A traveller came upon a fork in the road in one of Frost’s most famous poems. Both equally lay in leaves and he was faced with a decision on which one to take.
You can almost see Marvel grappling with the same dilemma as the traveller when deciding on the direction that their freshest big screen superhero addition, Deadpool, should take: Follow the formulaic path trodden by many, with proven success; or boldly step into a different path. One that only a select few movies like Blade, Kick-Ass and Watchmen came out on the other end of.
So there it stood; at a fork in the road. But before taking any decisive step in either direction, Deadpool goes on a mental journey flashing images from possible futures.
From the very beginning Deadpool is self-aware. It knows what it wants and it knows that the audience knows as well. Deadpool knows that it’s an origin story of a hopefully long-running franchise and in its own twisted way wants to be just like Marvel’s highly successful, The X-Men. I know this because Ryan Reynolds’ eponymous charcter literally says it.
Deadpool respects no rules and detests both superheroes and superhero movie tropes. Ryan Reynolds who has at least once before played a superhero (Green Lantern) and appeared in nearly a handful of other comics-based movies (Blade: Trinity, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, R.I.P.D.) is the perfect actor to play the guy who has grown weary from the endless pipeline of superhero stories. Deadpool is not so much a hero as he is a narcissistic douchebag. He hurts the only person he truly loves and doubles his military career death count in a single day, only because he has lost his good looks. Reynolds plays his part with admirable indifference and you can almost sense he is using the role as an outlet for his own buried feelings and fears.
Director Tim Miller– who did the visual effects on one of my favourite films of recent times, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World– brings his creative best into the directorial seat giving life to a meaty script written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who also co-wrote another similarly dark, comedy flick, Zombieland). The director, writers, Reynolds and his co-stars work well to make Deadpool what it is. And that is a cringy, sadistic, yet crackingly fun bloody mess.
Deadpool’s irreverent humor aims its guns at any and everyone; from poor ol’ David Beckham to the studio itself and Marvel’s other franchises. Most of the jokes are the stuff of stand up comedies. Created for the here and now. The kind of twitter jokes and pop culture references that a person watching a decade from now will likely struggle to catch. Notwithstanding their urgent currency, the jokes land and they stick. You are guaranteed some hearty laughs.
By its final act, Deadpool has shown us a different way of executing the superhero movie; a movie of its genre that has borrowed from TV’s difficult men whom we hate to love. Deadpool is a vulgar Don Draper, Tony Soprano with regenerative healing abilities, Al Swearengen in red leather tights.
And just when it seems to be flirting with convention and headed for the straight and narrow, Deadpool pulls the rug out from under our theatre seats.
So there it stood; at a fork in the road. Deadpool took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.
A sequel, Deadpool 2, has already been announced and I’m more interested to see how Deadpool as a hero fits into the Marvel Universe going forward. Apart from the presence of X-Men’s Colossus and the awesomely named Negasonic Teenage Warhead, nothing else suggests that Deadpool exists anywhere else but in the real world. In his world, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the other Avengers are just but comic book creations.