In the 15 or so years since Fox’s X-Men made superheroes into big box office business, we have had more than 30 Marvel films and about 10 from rival DC. Most of us refer to them as ‘comic book movies’, but the discerning fan (ahem!) would say that they are ‘graphic novel adaptations’. While comic books refer to slim periodicals with serialized storylines, graphic novels are generally thicker publications with epic, self-contained stories. It can also be implied that graphic novels are targeted at older audiences and therefore contain more sex and violence compared to the weekly comic periodicals, although those lines are quite blurred these days.
If one were to draw the same parallels on the big screen, then indeed most of the Marvel films so far have been ‘comic book movies’, designed for family viewing with appropriate doses of humor, as in the case of The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. Others like the X-Men films and the DC Comics Batman films directed by Chris Nolan have been fairly grim and intense, but without any blood or gore. The only R-rated superhero films so far have been the two Punisher movies in 2004 and 2008, both of which sank without a trace…the relentless darkness and violence severely limiting their box office potential.
So, it’s really quite remarkable that we have today an R-rated superhero film Deadpool, which has hit the sweet spot between comedy (mostly in the form of profanity) and graphic violence. I just finished watching it and while it’s mostly entertaining, I think the real credit for its record opening weekend should go to the marketing department at Fox. For several months now, some smart people at Fox have been churning out everything from posters to public service messages to introduce this cult character to a wider audience. This ‘Touch Yourself Tonight‘ PSA video on testicular cancer is particularly funny.
As a result, awareness of the movie was sky-high and has led to this monster box office success. Reynolds is perfectly cast as Deadpool and he must be feeling very vindicated as this is a film that he has personally campaigned over several years to get made. His first outing as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn’t particularly successful and then he starred in the disastrous Green Lantern DC Comics film two years later. At that point, his superhero career must have appeared done and dusted. But a leaked test reel for Deadpool scored such high acclaim for its perfect combination of action and humor that the studio decided to take the plunge.
The end product is pretty entertaining, but is very dependent on humor and action to keep the momentum going. The extended opening action act which runs for quite a bit of time (as it is interspersed with flashbacks) is genuinely brilliant and you’re pretty much hooked from that point on. Serious scenes, whether they are of Reynolds with his love interest (played by Morena Baccarin) or of Reynolds’ torture by nemesis Ajax (played by English actor Ed Skrein), seem to run out of steam very quickly. The script writers cleverly use humor as a tool to patch up holes in the plot or get through a corny scene; just get Deadpool to break the fourth wall and admit to the audience how lame it is!
Overall, definitely worth watching if you don’t mind profanity and violence, mixed in with superb action choreography. Maximum effort!
Of course, you should stay back for the post-credits stinger. Hint – it’s an homage to a post-credits scene from a beloved 1980’s movie!