe, the lasting effect, the desire to watch it again immediately that I know Captain America: Civil War will leave me with. It didn’t have that sense of large-scale epic-ness that I’m sure Batman v Superman will have. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for Deadpool, its smaller-scale superhero story is both its strength and its weakness. The problem with there being no major global threat is that there really isn’t much of a plot. Deadpool fights some bad guys, makes some jokes, someone gets kidnapped, Deadpool makes some more jokes and fights some more bad guys – The End. You’re left entertained, exhilarated and certainly never bored, but also with the impression that Deadpool could have been so much more.

Hopefully Deadpool 2 can right this minor wrong. Deadpool has a great Stan Lee cameo and a post-credits scene, and what more do you really need from a Marvel film? It may not be perfect, but it’s the most fun you’re likely to have at the cinema this year.

★★★★

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