SHIT! I sat down in the cinema thinking they were showing Clint Eastwood’s classic fifth Dirty Harry film The Dead Pool from 1989. I suppose it was weird to think that my local enormoplex would be showing a Dirty Harry film, and the joint worst in the series too. Jim Carrey and Guns ‘n’ Roses were in it, plus that bloke from Taken with the special skills set. Plus this really funny/surprisingly suspenseful bit where Harry and his doomed partner (they’re always doomed) are chased down San Francisco by a remote controlled toy car rigged with explosives. None of the above is present in Deadpool, which is the film I actually saw last night. It’s another Marvel universe film, and the Marvel universe is something I never go crazy for in anticipation but always enjoy when the film itself is on screen. The X-Men Apocalypse trailer was on before Deadpool, and I couldn’t deny it all looked very impressive, but it didn’t engage me much – just a lot of foreboding and carnage with yet another slow-motion take on a pop song to add a little on-the-nose irony. Deadpool, like Guardians of the Galaxy, subverts the Marvel universe a little, but unlike that film, this one goes the full distance – no superhero film has ever been this self-referential, right from the opening credits all the way to the very funny post-credits sequence. There’s something quite wonderful about a film firmly rooted in the same universe as the X-Men which gets away with making gags about which Professor X the characters are talking about (‘McAvoy or Stewart?’). Deadpool himself, perfectly played Reynolds (it’s the kind of performance where you can’t imagine anyone else pulling it off as well, and that’s a success in my books) is even described by the villain as ‘relentlessly annoying’, but I liked him. Would I want to be friends with him? Probably not, but I don’t have to be, so that’s okay.
Deadpool has been in a Marvel film before – X-Men Oranges: Wolverine (sorry, can’t pronounce it any other way), and in a rare case of continuity, was actually played by the same actor as we have here, the endearingly unlucky Reynolds, who, bless him, has not had a run of successful breakout vehicles. Green Lantern (which I can’t be bothered to see) was his most notorious flop, but here he’s finally made the film to hit the big time, and it really has. Records broken and all that. It’s one of the few Marvel films to be rated R in the US, which I would say is the equivalent of our 15/18 here in the UK, except it isn’t. R-rated blockbusters were everywhere in times of old, but now everything’s PG-13, which I would say is the equivalent of our 12a here in the UK, and it is. Even the kind of films that used to be PG are now PG-13. Raiders of the Lost Ark was a PG back in 1981. It would never get passed as that now. Never, ever. The majority of blockbusters have that middle-ground, PG-13/12a feel which isn’t one thing or the other, just a kind of ‘let’s please everybody’ approach. So Deadpool is an R, and a ’15’ in the UK, and its success hopefully means that we’re due a comeback for adult blockbusters. Oh wait, did I say adult? Because Deadpool is properly juvenile. An adult film for teenagers. And adults who like films like that. I’m one of those people. Deadpool is not gross-out – we’re not talking Marvel meets Scary Movie, but there are a lot of sex gags. In fact there are a lot of gags, full stop. This one makes Guardians look like Ingmar Bergman. The problem with a torrent such as this is that there’s more opportunities for flat jokes, and it’s true that Deadpool, with its title character’s stream of naughty observations, fourth-wall asides, insults and whatnot, does miss the mark more than a few times. And when a joke falls flat in the cinema, you know how much that feels awkward. However, two thirds of the jokes are great, and you know what? That’ll do. Deadpool is funny stuff.
The plot? Same old. Deadpool might be giving the Marvel universe a wedgie but it isn’t reinventing the wheel. Also, since the two Kick-Ass movies, the notion of a comic book movie that doesn’t care about taboos is no longer as jaw-dropping as it might have been. Deadpool doesn’t have the boundary-pushing, gleeful shock that Kick-Ass delivered, but, and this is a big but, it does have a lot more warmth and heart than Matthew Vaughn’s film. Yeah, there are moments where, behind the mask, I felt sympathy for this guy. The action scenes are pretty excellent, though the violence, which at the start of the film is outstandingly, hilariously vicious and unexpected, soon becomes a bit numbing to the point that by the end of the film all the stabbings were just that. More stabbings. It took a severed head being lobbed at a bad guy to get a reaction during the ending. I don’t know if what I just said is a criticism of the film or me. Supporting performances are good – Morena Baccarin’s prostitute girlfriend who can tell the difference between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back references errs a little close to wish-fulfilment fantasy, but her and Reynolds’ chemistry is sweet. Ed Skrein is solid and entertainingly nasty as ‘the British villain’, there’s a funny ‘CGI character’ sidekick and Gina Carano certainly knows how to kick proper arse as his henchperson (‘henchwoman’ sounds weird, sorry), but this is Reynolds’ show all the way. Despite feeling as though a tighter, more focused sequel would improve the many positive things on show here, this isn’t one of those annoying origins/set-up first instalment movies that feels like nothing more than a trailer for a further film. It’s a satisfying, entertaining Marvel film in its own right. Nothing is left unresolved, there’s no annoying loose-ends, no sense of feeling teased. Deadpool is Deadpool, and Deadpool is fun. I did feel old when the brilliantly named Negasonic Teenage Warhead shoots down Deadpool’s Alien 3 reference though.