It has been over a decade since the long feud between the two top comic book superpowers, DC and Marvel took their rivalry to the movies. Traditionally, the films were produced to receive a benign rating of PG-13 from the MPAA. The decision was largely made as a concession to profit potential by appealing to the broadest possible audience. The source material may have begun as comic books like those we enjoy as kids but, many titles have migrated to the more mature platform of graphic novels. A short while ago in 2016, this was reflected by Marvel films through 20th Century Fox with the release of ‘Deadpool.’ Commonly known as the ‘Merc with a Mouth,’ Deadpool was a mercenary who through some illegal experiments, gained the highest possible level of recuperative abilities. Not only could he heal from any physical damage he could regenerate lost limbs to the extent of re-growing his entire body. For all practical purposes, he is immortal. Considering the extremely dangerous nature of his profession, this is a very useful ability. Deadpool also is infamous for his penchant for exceptionally obscene language. Topping his antisocial personae is a face completely scarred beyond a full depth burn victim. His sexual proclivities and vulgar vocabulary made it impossible to transpose this character faithfully to the big screen. There is an interesting caveat here, a Bowdlerized version of the film released under the title ‘Once upon a Deadpool. This consideration deals with the Blu-ray/streaming media unrated cut not subjected to the rating by the MPAA. Unless you have an affinity for very dark humor, excessive, graphic violence and sexual innuendo, this is the movie to kick back and enjoy. If those are characteristics, you find appealing in your preferred cinematic experience than prepare to laugh a lot between some of the most energetic action sequences feasible.
A trademark feature of the ‘Deadpool’ movies, both at this point, is the unique way the narrative can seamlessly transition between serious, even tragic themes to dark comedy or juvenile humor. The opening sequence depicts Deadpool, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), in several violent assassinations after which he returns home to the loving embrace of his girlfriend, former prostitute, Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin). They have a perversely twisted yet loving relationship, the only source of joy in Wade’s life. When some of his enemies invade their apartment, Vanessa is killed in the crossfire. Out of this tragic moment, one of the most bizarre montages in recent times emerges. Wade attempts suicide in an increasingly violent and outlandish way including literally exploding himself into small pieces. To his dismay, he can fully regenerate. Despondent, Wade goes to the mansion headquarters of the X-Men. The fact that both films share this ability to flow effortlessly between emotional extremes is particularly noteworthy. Men new to helming a film helmed the two movies. In the first film, the director was Tim Miller in his freshman feature-length opus. The sequel was directed by David Leitch, who has an illustrious career as a stunt coordinator for many highly acclaimed action movies. His previous work as a director included ‘Atomic Blonde’ and ‘John Wick.’ The franchise is becoming a showcase for talented people to rebrand their careers as directors.
At the core of the Deadpool character is a tragedy of Grecian proportions. Initially, the foundation of his personality that drove his motivation was an extreme cancer cure that went awry. This turned Wade Wilson into Deadpool. The invincibility of his type leaves an excess degree of psychological damage and emption disintegration. Just as he was losing the final iota of humanity, he fell in love with Vanessa. He was still lethal, killing with ease while joking, but at the end of the mayhem, his home with Vanessa was a stronghold. A sanctuary of peace. Revenge drove home invasion, and a stray bullet destroyed that leaving him adrift. After the failed suicide attempts, he decided to take up an invitation to join the X-Men given by Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic). Once again, due to a quagmire of licensing issues, the X-Man can only be depicted in a CGI manufactured metallic form. The other member of the famous team was a minor character that none of the studios planned to incorporate in a project, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). BTW, is in a relationship with a former mutant assassin, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), who naively considers Deadpool as funny and charming. Remarks Deadpool makes to Colossus provides a portion of the sexual innuendo. In this film that final thread that connected Deadpool to the last vestige of humanity is destroyed, his only hope to continue to try to find purpose with the X-Men. This change was made substantially more arduous since the old Merc with a Mouth remained.
Employing his trademark humorous outlet for his disdain of the new saturation, Deadpool ‘embraces’ his probationary status by wearing a neon-colored vest and overstating his trainee status, mocking Colossus. Their assignment is to investigate a situation involving a young mutant named Russel Collins (Julian Dennison). The preteen is in an orphanage where he is determined to burn it to the ground. He especially wants to torment the headmaster (Eddie Marsan). Russel is overwhelmed with his power dubbing himself Firefist, referring to his ability to manifest pyrokinesis through his hands. Wilson, Colossus, and NTW arrived at the facility to find Russel angry, frighten and bursting with flame. Wilson is about to bring the boy in when he learns Russel had been physically and emotionally abusive to the child. Deadpool’s perspective of the youth changes from a threat to the victim. Lashing out Deadpool shoots one of the staff members resulting in both being arrested. They are fitted with collars that negate their powers and sent to ‘The Ice Cube’, a supermax prison designed to contain extremely dangerous mutants. The collar is especially serious for Wilson, without his mutant regenerative powers his lethal cancers return in full, he’s dying.
Among the numerous factors that contribute to the entertainment value of this franchise, thus far, is the darkly quirky way common archetypes and tropes seen in a myriad of movies, can be twisted in such novel ways. The portion of the story which follows a dying Wade and overly cocky Russel is lifted directly from any number of hackney prison flicks. The young newcomer attempts to manufacture credibility by picking a fight with the largest inmate in sight. Typically, the newcomer is beaten but the courage displayed partially achieves the goal. Here, Russel is dispatched and humiliated with a single punch. The mandatory riot and breakout ensure which is utilized to introduced the primary motivation and principle antagonist, Cable (Josh Brolin), a cybernetic mutant from the future who has traveled back in time to kill Russell. Mr. Brolin is an accomplished actor whose talent helps to balance the bawdy humor with a performance conveying noteworthy gravitas. It is crucial in a movie of this nature for the filmmaker to achieve a proper balance between the dark humor and action. Aficionados of comic book movies have become sophisticated, demanding the details, nuance, and craftsmanship of any mainstream studio movie. In this film that balance is very noticeable as the pervading mood remains jocular while specific scenes run the gamut from grossly funny to emotionally poignant. One element that has become synonymous with the comic book shared universe franchise, Easter Eggs. This is a major part of the entertainment potential of these movies that was only realistically feasible in the age of Blu-rays and Streaming video. It is now possible to comb through a film virtually frame by frame looking for props, design elements, phrases of dialogue or cameo appearances.
This movie is loaded with far more than possible to list here. Some are as subtle as a drawing of Wolverine tagged "Prisoner 24601". That's Jean Valjean's prisoner number in Les Miserables, played by Hugh Jackman or the numerous brief appearances of some A-List stars. While in the mansion Deadpool passes a room containing the cast of the New Class X-men including James McAvoy, Evan Peters and Tye Sheridan, in full costume. Arguably one of the most indicative of inclusion for the intense movie trivia maven is the open call to join a new team, X-Force. In the comics, this was an offshoot of the X-Men founded in large part by Deadpool. ‘Leaks’ obsessively from knowledgeable insiders hinted at a full-blown introduction of this popular team, alas, in the movie it is a non-starter, a clever ruse to somewhat justify a stream of high-profile cameos. Bill Skarsgård, Terry Crews, Alan Tudyk, and Brad Pitt all have a brief appearance. The trivia award must go to Redneck #1 credited as Dickie Greenleaf. The actor was none other than Oscar Winner Matt Damon using the name of Jude Law’s character in their film, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley.’ The only character that goes through the membership drive is Domino, the mutant with the ability to bend luck in her favor. She was played incredibly well by Zazie Beetz.
With a sequel already approved it appears that this is one franchise that will survive the legal battles with Fox, and thankfully so.