Deadpool is the Marvel character for people who think they’re too smart for comic books but read them anyway. He’s sarcastic but also prone to self-mockery, and he takes pride in breaking the fourth wall: He seems to know it’s ridiculous to be circumscribed by a comic-book panel, so why not bust out of it now and then?
If you’re going to make a Deadpool movie—as first-time director Tim Miller has—Ryan Reynolds is the guy to play him. Reynolds delivers every line with a smirk you can hear—a good thing because Deadpool’s face is completely obscured by a stretchy red mask, the better to hide his scarred, mottled visage. There’s a story behind that face—because isn’t there always? In flashback we learn that Deadpool used to be smart-alecky mercenary Wade Wilson, who is diagnosed with incurable cancer just after becoming engaged to the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Enter evil face-mangler Ajax (Ed Skrein)—also known by his far less sexy real name, Francis—who mangles Wade’s face after promising to turn him into a cancer-free mutant with superpowers. Wade becomes the hypercynical Deadpool, running amok as he chases Francis to get revenge for his eternal bad-face day. In between skewering thugs with his trademark twin swords and letting the wisecracks fly (“I’m about to do to you what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late nineties”), our masked misanthrope reflects, with unseen but surely misty eyes, on how much he misses his lost love. The sentimental hokum is the best thing about the picture: The violence may be abundant, but it’s not particularly gratifying, and the repetitive plot mechanics don’t help. Deadpool, intended as a spiky antidote to superhero oversaturation, ends up impaling only itself.