We have reached another turning point in the land of comic book inspired films. Eight years after Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and inadvertently changed the face of franchise filmmaking in the process, Deadpool has once again redefined how people look at superheroes. On pace to become the highest grossing R-Rated film of all time, Deadpool’s brand of crude humor and bloody violence is being heralded by many as a breath of fresh air.
In an era where Marvel has written the template on how to construct crowd-pleasing blockbusters, it is easy to see why Deadpool feels like a step in a new direction. The film’s central character, Wade Wilson a.k.a Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) embraces sex, profanity and violence in a way that feels more human than most spandex wearing do-gooders. However, the petals on this newly beloved rose do not seem as unique when one leans in and gets a whiff of its rather familiar scent.
For all of its “meta” moments, and seemingly against the grain attitude, Deadpool is a rather conventional superhero film. It can be argued that one of the film’s greatest achievements is that it is the first non-MCU affiliated film that actually feels like it could be at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Tim Miller succeeds in emulating the Marvel code where other directors have failed. Not beholden to any existing cinematic continuity, like every single X-men related film seems to be, the film thrives in part because it never takes itself too seriously.
The bulk of the film involves Wilson, a former Special Forces agent turned mercenary, gleefully wreaking havoc as he attempts to get revenge on Ajax (Ed Skrein), the man whose experiments gave him his super powers. Along the way the “merc with a mouth” wisecracks with a local bartender (T.J. Miller), has frequent run-ins with Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) of the X-men, gives relationship advice to a cabbie named Dopinder (Karan Soni), and tries to win back the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).
While there is a certain level of amusement in watching Wilson take out the trash so to speak, Deadpool quickly reveals itself to be nothing more than the same old MCU style origin tale that audiences have become accustom to. Outside of the opening credits and a few spots throughout, there are few moments that truly linger in one’s mind once the film is over. Deadpool may walk with a bad boy swagger, but its overall punch is far from a knockout. At times, the humour is so juvenile that the film occasionally feels as dated as the jokes which reference “Wham!” and “Yakov Smirnoff.” This is especially evident when looking at how the film treats its female characters. Though Negasonic and the villainess Angel Dust (Gina Carano) get to tussle with the boys in battle, they rarely get to utter more than a few lines in the film. Vanessa is introduced as a tough as nails prostitute, however, she is reduced rather quickly to a woman whose sole purpose is to support Wilson before becoming the damsel in distress.
Furthermore, the problem with giving a character like Deadpool his own movie is that, much like Wolverine before him, the stakes will always be low. When a hero can always heal himself, then the audience never really fears for his life at any point. Obviously killing off a character who calls out his own franchise potential within the first film is not going to happen; but there still needs to be the possibility of such an incident occurring. Deadpool’s regenerative abilities gives him a huge advantage over a villain who is as bland as the ones you find in the MCU. So basically the audience is left to watch the lengthy equivalent of an HBO stand-up comedy routine with bits of superhero style action thrown in for good measure.
All of this makes for a film that, while entertaining at times, does not break from the mold like it wants the audiences to believe it does. Deadpool may take great pride in poking fun at conventional superhero films, but it is more than happy to be part of the group it mocks.