Deadpool. A character pretty much known only to the more diehard comic-book fans a year ago is now a household name. The highest grossing R-rated film ever in America. Worldwide grosses of $750 million and still rising. That’s more than any previous X-Men film. That’s WAY more than the DC tentpole feature Batman v Superman: Dawn of Batfleck. Ready to entertain and titillate a new wave of fans, Deadpool comes to home video this week.
The official synopsis fails to capture the reason why the film was such a success: its irreverent tone, which predominantly manifests in the form of its fourth-wall breaking titular anti-hero. He’s a larger than life character whose incessant banter during battle puts Spider-man to shame. Quips and vulgar comments fly as fast as the bullets, setting Deadpool apart from the majority of the family-friendly franchises that have come before.
Written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland), directed by Tim Miller and seemingly driven to fruition by lifelong Deadpool fan and star Ryan Reynolds, the end result is a labor of love. These people understand the character, and in bringing him to the big screen remained true to him. The R-rating is a component of this, but the project was also helped by its smaller budget. With a studio unwilling to risk big bucks on something that may draw a niche audience, the investment was low. This brought two benefits: first the lack of studio interference, and second forcing the filmmakers to deliver a focused feature. Deadpool is a film with little fat, a lean and improvised affair. There was no budget for 2 henchman, so the characters were rolled into one, a contrast to the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse where everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at the screen and little of note is left in the memory (full review coming soon). Budget constraints can be detected, but the soul is there. Deadpool feels like an uncompromising adaptation.
The film takes a less conventional approach to structure, flipping back and forth chronologically, a fragmented approach that reflects Deadpool’s mind and gives the movie a frenetic feel that never becomes confusing. It allows a telling of a origin story, but shakes it up into something more attention grabbing. This aids the pace of the film, which packs plenty in to its efficiently snappy runtime. An opening sequence perfectly conveys the irreverent humor about to unfold, whilst a “fucking montage” gets you graphically familiar with the relationship between Wilson and his girlfriend Vanessa. It’s both hilarious and effective in endearing you to the pair. The small scale is further complemented by a narrative fueled by personal vendetta rather than any big stakes, something which only seems to amplify the already loud, brash (yet affable) nature of Wilson/Deadpool himself.
Much of the film rests on Reynolds, and darn it, he’s pretty damn good. “Born to play the role” seems a little hyperbolic, but it’s true. There’s so much gusto you can’t help but like him. He also does a good job conveying some of the darker, painful moments his character has to endure. Baccarin achieves much with a role that is fleshed out little beyond some initial trash talk and kinky outfit-fueled banter. They’re effective as a couple, and sometimes that’s hard to achieve.
TJ Miller provides a good foil to Wilson, while Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) is a brilliant addition as the (largely ignored) moral center of the film. Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead probably rates as the coolest character in the film…because Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Ed Skrein and Gina Carano are effective as the villainous Ajax and Angel Dust respectively, but as usual with these type of films, the bad guys end up feeling a little one note.
Outside of the edgier humor and gung-ho cast, it’s pretty familiar stuff. Guy gets girl, guy gets screwed, guy loses girl, guy gets screwed over, guy fights to get girl back. The R-rating and seemingly unfettered lead makes Deadpool feels like a breath of fresh air even though if you look closer, its core is very familiar. What was an under the radar surprise initially in theaters may disappoint those expecting something radically different. The brand of coarse humor is an acquired taste, as is Deadpool himself, who is in virtually every scene. But if you’re open to this irreverent humor, the film is a blast, one that pokes fun at itself and the superhero genre in general. In this cinematic age where a new entry seems to pop up every month, Deadpool came along at just the right time to shake things up a bit.
THE PACKAGEThe Blu-ray transfer of Deadpool is a solid one with impressive contrast and good detail, notably on costumes and other aspects set design. Some scenes lose a little definition, notably the CGI-heavy portions, but this is more a result of the limited budget of the film, an acceptable sacrifice given the creative freedom afforded to the team. The palette is not as washed out as some other Marvel films, nor as hyper-colorized as the X-Men films, giving it a rather natural feel, if a little murky at times. No artifacts are noticeable. The film is backed up by a stonking and often hilarious soundtrack which sounds great here.
The release includes a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film along with a downloadable UV code, and special features are plentiful. There are nearly 20 minutes of deleted/extended scenes (thankfully!) accompanied by commentary from director Tim Miller to provide context for their exclusion. A gag reel provides a few extra laughs, while plenty of insight is added with From Comics to Screen…to Screen, a lengthy feature (80 minutes) made up of 5 smaller parts looking exhaustively at every aspect of production that went into bringing Deadpool to life.
Two audio commentaries are included. The first, with Ryan Reynolds and screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, is a rather playful listen while offering some interesting pieces of information. The second features director Tim Miller and Deadpool co-creator/comicc artist Rob Liefeld and offers more technical information about making the film and how they stayed true to the source material. A gallery shows off concept art, costumes, Storyboards, Pre-Vis, and the Stunt-Vis Shipyard sequence. Each gallery is broken down into sub categories, but annoyingly it lacks a “play all” button. Finally, Deadpool’s Fun Sack contains videos and stills of the promotional assault on our airwaves by Reynolds as Deadpool; think breakfast chat show appearances, You Tube promos, and the like. Overall, this is a release that’s more stuffed that any chimichanga.
THE BOTTOM LINEDeadpool offers little truly new, but it has a hell of a lot of fun stamping its own warped sensibilities on the superhero genre. The more conventional aspects of the film are carried along on a wave of vulgarity, violence and a lot of heart. It’s an uncompromised vision, presented in a absolutely stuffed Blu-ray release, and above everything else, it’s a lot of fun. What more do you need?
Deadpool is available on Digital HD April 26 and Blu-ray and DVD May 10 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.