The Rebel in Red Tights: Deadpool

Is Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) the comic messiah destined to save the superhero universe from its own trappings?

Much has been written, about the opening title sequence of Deadpool, which is quite tongue-in-cheek about the people who made the film (Written by The Real Heroes Here…Directed by An Overpaid Tool), and mocks archetypes employed in superhero movies (A British Villain… A Comic Relief). But as the movie progresses, (meta as it may be) you realise that these proclamations ring hollow, because the film fulfils all the cliches that it pokes fun at.

The majority of the opening sequence plays out in flashback since the actual plot of the film is pretty shallow. The camera glides over a car, suspended in mid-air, in ultra-slow-motion as our wisecracking protagonist, destroys the convoy carrying his arch-nemesis, Ajax. This sequence with its ironic titles and subtle visual genius promises a countercultural movie that is strikingly self-aware.

In a series of flashbacks that follow, we learn of Deadpool’s civil existence as Wade Wilson, a former special forces agent turned mercenary assassin. He falls in love with a prostitute called Vanessa Williams (Morena Baccarin), at a seedy bar where his best friend Weasel, serves up drinks and places bets on which bar regular would die first. “I just want to get to know the real you, not the two-dimensional sex object peddled to me by Hollywood,” Wade tells Vanessa on their first date.  

The next few scenes, proceed to show the both of them, having raunchy sex in every imaginable position, until Wade asks her to marry him. Their domestic bliss is cut short by an untimely diagnosis of cancer, that is fast spreading across Wade’s body. Desperate to live, our romantic badass decides to sign up for Project X; a workshop run by Ajax (Ed Skrein), that aims to create mutants by torturing them until the genes in their body, mutate and create self-healing properties. Unfortunately, Wade soon realises that a long-lasting side effect of immortality is having a severely disfigured body. For a movie that claims to subvert the genre’s tropes, it sure seems comfortable using a cookie cutter origin story.

Once he escapes from the laboratory, the rebel in red vows to find an absconding Ajax — the only person who can help him fulfil his true mission; to look hot again and win back the affection of his lady love.

Like any postmodern work of art, Deadpool manages to reject the grand narrative and spews forth pop-culture references at the speed of a bullet. The writers of Deadpool, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who worked together on Zombieland have perfected the irreverent tone of a postmodern superhero.

Ryan Reynold’s motormouth performance delivers hard punches in certain action sequences (when Deadpool is hunting down Ajax’s aides, he hits a woman and then apologises profusely, “Is it sexist to hit you? Or is it more sexist to not hit you?”), despite playing safe with a standard origin story and massive action set- piece ending.

The protagonist’s shallow endeavour and penchant for smutty masturbation jokes are in line with yet another R-rated superhero movie — Matthew Vaughan’s Kickass. Director TJ Miller’s debut is a high energy flick, but what Deadpool sorely lacks is the insight and earnest sentimentality of Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. In comparison with The Incredibles, which deals with real world ramifications of leading a superhero’s life in a subversive yet sympathetic way, Deadpool is completely devoid of emotional depth.

 

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