Deadpool Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein. Directed by Tim Miller. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.
It might seem odd to describe a big-budget Hollywood superhero movie as a passion project, but that’s exactly what Deadpool is for star and producer Ryan Reynolds, who’s been working for more than a decade to get a movie made about the sarcastic, ultraviolent Marvel Comics anti-hero. Reynolds played Deadpool in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that take on the character bore only a passing resemblance to the comic-book version, and Reynolds (along with director Tim Miller, who came aboard in 2011, and Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld) has been pushing for a more faithful adaptation ever since.
All of that persistence has finally paid off with a movie that benefits from existing outside the monolithic Marvel cinematic universe (as an X-Men-related character, Deadpool falls under Marvel’s licensing agreement with 20th Century Fox). The careful planners at Marvel Studios would never go for a movie with this much swearing, sex and gore, not to mention constant self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking jokes about the ridiculousness of superheroes and superhero movies. But that captures the essence of Deadpool, whose comic-book stories are often about the absurd mechanics of appearing in comic books.
In between his dirty jokes and self-referential insults, Deadpool participates in a fairly familiar superhero origin story, going from small-time mercenary and former Special Forces operative Wade Wilson to a mutated, horrifically scarred and essentially invulnerable superhuman thanks to the sadistic experiments of a mad scientist known as Ajax (Ed Skrein). Determined to get revenge on the man who ruined his life (while simultaneously curing his terminal cancer and giving him superpowers), Wade dons a costume and becomes Deadpool.
The story (which also includes Wade’s quest to reunite with the love of his life, played by Morena Baccarin, and his team-up with a couple of third-rate X-Men) is nothing special, but Reynolds and Miller make it fun by sheer force of their enthusiasm for the material. As in the comics, a little Deadpool goes a long way, and the nonstop jokes get a bit tiresome, especially since only about half of them really land. Even so, Reynolds is perfect in a part he’s been waiting half his career to play, and Miller (a special effects artist making his directorial debut) stages some strong action sequences that integrate the jokes into their visual style (starting with the snarky opening credits). Deadpool might have more passion to it than sophistication, but that’s entirely appropriate for a character who’d probably disembowel anyone who ever accused him of being sophisticated.