Deadpool ups the ante for R-rated adaptations

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Image courtesy of www.rottentomatoes.com
Image courtesy of www.rottentomatoes.com

Many films based on comic books have to find an approach to handling the nature of their stories. While some movies remain faithful to the source material, other adaptations strongly deviate from the page and introduce new characters or story arcs. And then there are films that ridicule their comic book roots by poking fun at the absurdity of it all.

Deadpool not only embraces the source material; it fully acknowledges the ridiculousness of of it all without taking things too seriously.

Starring actor Ryan Reynolds, the movie is a new spin-off of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men film series. Directed by newcomer Tim Miller, it is based on the character Deadpool, who became popular in the X-Force comic series and rose to fame in various X-Men titles.

Ex-soldier Wade Wilson does mercenary work in New York City, where he meets, falls in love with, and gets engaged to Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin) in the span of one year.

Just when things appear to be going right, Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a short period of time to live. Unable to let his lover see him die, he accepts an offer from Francis “Ajax” Freeman (Ed Skrein) to undergo an experimental procedure via the Weapon X program (the same one that created Wolverine).

Although Wade is cured of cancer, the process leaves him heavily scarred and with a mutant healing factor. Upon revealing his plan to create and sell mutated test subjects into slavery, Ajax battles Wade and leaves him for dead, but the younger man is able to heal from his severe injuries.

Although he wants to return to Vanessa, Wade is fearful of being rejected and does not contact her. He is also consumed with the idea of pursuing revenge against Ajax, whom he hopes can return him to normal.

Upon the advice of his friend Weasel (T.J Miller), he adopts the name of “Deadpool” and quickly embarks on a vigilante career in a humorous montage. During his pursuit of Ajax, Deadpool crosses paths with Colossus (Stefan Kapcic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who want him to join the X-Men. What follows is a graphic, outrageous and unforgettable chain of events that lead to an explosive finale.

Ryan Reynolds carries the film as Wade/Deadpool in a career-defining performance similar to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. A lifelong comic fan, he has a great time engaging in fight sequences while poking fun at common superhero tropes and action clichés.

He enjoys ridiculing the audience at various intervals and urging them to not litter in the theatre. Deadpool himself mocks celebrities such as David Beckham and Rosie O’Donnell, reality stars like Mama June Shannon of Honey Boo Boo notoriety, and spoils the plot twists of several movies.

In a nice bit of meta-humor, he trashes his own acting career and riffs on his past appearances in Green Lantern and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He even satirizes Hollywood critics by asking, “Think Ryan Reynolds got this far on his superior acting method?”

The rest of the cast does well in their roles. Morena Baccarin provides the emotional core of the movie as Vanessa, but she is not relegated to “token love interest” like most females in comic-book adaptations. Her influence on Wade is what drives him for most of the plot, and their relationship is heart-warming to watch.

T.J Miller gives a juicily comedic performance as Weasel, and his snarky banter with Reynolds is one of the film’s highlights. Specifically, his comparing Deadpool’s scarred face to an avocado is hilarious.

Skrein is effective as the sinister, manipulative Ajax, but his plan to create and sell mutants for slave labor is not particularly compelling.

Kapicic does a great job as Colossus and the unofficial straight man to Reynolds’ antics. His gentle, peaceful nature puts him at odds with Deadpool’s brutality, which leads to some humorous scenes involving the former vomiting.

Hildebrand brings believability and sarcasm to the role of Teenage Warhead, and the revelation of her mutant abilities is one of the best scenes in the film. Finally, Leslie Uggams makes a hilarious cameo as “Blind Al”, Deadpool’s elderly housemate with a dry sense of humor.

Clocking in at 108 minutes, the film contains a large number of action sequences. With a $58 million budget, Miller is able to make what should have been a low-level action flick into an impressive installment of the X-Men universe. The fight scenes are visually compelling, as well as the prosthetics used for Reynolds’ scarred appearance.

Furthermore, the Deadpool costume itself is exactly as it was in the comic books, complete with the minor details. Special praise should be given to the motion-capture VFX used to bring Colossus to life; the end result looks like he just stepped out of the Marvel comic.

Deadpool is a wild, entertaining and hilariously violent film. Reynolds steals the show as the “Merc with a Mouth”, and the prospect of getting a sequel is all but assured.

Miller has made a solid debut for himself as a director and with Jackman retiring from Wolverine, Fox might have found Deadpool to be the new face of the franchise.