Stop me if you’ve heard this one: So the slate of upcoming films for 2016 walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “Hey, I don’t have enough seats for 600 superhero movies!”
OK, that wasn’t a great joke, but my point is: There are an awful lot of superhero movies being released this year. Between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Captain America: Civil War: The Prequel” (oops — I mean, “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice”) to “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Suicide Squad” and “Doctor Strange,” it’s enough to make even a comic book nerd such as yours truly start to feel super-tapped out.
And this year is actually relatively light compared to the 30-plus super-offerings that Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. and Fox have in various stages of production from 2017 to 2020.
It’s getting to the point where “superhero movie” is too broad of a genre. We need categories like “superheroes-in-space,” or “superhero-who-doesn’t-have-superpowers-but-fights-bad-people-who-do-have-superpowers.”
In such a crowded landscape of super-sequels and super-showdowns and super-standalone-features, it’s difficult to stand out. But “Deadpool” (20th Century Fox) does, mainly because it, like its eponymous protagonist, just isn’t really like the other kids in its class.
Deadpool, the comic book character, was created in the early ’90s as a one-off villain for a Marvel series called “The New Mutants,” but the mouthy mercenary with a super-charged healing factor a la Wolverine proved popular enough to survive his debut. In 1997, he was given his own title, written by Joe Kelly, which established the character as a cult favorite.
Part bloody, testosterone-fuel joy ride and part slapstick black comedy, Deadpool stories were, at their core, a parody of the hyper-macho comics that were popular in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and the dark and broody antiheroes that populated them.
And, unlike most comic book characters, Deadpool knew he was a comic book character, a subversive tool his writers used to poke fun at other characters, their convoluted storylines and the state of the comic book industry in general.
Therefore, in film, Deadpool is — theoretically — the perfect opportunity to bring something new and fresh to (while simultaneously critiquing) the bloated and increasingly formulaic canon of super-powered film fare.
That’s presuming the on-screen presentation of Deadpool was done right by his comic book counterpart, and I daresay that even the notoriously acerbic, red-suited assassin would be pleased with this effort.
“Deadpool,” the film, is not for everyone. It’s rated R, for one thing, so the families, teens and pre-teens that have flocked to see the Avengers, Spider-Man and Wolverine over the past decade will mostly steer clear of this one.
The movie is much more like the work of Quentin Tarantino than Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios, but it is — almost at all times — more concerned with comedy than story.
It is not just peppered, but saturated with jokes. The humor and attempted humor ranges far and wide, from meta-references to the “X-Men” universe this film exists within to pop culture nods as diverse as Wham! and “Taken 3,” from virtually playground-level physical comedy to some of the most imaginatively off-color one-liners you can find this side of Louis C.K.
In that, lead actor Ryan Reynolds is in his element, having cut his movie star-perfect teeth on comedy of both the small and large screen varieties. Reynolds is by far the most recognizable member of the main cast, but the supporting players have talent and they fulfill their roles well.
The weakest link may be Stefan Kapicic’s Colossus (a mutant X-Man with the ability to transform into a steel, well, colossus), though the character suffers more from the filmmakers’ decision to portray him as a lumbering, CGI-rendered troll than Kapicic’s solid, if unspectacular, voice work.
Outside of the character himself, Colossus represents another weakness in the film. Alongside his sidekick, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Colossus’ only real purpose for appearing in this movie is to connect it with Fox’s larger and more profitable “X-Men” franchise, and the filmmakers make no real effort to disguise this fact. Their appearances feel jarring and pointless, a studio afterthought.
And, speaking of pointless, the other element I could have done without is the extended backstory that is interspersed throughout a nearly perfect opening sequence. In a movie that is otherwise about lampooning the superhero genre — and having some gleefully profane fun along the way — a basically straight retelling of the same conventional origin story any movie-goer has seen a thousand times feels out of place and out of sync.
Despite those blemishes, “Deadpool” is packed with laughs, and it avoids the pitfalls of so many of its caped and spandex-wearing brethren by not taking itself too seriously and treating its audiences to a lot of fun.
If you’re a comic book movie fan who’s sick of comic book movies, then leave the kids at home, and check out this summer popcorn flick a few months early.
Cross-posted with the Woodburn Independent.