Imagine, if you will, that all of the movie superheroes represent students in a class. The Marvel heroes represent that kid who has it all. You know who I'm talking about. The most popular kid in school who is also the quarterback of the state-champion football team, has a 4.0 GPA, dates the hottest cheerleader, and maybe he even volunteers at the hospital to boot. Basically, he's the kid you want to hate because he has it all, and yet you just can't, because he's so awesome. Warner Bros.' DC Comics heroes represent something like the brooding valedictorian, incredibly focused but super-serious, almost to a fault. 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise, naturally, would represent the class outsider, which brings us to Deadpool. Sure, Deadpool is part of the X-Men franchise, and he's just as much of an outsider as the rest of them, but he's so much more than that. He's the kid with the leather jacket who mouths off to his teachers, smokes cigarettes under the bleachers and rides a motorcycle to school. He's the opposite of the quarterback. Everyone hates him, but secretly, way deep down, they all want to be like him, in some way shape or form. Deadpool doesn't fit in ANYWHERE in the current spectrum of superhero movies, and that's precisely what makes this R-rated movie so brilliantly special.
Before I unleash heaps of praise on the movie itself, I have to give some props to 20th Century Fox for not only giving the green light to this superhero movie, but for letting first-time director Tim Miller, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and star Ryan Reynolds make the R-rated movie that this anti-hero truly deserves. It would have been disappointing, but not ultimately surprising, if Fox had insisted on a PG-13 movie, so they could cater to the widest possible audience, but I just simply can't imagine what a PG-13 Deadpool would look like. What I did see is so incredibly unique and audacious that watering it down for PG-13 would be the equivalent of watching censored porn on CBS. It just doesn't make sense.
I say this without hyperbole of any kind: Deadpool has the greatest opening credit sequence in years, decades, possibly ever. I don't even want to tell you anything more than that, because even the tiniest of details will ruin this flat-out brilliant sequence, but rest assured, you haven't seen anything like it. Ever. This sequence does set up a few things that are worth pointing out, though. It lets you know, right away, that this movie shatters any superhero mold that has come before it, while also setting up a unique story structure that, on paper might seem confusing/convoluted, but still has a deft flow. Without going into too much detail, for most of the first half of the movie, we go back and forth between Wade Wilson's (Ryan Reynolds) past and present. The opening sequence that kicks the movie off in glorious fashion is actually about halfway through the actual story, after Wade has fully transformed into the Merc With the Mouth. From here, Wade tells a meek cabbie named Dopinder (Karan Soni) his backstory, revealing the events that lead him up to that moment.
The flashbacks set up Wade's unique occupation as an urban mercenary anti-hero which introduces an entirely compelling underworld that is rife for exploration in any potential prequels. A bar known as Sister Margaret's, which is run by the hilarious Weasel (T.J. Miller), serves as the home of this underbelly. This unique establishment reminded me a lot of the Hotel Continental in John Wick, the secretive home for assassins like the title character and others of that illicit ilk, except Sister Margaret's is far less of a polished and prestigious place, and more like a rowdy biker bar. Despite his dangerous trade, Wade seems entirely content, living with his equally-bizarre girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), when, out of nowhere, cancer strikes Wade down. While Wade and Vanessa try to think of how they can fight this disease, which has spread throughout his body, Wade is approached by a recruiter (Jed Rees), who claims he can cure Wade of his cancer and give him powers beyond comprehension. With no other viable options at his disposal, Wade decides to take this mystery man's offer and is taken to an underground testing facility, where he meets the villainous Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano). Eventually (and I'm skipping a LOT here on purpose), Wade is hideously transformed, mutated and left for dead, which sets Deadpool off on his vengeful journey.
A lot of fans were disappointed that this movie didn't bring back Daniel Cudmore as Colossus. The movie, after all, is set firmly within the X-Men franchise/universe, and there are numerous references to these mutants, including a few classic meta jokes, throughout the movie. When you see this version of Colossus, though, you'll realize why they chose Stefan Kapicic to provide the Russian voice for Colossus/Piotr Rasputin and portray this behemoth (who is well over 7 feet tall) in motion-capture. Colossus is joined by Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), a stand-offish teenage girl with incredible powers and quite possibly the coolest name in the history of names. I don't want to say much about how these X-Men mutants get involved with Wade, but suffice it to say that it opens up several possibilities for how these characters might be integrated into the franchise as a whole, after the prequel trilogy wraps up with X-Men: Apocalypse. There are rumors that Negasonic Teenage Warhead is one of The New Mutants, another X-Men spinoff announced last year, with Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) at the helm.
There's a very good reason why Ryan Reynolds fought for more than six years to get Deadpool off the ground. Quite simply, the Merc With the Mouth is THE character he was born to play. No one else could deliver the kind of rapid-fire one-liners Wade/Deadpool is known for in the comics, while still having the chops to pull off the movie's more serious moments. His performance is just superb, on his own, but he compliments all of his co-stars, in much different ways, so brilliantly as well. If there is any sort of "flaw" in this movie, it's that a small portion of the jokes just didn't land, but there are honestly so many of them that I'm surprised their comedy batting average, so to speak, is so incredibly high. The story is uniquely crafted by the movie's "real heroes" (See: opening credit sequence) Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who subvert the superhero genre in glorious ways, much like how they turned the zombie genre on its ear in their 2009 classic Zombieland.
You won't find many veteran directors, let alone first-time filmmakers, who will stick with a project for over six years, like Tim Miller did with Deadpool, but I'm really glad he did. He simply knocks it out of the park with fantastic action set pieces while pulling off a tricky pace and making it all look so easy (which I'm sure it was not, at all). One can only hope that he'll be sticking around for Deadpool 2, which will surely be officially announced in the weeks and months ahead, since Deadpool is projected to earn between $55 million and $60 million in its opening weekend. For an R-rated movie in February, those are incredible numbers, but when word spreads that this movie definitely lives up to all of the massive hype, I wouldn't be surprised if the opening weekend is even higher. Deadpool represents a watershed moment in the ever-changing superhero landscape, a movie that doesn't cater to the masses but still knows its audience incredibly well, and delivers in every way imaginable. An R-rated superhero movie is about as rare as a unicorn riding a rainbow, but Deadpool succeeds because it knows the boundaries its breaking, and it does so with a flair so audacious and unconventional. It's a breath of fresh, yet foul-mouthed, air that manages to stand out in an overcrowded superhero genre. Simply put, the Deadpool hype is real, and it's magnificent.