Deadpool (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, October 2016) The behind-the-scenes context surrounding Deadpool (a passion project for Ryan Reynolds, his occasion to atone for Wolverine and Green Lantern; perhaps his last chance to establish himself as a blockbuster lead megastar; the risky bet of an R-rated superhero movie; the unexpected box-office triumph of the film; the provocative comparisons with Batman vs Superman; and so on…) is almost more interesting than the film itself … which is saying something considering how successful the result on-screen can be. Deadpool arrives at a perfect time in the evolution of superhero movies—a time when the basics have been covered, a time at which superhero fatigue is settling in and experimentation can be rewarded. Hence the success of a satirical (but not parodic) take on the usual superhero origin story, commenting on its predecessors, frequently breaking the fourth wall and delivering far more R-rated violence, sexual content and vulgarity than is the norm in mainstream superhero PG-13-land. Ryan Reynolds finally crackles and shines as the lead character, using charm and humour to enliven a character that could have been unbearable played by someone else. Morena Baccarin more than holds her own as the female lead, playing a more interesting character than usual for this kind of role. Deadpool is all about its irreverence, and it consciously dials down the scale and scope of its story in favour of finely tuned execution. It certainly works, what with structural backflips, taut editing, rapid-fire gags and enough satirical jabs to confound anyone who hasn’t been seeing enough superhero movies. It’s not perfect, almost by design: the profanity-laced humour doesn’t always avoid feeling juvenile, the lightweight story is familiar despite its successful execution and it’s very much a film made for the comic-book crowd. (More general audiences aren’t necessarily excluded, but trying to explain even short jokes like “Stewart or McAvoy?” can take a while.) Still, it’s a fun movie to watch, and it certainly meets the considerable expectations that it had to meet from its core audience. Unfortunately, there will be a sequel … and that one will have to try twice as hard not to become an ugly parody of itself. We’ll see.

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