Editor’s Note: Deadpool opened in wide theatrical release this weekend.
If Deadpool was a film that only existed to make the audience laugh, that would be a major problem, but instead it’s got a lot more going on.
We first meet Deadpool as Wade Wilson (after a brief costumed intro), an exceedingly crass ex-Special Forces mercenary whose free time is spent alongside alcohol, seediness, and general grime. On what would seem to be another day in this rut, Wade meets Vanessa, a woman with an identical sense of humor who spends her free time quite similarly. They fall in love almost immediately, but after many months of passion, Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Shaken, he seeks a way to cure himself and return his life to normal, finding that in an offer made by a stranger. Accepting this offer sends Wade away from Vanessa, and into the hands of Francis, literally referred to in the opening credits as a “British Villain,” who subjects him to ruthless torture and experimentation. The result is superpowers, specifically the ability to regenerate cells (AKA immortality), at the expense of his now irreparably deformed skin. Too afraid to see Vanessa again, Wade dons red spandex and goes on a manhunt for Francis, all the while cracking jokes despite his circumstances.
Whether or not you find Deadpool funny in the slightest is entirely subjective, as its writing caters to senses of humor that hinge on timing and delivery just as much as ingenuity. This isn’t a perfect script from that point of view, as its flashes of brilliance are strung together with appreciated and amusing vignettes, not exactly gut-busting wonderment. If Deadpool was a film that only existed to make the audience laugh, that would be a major problem, but instead it’s got a lot more going on. This is a film about a damaged man dealing with his life’s hardships through comedy. Comedy isn’t merely a device for laughter here, it’s what brings Wade and Vanessa together, and one of the many things that make their romance so passionate and true. Losing Vanessa, undergoing torture, gaining disfigurement, and becoming immortal all suddenly take that love away, and lay before Wade a path he sees composed of loneliness. He’s terrified that Vanessa will reject him because of his new appearance, and horrified that he may not deserve Vanessa after taking that stranger’s offer in lieu of the romantic final months she was prepared to cherish. Thus, he tirelessly searches for Francis so his disfigurement can be reversed, a goal he might know is impossible, but still exists because it could bring Vanessa back. And, that’s all that matters to Wade. He’s a vulnerable, insecure mess who deals with his struggles by holding onto memories of his love with humor’s iron vicegrip (a grip made stronger through audacious, dedicated extravagance).
If its many jokes were consistently uproarious, we’d have a modern blockbuster landmark on our hands here. Nevertheless, what we do have is still wholly satisfying.
Visually impressive and frequently funny, Deadpool is likely the most faithful adaptation of the popular comic book character we'll ever see, and sets an example for future superhero films to follow.