#5 in my ranking of the X-Men franchise.
Remove this film’s attitude and you have a structurally interesting, bare bones, and serviceable origin story of a super, well, super action personality with comic book origins. The attitude is really what carries it from beginning to end, and that attitude is almost all about Ryan Reynolds as the titular character. Reynolds takes the Merc with the Mouth from the comic book to the silver screen with a rapid fire set of quips that sometimes become quite witty from time to time that elevates the pedestrian origin story into a solidly entertaining one.
Ignoring the original appearance of Wade Wilson and Deadpool from X-Men Origins: Wolverine (a wise decision), we start the movie with the fully formed Deadpool waiting on an overpass for some cars to pass by containing his nemesis, Francis. The first half of the movie is told in flashback intercut with the action scene that follows where Deadpool jumps down onto the car, crashes it, gets into a shootout with the survivors, and then is derailed just before he’s going to exact his justice upon Francis by the arrival of two minor X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Francis gets away, Deadpool cuts off his own hand to get away from the X-Men, and the movie just plays it straight for the rest of the way. Well, as straight as a movie like this can play it.
I think the first half’s structure is meant to mesh well with Wade Wilson’s nearly constant voiceover, and that’s true. The carefree attitude that Wilson so obviously embodies works in conjunction with the more chaotic storytelling devices. The flashbacks are never confusing, and there’s a solidly straightforward story being told, it’s just told in flashbacks, and I wonder if it would work better told straight. As it is, the extended look at the highway fight almost feels like it’s stretching out its welcome after a certain point, especially once he gets Francis (and before we actually know who Francis is). However, the point really is Wade Wilson’s attitude.
He was a foul-mouthed mercenary who discovered his dream girl in Vanessa, a perfect comic/movie creation of a woman who can dish out Star Wars references, is as depraved sexually as Wade himself, and loves him completely. When Wade gets diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer, she stays by his side faithfully and fully until he abandons her to pursue a radical treatment from a shadowy organization. In comes Francis who runs this shadowy organization that injects a serum into its patients, tortures them to try and trigger a mutation, and then sells the subjects with a control collar to the highest bidder. Wade won’t shut his mouth, though, and he receives particular odious treatment from Francis (who is ashamed of his own name that Wade figures out through a dry cleaning slip). The mutation allows Wade to heal like Wolverine, but it’s slower and he gets horribly disfigured in the process. When he escapes, he makes it his mission to kill Francis for what he had done to him. Hence, the action scene that all of this has been interspersed with all of this.
The second half of the movie is much more straightforwardly built with Wade going back home to his duplex with his blind old lady roommate as he waits for his hand to grow back. Okay, more straightforward for this movie. Wade has to regain his focus and his ability to face Vanessa who thinks that he’s dead. When he finally walks up to her place of work to let her know that he’s still alive, though, Francis has figured out her connection to Wade and kidnapped her, forcing the final act confrontation. Wade recruits Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to fight with him, and there’s a lot of special effects before the good guy wins the day by shooting the bad guy in the head point blank while the bad guy lays helpless on the ground. Okay, good guy is a bit relative.
See? It’s super straightforward stuff. What really makes it fun is Ryan Reynolds as Wade. Ryan Reynolds is a funny guy, and he carries this movie with energy and humor. His one-liners are rapid fire and come so fast that if one misses there’s another one coming along to hit in a few seconds. He’s a solid enough actor that he can convincingly give us the handful of small emotional moments required of him, but mostly he’s there to shout obscenities and make quips. Your enjoyment of the film is really going to entirely hinge on how much of Ryan Reynolds’ humor you can take, and I find it quite enjoyable. He’s funny, not the funniest guy in the world and his stuff is rather scattershot, but it’s enough to take what would be a moderately entertaining origin story and elevate it to solidly entertaining origin story.
I’ve certainly seen far worse, and this actually ends up representing one of the great strengths of ubiquitous franchise filmmaking. When everything has to be part of a brand for financial reasons, it opens up different kinds of films within a certain context to audiences. Not everything needs to be big ensemble pieces like most of the X-Men movies. They don’t have to all be dark and serious like the DCEU. They don’t have to all be bright and lightly entertaining like most of the MCU. They can be immature and vulgar as well. This helped push the boundaries of franchise filmmaking a bit (Logan‘s mere existence owes almost everything to Deadpool‘s financial success), and that’s a good thing. That the movie ends up a fun 100 minutes is a bonus, I guess.