Deadpool has been a long time coming. The character first appeared back in 2009 in X-Men Origins: Wolverine which was completely abysmal – as was the treatment of the character. Right about then, star Ryan Reynolds and some others started developing a spin-off movie. It would embrace the character for who he is (obscene, fourth-wall-breaking, chimichangas) and totally make fun of how he was presented in the other movie. They sewed his mouth shut and just completely fucked up the character. It doesn’t even pass for an adaptation.
Robert Rodriguez was signed as the director and Reynolds kept advocating for a greenlight, but nothing seemed to really move forward. Occasionally it would seem like Fox was really interested in the movie but then things would revert back to nothing. In 2010, the original script leaked to decent reviews (the comments section on that last one is great in hindsight) and a ton of fan praise, but still Fox didn’t want to give the go-ahead. Eventually Rodriguez left and visual effects guy Tim Miller was hired, but for a long time it seemed like the project was dead.
Then the footage leaked.
Still nobody is totally sure how it happened, whether it was a disgruntled VFX guy or a clumsy Fox intern, or if it was intentional on Reynolds’ and Miller’s parts, but test footage got released online in the summer of 2014 and pretty much everybody loved it. It was bloody, it was ridiculous and it felt like Deadpool. Following on from the incredible fan reaction, the movie was greenlit. Hooray!
Comic book movies are at a strange place right now. They are, of course, the most successful films in Hollywood, and it’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe which has prompted other studios to turn to their big properties and try and spin them into some kind of functioning shared universe. We live in a world where we’ll be seeing Batman and Superman duke it out on screen, an adaptation of Marvel’s Civil War, Spider-Man joining the Avengers, TWO Justice League movies as well as spin-offs for all of its members, movies based on Black Panther and Ms. Marvel and a two-part Infinity Gauntlet extravaganza featuring the entire Marvel Universe, all in the space of a few years. Would anyone have ever dared to dream of something as golden as that?
However, at the same time there’s a certain level of fatigue beginning to set in. While it’s not widespread amongst all superhero movies, there’s frequently films which are either just passable (Ant-Man) or are absolutely terrible (Fantastic Four). So many seem to revolve around similar plot structures, story beats, cinematography and tone that that “manufactured” feeling is kicking up. Of course, there are movies that avoid this; Captain America: The Winter Soldier, First Class and The Dark Knight Rises spring to mind. But how many times will audiences sit through cities and planets being levelled and giant blue beams in the sky before they get bored? That’s where Deadpool comes in.
Many of his newly-acquainted fans seem to think that the character is just a bunch of punchlines and memes which is just so laughably incorrect. Yes, that’s a big part of who he is but I would argue that he’s one of Marvel’s most tragic characters. Much like Tony Stark, he masks his insecurities behind a wall of snark and cynicism, those being his self-consciousness for his appearance, hidden by a literal mask, and his own powers. Deadpool has a healing factor which effectively renders him immortal – and if that didn’t then Thanos made him immortal anyway – so he’s stuck in a constant cycle of pain forever. He’s never been killed (as far as I’m aware) and can never be killed, probably even if he entered Ant-Man‘s quantum-verse or if the universe exploded. Imagine having to live with a hideously scarred and painful appearance, mental illness and hatred from almost all other superheroes forever, knowing that there was no relief at the end of the tunnel. I would be pretty fucked up too.
That then brings the humour. It’s rare to find a fictional character who knows they’re in a story and can break the fourth wall but Deadpool is one of ’em, with some writers using it to great effect in their comics. His own personal sense of humour is sick and twisted and he’s a generally twisted guy (just read about how he treats Blind Al – the old lady in the trailer) which is part of his appeal.
Now: name a similar character in comics or mainstream fiction similar to this in any way, and who has gotten the camera treatment.
Next February, Deadpool lands in a genre that is slowly destroying itself – as much as we hate to admit it – but keeps getting bigger and bigger. This will bring it back down to Earth with a story that isn’t about the war of titans and destroying everything in sight, but rather about a cancer patient who gets the very, very short end of the stick. While he’s a tragic character who also happens to have both a cracking and terrible sense of humour, at heart he parodies the good vs evil schtick which is so ingrained in comics and the heroes and villains themselves. One minute he’ll be furiously sticking up for the people he loves and the next he’ll be shooting innocent people because he doesn’t give a fuck. We haven’t seen a movie led by an antihero like this in some time and I think Hollywood is long overdue for one to strike back, and comic book movies are in for a much-needed kick in the balls.
This is basically the perfect time to release this movie. The humour is right on point with a lot of our society right now, and for the rest its controversial enough to hook them. These films have never been more exciting yet we’re all in need of something fresh and new, and this time around fresh and new is the colour red with a side of chimichangas.