Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humour, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.
I don’t think there’s supposed to be penises in Marvel movies. I mean, I don’t know for sure. I’m not exactly, like, a Marvel movie expert. So let’s just get that out of the way. Analyzing the minutiae of the Marvel Universe logic, logistics, and idiosyncratic laws of relativity and thermodynamics would be like me parsing the differences in pre- and post-reformation catechism of Eastern Orthodox liturgy. I’m not exactly an expert. I don’t even know for sure there is a pre-reformation liturgy, and if it differs from post-reformation. But I’m pretty sure Marvel movies don’t usually have penises. I mean, it may be a conflagrated penis, but it’s distinctly a penis, dangling, as it is, between Ryan Reynolds’s mottled thighs. Of course, I can think of many times a Marvel movie should have had a penis shot, scenes that practically screamed out for one, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have them. I’m also fairly certain that X-Men don’t say, ‘ You big, chrome cock-gobbler!’ to each other, or poo in people’s kitty litter boxes, or masturbate onscreen with a stuffed unicorn between their teeth.
I don’t think there’s supposed to be penises in Marvel movies.
Pretty safe to say, even though I am not a citizen of the Marvel Universe, that this isn’t a typical Marvel movie. Right from the opening title sequence. Titles, by the way—the order, the size, the position on the screen, the sharing of space once on screen—are viciously negotiated and as homicidally protected as hyena pups. Indeed, entire Guilds have threatened to go on strike, shutting down Hollywood, when merely their placement has been questioned. So presenting a film by ‘Some Douchebags,’ written by the ‘The Real Heroes of the Film’ and directed by ‘Some Overpriced Tool,’ and starring ‘A Hot Chick,’ ‘A British Villain,’ and featuring ‘A Gratuitous Cameo’ (one of the douchebags is its star, Ryan Reynolds, the hot chick is Morena Baccarin, the British villain is Ed Skrein, and the overpriced tool is Tim Miller), it’s not just not any Marvel movie, it’s not like any movie at all. But it’s also not just a satire, the postmodern post-mortem of Superhero movies; it’s more of a self-aware dissection of itself, of Deadpool as a film, not of the genre. Hugh Jackman, for instance, is mocked repeatedly, and so is Ryan Reynolds himself and his less than Jackman-like career (‘Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my own movie?’ he says at one point). It’s knowingness prevents any suspension of disbelief, indeed mocks any suspension of disbelief—smudging the lens, Deadpool physically moving the camera so we can’t see, actors commenting on their own careers outside the character, the film’s budget restrictions. This can be astute, as when in mid-slaughter during one of the multi-corpse battles he comments, ‘Technically, this is a murder,’ which is something we don’t acknowledge often enough—our superheroes are basically mass murderers—or, during a multi-corpse montage, he realizes the person he’s about to pummel is female and panics—‘Wait, is it sexist to hit you, or more sexist not to hit you? The line is blurry,’ but the reflexive onanism is unrelenting. It’s funny and sometimes witty in its snide, know-it-all, condescending smarm, where Insult is the only language spoken—like Facebook only with an actual moving face—but it becomes so self-referential that it gets smug at times and you want to smack it.
Deadpool is an anti superhero. He’s like a real guy—an obnoxious guy— in a suit with mundane problems; it’s red to hide the blood, he has problems with the mask because it muffles his speech, and he doesn’t carry a wallet because it ‘ruins the line of my suit.’ He also doesn’t speak in catchphrases but in real life snark—when Colossus tells him to watch his language (and this during the climactic battle scene), Deadpool responds, ‘Oh, suck a cock, Colossus.’ Basically, he’s a sociopathic mercenary, a member in a club of sociopaths, who uses his sociopathy to help—for payment—people with ordinary problems like abusive relationships or stalkers—‘Just a bad guy who fucks up worse guys.’ But he’s still a sociopath. He meets a sex worker and they fall in love. So, sociopathic mercenary and sex worker. We’re not in Smallville! Oops, wrong universe. Anyway, he gets cancer and then gets tortured by the British guy—to what? Turn him into an X-Man? Didn’t quite get that part. Didn’t make much sense. A torture factory that would, with luck, produce X-Men, and turn them into ‘superslaves’? How, exactly? And wouldn’t they superpower their way out of slavery? And really, such expenditure for what seems like such limited output; there was a lot of overhead there, with so many hi-tech ingenious devices of pain, and it took a lot of time to torture so many people in so many ways. And there was no guarantee of success; they usually just died. It looked like a supremely unsound investment. Anyway, Deadpool gets a power—he can cure himself—but now looks like ‘Freddy Krueger face-fucked a topographical map of Utah,’ his friend, Weasel (T.J. Miller), the bartender at the sociopath club, tells him. ‘Whatever they did to me made me totally indestructible,’ Deadpool laments, ‘and completely unfuckable.’
Aren’t Marvel movies supposed to be about the bigger things? You know, like saving the universe? Or at least the world? Or at least America? Isn’t it about, you know, vanquishing nutjobs with nuclear genius, or machines with DNA of Satan, or extra-dimensional beings that just want to kill all humans because it’d be fun to? Deadpool simply wants revenge. He’s just pissed off because his looks were ruined. Surely looks aren’t important, to those who truly love you, he’s advised by this Weasel. ‘Have you ever heard David Beckham speak?’ Deadpool replies. This is a hero who advocates locking up love rivals in the trunk of the car before dismembering them, and who carries his arsenal of weapons in a Hello Kitty bag.
Ryan Reynolds is superb. Again, I’m no expert. Parsing Ryan Reynolds’s career for me would be like asking me to sit on a panel judging the nuances of pickled meats. I don’t really know. I do know Ryan Reynolds’s performance in The Voices (directed by Marjane Satrapi) was masterful. He has fantastic comic timing and delivery, and can easily mix wit and bounteous gore, and that is exhilarating.