Review: Insane ‘Deadpool’ deconstructs superhero genre

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Deadpool” is completely out of its mind.

It’s the meta deconstruction of the superhero movie, a superhero movie that knows it’s a superhero movie and can’t stop commenting on the fact that it’s a superhero movie. It blurs the lines between audience, screen and cinematic universe so thoroughly that watching it is like having Deadpool sitting next to you in the theater, riffing on the film and spilling popcorn onto your lap.

All of which could be incredibly annoying, and the film’s use of lowbrow, fratboy insults is grating. But otherwise “Deadpool” is a very funny, very wild ride that takes comic book movies to a new level of self-reflexivity.

Credit rookie director Tim Miller, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and star Ryan Reynolds with setting fire to the Marvel Universe model and turning it into their own house of mirrors. It starts during the opening credits, when Reynolds is credited not by name, but as “God’s Perfect Idiot,” alongside a shot of his 2010 People magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” cover. (Other cast members are credited as “Some Hot Chick,” “British Villain” and “Gratuitous Cameo.”)

Reynolds has never meshed as well with a character or found a better outlet for his smirking, smart aleck persona. He’s been somewhat adrift since 2011, when “Green Lantern” let off a stinkbomb that’s stench has lingered for years. He followed it up with a string of limp flops, including “R.I.P.D.” and “Self/Less” (yikes, even the titles are awful), but “Deadpool” rescues him from that cinematic swamp.

He plays Wade Wilson, a low-rent vigilante who describes himself as “a bad guy who gets paid to (mess) up worse guys.” He meets and falls in love with a prostitute named Vanessa (“Homeland’s” Morena Baccarin), and together they have a warm, believable sexual chemistry. But Wilson receives a terminal cancer diagnosis that drives a wedge into their life plans.

Wilson meets a shady figure who offers him a cure for his disease and puts him in contact with Ajax (aforementioned British villain Ed Skrein), a mad doctor who experiments with Wilson’s body. He mutates his genes, giving him rapid powers of regeneration, but leaves him horribly scarred and left for dead. After escaping the lab, Wilson reinvents himself as Deadpool, donning a red suit and mask while seeking revenge against the doctor and his goons, who kidnap Vanessa.

Deadpool doesn’t dismantle his victims like most superheroes; he shoots, stabs and does all sorts of R-rated things to them. This is a movie where bodies (and brains) go splat; as Deadpool himself says, “I may be super, but I’m no hero.” Great power and great responsibility can take a hike.

The attitude of the character and the film are supercharged, and the movie goes all the way with its post-modernism; at one point a song on the soundtrack narrates the on-screen action. Plenty of other films have commented on genre conventions and played with fourth-wall barriers — “Last Action Hero” was an example of how not to do it — but “Deadpool” hits just the right tone. It’s deeply sarcastic without being cynical or sour.

Marvel being Marvel, “Deadpool” takes up residency in the larger “X Men” universe, where Reynolds’ character was introduced in 2009’s “X Men Origins: Wolverine.” A pair of “X Men” characters, Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (newcomer Brianna Hildebrand) figure prominently in the picture and make strong sidekicks for our hero.

But this is Deadpool’s story, and he leaves a lasting impression while annihilating the genre. Superhero movies, from here on out, consider yourself Deadpool’d.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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‘Deadpool’

GRADE: B+

Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity

Running time: 107 minutes