For good or ill, the immense popularity of superheroes has yet to wane in mainstream culture. Films featuring masked crime fighters seem to be guaranteed box offices successes – although critical reviews are often mixed, to say the least.
The company that created – and continues to capitalize upon – the superhero craze is Marvel Studios, a branch of the comic book behemoth responsible for iconic characters like Spider-Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Wolverine.
Since the success of 2008’s “Iron Man,” Marvel Studios has dominated the box office, maintaining its rule through formulaic storytelling and ceaseless fan-service. Each new film is molded in order to possess the trademark qualities of a Marvel movie: inoffensive characters, slick visuals and feel-good moments placed alongside uninspired action sequences.
Marvel’s latest release, “Deadpool,” deliberately flies in the face of the studio’s established standards. A hard-R action-comedy, the film features filthy humor, gratuitous nudity and graphic violence in spades – qualities present in all great trash cinema. However, “Deadpool” isn’t great; it’s merely good, a fun if somewhat forgettable way to spend eight bucks on a lazy afternoon.
Ryan Reynolds stars as Wade Wilson, a mutilated mercenary who creates the persona of Deadpool as he sets out to find Francis (Ed Skrein), the man responsible for both his disfigurement and the kidnapping of his girlfriend, the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).
Aiding Deadpool in his quest are two X-Men: the metallic giant Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and his surly apprentice, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Both superheroes are boring, their most interesting characteristics being Colossus’ thick Russian accent and Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s absurdly lengthy name. It’s painfully obvious they serve only as easy targets for the loudmouth Deadpool to make fun of.
The best character of “Deadpool” – besides the wisecracking assassin himself – is a mere mortal. Comedian T.J. Miller shines as Weasel, the unmotivated bartender at Deadpool’s favorite dive. Squinting through a thick pair of glasses and a scraggly beard, he delivers some of the film’s best lines in a monotonous tone which undercuts the pure vulgarity of his speech.
While several of Deadpool's resolutely crass jokes are funny, the ceaseless barrage of humor eventually grows tiresome. Viewers will struggle to remain invested in the film, as Deadpool himself frequently points out the fictional nature of the film and comments upon superhero tropes featured throughout the film.
The protagonist’s very superpower leaches all drama from the movie’s otherwise exciting fight scenes: able to recover from any wound sustained in combat, Deadpool is essentially invincible. Audiences are assured of his victory before any physical conflict arises.
Moviegoers with weak stomachs should abstain from “Deadpool” – the film is unapologetically offensive. Only fans of exploitative action flicks with a few bucks to spare should check it out: although “Deadpool” lands a few punches, it's not a knockout.