Comic powers 

Deadpool takes the superhero film up a notch

Let us begin with high praise and then a warning. First of all: Hallelujah, the world needed a big budget, rated-R superhero movie, and they've finally given us one with Marvel's latest, Deadpool. Always I have complained that the stylized, implied violence of these mostly PG-13 comic book movies is both dumb and dishonest. A car explodes or something, and men are thrown through the air and then get up in a soot-covered daze or else land dead somewhere offscreen, out of sight of the censors, and we're all just supposed to be fine with it.

In this film, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool spells out the Christian name of his enemy with the corpses of his enemy's henchmen, complete with a severed head dotting the "i." More than the violence even, it's the many swears and overt references to strange sex acts that push this thing over the edge. Why did this take so long? Because the studios didn't want to miss out on all those little-boy-box-office dollars? Deadpool made $150 million on its three-day opening weekend, more than any other Valentine's opener and more than any other R-rated film (by besting 2003's The Matrix Reloaded). The defense rests.

Now for the warning: In order to enjoy this movie—and you really should, because it's excellent—you'll need to leave any sense of disgust you might have for snarky, self-referential humor because Deadpool overfloweth with the stuff. The film doesn't begin with ordinary opening credits, for example. Instead of "Directed by Tim Miller," we get, "Directed by an overpaid tool." The producers are "Asshats" and the writers are called "The real heroes here." That one I particularly liked. The comedy in this film comes mostly from Reynolds' rapid-fire one-liners. It's a lot like sitcom humor, which always makes me twitch a little just because no one is ever that perfectly funny in the moment. But this is a movie that knows it's a movie, delightfully so, and in that fell swoop any amount of disbelief is immediately explained.

click to enlarge “They said it was an open-carry meeting, right?”
  • “They said it was an open-carry meeting, right?”

As for the plot, we're witnessing Deadpool's origin, combined with a sincere and sweet love story. Before he became a rapidly healing mutant, he was Wade Wilson, a former special forces operative who now works freelance as a kind of anti-hero for bad guys. Reynolds is funny, but his sidekick at the thuggy bar they all hang out at, played by TJ Miller (most recognizable as the homeowner in HBO's "Silicon Valley"), is even funnier. Wade quickly falls in love with an unapologetic hooker named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When he finds out he has a whole lot of cancer, he feels obliged, for Vanessa's sake, to undergo a weird procedure offered by some shifty characters that will cure his ailments and make him a superhero. This is the film's classic, "What could go wrong?" turning point. "Just don't make the suit green," he tells them, a reference to a different, terrible Reynold's superhero, "or animated!" It goes wrong of course, and Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead join Deadpool in a revenge plot. I had no idea Colossus and Warhead were from the X-Men universe (not a comic book person) until this revealing line: "Wow, this is such a big house, but it's only the two of you here. It's like the studio didn't have enough money for another X-Men movie."

Deadpool is a carefully made, often hilarious action picture with heart and passion, brought to us by filmmakers who embrace the spirit of the source material. And be sure to stay through the closing credits for a bonus reference that requires at least a passing awareness of the 1980s to get.

Deadpool continues at the Carmike 12.

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