The first 45 minutes of Deadpool asphyxiate you (har-har—wink-wink!) with whoa-whoa-whoa, spot-the-reference geek-humor. I have to tell ya, I nearly passed out from the tedium. There were a few exceptions by that point—three truly funny, entertaining scenes: the credit sequence (many a filmmaker out there is kicking him/herself for not having thoughta that one); the season-themed sex montage, which had me rolling; and Deadpool’s “fight” with Colossus (I totally hunched over and let out a full bell laugh of the kind I haven’t had since Team America (2004)).
Then, things turn around. Our lamentable stand-up man Deadpool is tortured—the flick goes “horror,” as the cheeky voice-over tells us—and business finally starts to pick up. Forced to write to a climax, the writers discover a much better balance between teenage slapstick—this movie really does bring Marvel from children’s (The Avengers) to adolescent fare—and revenge, a fairly compelling revenge plot at that. The villain, played by the dire Ed “I’m-a-Rapper-and-the-New-Transporter” Skrein, who tries to act through his jaw muscles, an incessantly bobbing head, and flared nostrils, manages to shut Deadpool up, giving us a breath of air and a whiff of intrigue. Honestly, I was totally cheering the dude to do what he had to do to Deadpool to give us a reprieve from the nerd-wit.
By that point, with my expectations in the basement, I was shocked when I suddenly found myself enjoying this new admixture of geek-gags and dick-jokes, on the one hand, and the drive to get even, on the other. Things build nicely and the climactic confrontation—three-on-three, because he’s joined by two X-Men, both plot devices —is perhaps one the best I’ve seen in a Marvel/Marvel Entertainment/Marvel Studios film. (I’ve discussed Marvel’s last-act fatigue before.) You actually want Ajax/Francis to get his comeuppance.
And how does he? Well, believe it or not, in a Marvel movie, they do something that’s actually magic—that borrows from the DC Superman movies of the 1970s/1980s, and something that I’ve been calling for, for a long time. Picture it. Our heroes—Deadpool and the two plot devices—are at their darkest hour. The villains seem poised to take it all. And then, the inspirational music is cued—“You’re an Inspiration,” I believe. And the heroes make…. a comeback! The simplest and most effective of all superhero movie gimmicks, of course here presented—very effectively—as a wink, too. Deadpool and crew drive the enemy back, there are twists and turns, and eventually, he blows a hole in Ajax’s skull. (Which is less rousing than it ought to have been, because the writers distract with more humor—as I said about The Revenant, the revenge plot is a lost art.)
A movie of mixed results, from where I sit, but in the end, 20th Century Fox/Marvel (whatever entity) has a winner here. And even though I expect that the sequels for/future incarnations of the Deadpool character will be much less rewarding, I will say this: like it or not—and I sometimes like it, sometimes not—Deadpool is the true heir to Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker