The eponymous Merc With A Mouth has finally made his way to our movie screens, because that version from X-Men Origins: Wolverine does not count one iota. Why’d they sew his mouth shut? Are they complete morons? The clue is in his nickname. It’s all about the mouth, baby.
I digress. The new Deadpool is the true Deadpool. Wade Wilson is a red suit wearing, wise cracking, crass, immortal, ultra-violent freak who by his own admission looks “like a testicle with teeth.” The film got an R rating in the US, and landed a 15 rating over on my side of the pond. Eschewing the typical 12A rating of a “superhero” film, Deadpool was a lower budget risk for the studios that may or may not pay off. Buoyed to the screen by producer and star Ryan Reynolds’ 11 year struggle to get the film made the way in which it deserved, Deadpool was also a character that comic book fans were eager above all else to see come to the screen. Nevermind that goody-two-shoes loser Captain America or that hippy Thor. Nevermind the fortieth Spiderman reboot in the last fifteen years.
Deadpool was great, it was a laugh a minute hilarious film with surprisingly strong emotional notes, and a stellar introduction to the character, entwining the origin story within the films running time, hopping back and forth to break up the madness of the character and dodging the monotony of the origin story. It worked, and while the two X-Men featured (Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) are fairly pointless here, the villain, Ajax, is two dimensional, and an interesting female character in Wilson’s partner Vanessa is literally reduced to being tied up and screaming in a sound proof glass box at the end of the film. She lands a hit on the villain, but then she has to be rescued about four more times in the space of five seconds.
The film is propelled by the fantastic character of Deadpool rather than any sort of story, and it frequently has scenes or dialogue that make you absolutely stunned that this is a film based on a comic book character. The Punisher and the Blade films were violent, but this is different. This is an irreverent, weird, and stupid level of gore and profanity that sounds like it was written by a fourteen year old kid, but somehow translates to side splitting hilarity on screen. The two or three major action scenes are choreographed to perfection, brilliantly mixing humour with fights that actually feel dangerous, due to the blood and guts flying about.
I’m not here to review Deadpool though, even though I basically did above. Four stars, let’s move on. The most important thing about Deadpool is that it proves that there is a tone for mainstream comic book stories that goes beyond the heroic, boy scout team ups that helped rebirth the industry but have also led to a great deal of its stagnation. It’s easy to ignore the risks that have been taken before. X-Men was anything but a sure bet, the first Spiderman was a huge risk. Even recently, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man were both films you thought would never get made. It’s hard to imagine that the original Iron Man wasn’t part of an already established fifty thousand year Marvel plan yet - thought the post credit sting with Nick Fury was certainly optimistic.
We also forget about Watchmen, about V For Vendetta, about The Punisher, Hellboy, and Blade. Adult orientated comic books have been made into films before, hell, even go as far back as Todd McFarlane’s Spawn for proof of that. The lesson to take away from Deadpool isn’t that we can now go hog wild with forth wall breaking, pop culture reference filled random freak fests. The lesson to take away is that how well even the filthiest, weirdest comic book film can do when you stick to the essence of the character and make the right film for them. Wolverine has recently been announced to be returning to us in an R-rated film; no doubt old man Logan can thank Wade Wilson for that one, as Deadpool has smashed a few box office records since release. The problem with every other Wolverine vehicle is that they’ve tried to de-claw the X-Men’s greatest character and make a film where his lethal appendages don’t make enemies bleed, or worse yet, making him fight robots. Seriously, what was up with the finale of The Wolverine? A great comic book story and a very original title ruined by the attempt to appeal to the kids. Wolverine hates kids.
Let’s get back to Guardians of the Galaxy. A bunch of a-holes who end up saving the galaxy kind of by accident. Their name isn’t a holier-than-thou title. It’s a bleak tongue in cheek reference to the fact that a walking tree, a talking racoon, a space UFC fighter, Andy from Parks and Rec and a green lady who despite being a great actress can’t land a role outside of make up or CGI are our only hope against the pawns of Thanos, one of the most powerful beings in the universe. These “heroes” known only to die-hard fans made one of the best Marvel films of their entire canon. It’s not about star power or using the heroes everyone knows, it’s about making a film that fits the characters.
Please, Hollywood, learn the right lessons from Deadpool. The right character in the right place can make all the difference. Don’t start plundering the catacombs of comic history for one issue weirdo’s who you’ll try to Deadpool-ise because you know it’ll put asses in seats. Be smart about this one. Deadpool might just save the comic book film from stagnation, even if he’d rather shoot it in the face. I hope DC are watching, and either frantically re-cutting Suicide Squad, or better yet, standing back and knowing that for once, they might have just hit a home run.