I think there’s been some misreading of Deadpool among local film critics, who appear to have watched it through the lens of ‘oh not another comic-book movie’ and allowed that to colour their take on its very deliberate schtick. I can’t even say I blame them, as such, because Deadpool is the very definition of a movie squarely aimed at fans, even more so than, say, The Force Awakens and its fan pandering at the expense of a better story, the difference here being that the titular anti-hero is an inside-baseball meta-creation – a comic-book character who knows he’s a comic-book character, constantly breaking kayfabe to address the reader and lampoon the tropes of the medium. If he wasn’t aimed at that audience, what would be the point?
And yes, Deadpool is also an arsehole, but in the comics (at least the ones I’ve read) he’s more of a lovable rogue whose buffoonery is balanced out by his overblown violence in the thick of it. The foul-mouthed rendition by Ryan Reynolds here (reprising his ill-fated sideman role from X-Men Origins: Wolverine many years ago) isn’t quite so goofy, playing up the arsehole side more, the humour erring on the immature, but that’s more to project his immaturity to broad-stroke movie audiences possibly not as familiar with the character’s legacy. The derided credits sequence (with references to ‘the hot chick’ and ‘a moody teen’) serves to undercut any notions that what you’re about to see hasn’t been subject to at least some thought.
More thought would have been better, of course, because after a stellar opening sequence on a motorway bridge that sets up the whole story with flashes of balletic action (could do without the brain matter, though) the parodic aspects take a backseat to bog-standard action-drama clichés. There has to be a romance aspect, so Morena Baccarin gets shoved in as Deadpool’s raison d’être and is given little of note to do besides be a variation on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (this one’s got tattoos and spouts transgressive filth). There has to be some kind of tie-in to Fox’s X-Movie universe, so here’s Colossus (because everyone knows him from the TV show) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (who’s got a weird name – from a Monster Magnet song – and a power that will come in handy as a deus ex machina).
Story-wise, Tim Miller’s film really starts to drag as it gets serious with the origin story in the second act, and by the inevitable big-fight finale has largely forgotten it’s supposed to be a quasi-send-up of the genre. (Why are they battling on a disused aircraft carrier? Maybe if someone brought that up in-film…) The edgy humour also pushes the envelope too far with a crack about kidnapping a love interest that’s possibly supposed to be interpreted in light of a much earlier bit skewering creepy stalkers but doesn’t come off any other way than ‘rape culture is funny’. (For all it’s willing to poke fun at, the script does take at face value the notion that Deadpool’s fans are invariably males of the ‘bro’ variety and any women watching have been dragged their by their significant others.)
It has its problems, so. Yet the overall impression to me is that is that Deadpool succeeds in doing what it set out to do in bringing such a metatextual creation to the big screen, without capitulating too much to Hollywood’s interpretation of multiplex tastes. With some better judgement on the humour, I’d rate it even higher, though I must admit I’m hesitant to see how low things might stoop in the ‘unrated’ home video cut that’s sure to come.