I’ll be the first to admit that when 21st Century Fox announced that they were making a film based on the Marvel Comics anti-hero Deadpool, I had concerns. Several actually, the previous portrayal of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was nothing short of abhorrent and the fact that Ryan Reynolds would be reprising the role, an actor with two disastrous superhero flicks already under his belt – the aforementioned portrayal in X-Men Origins and more recently the title character in the omnishambolic Green Lantern. Most worrying of all however was the nature of the film itself.
Deadpool as a character operates to satirise the superhero genre, his first appearance in 1991 was as a parody of DC’s premier mercenary, Deathstroke the Terminator. As such any film featuring Marvel’s ‘Merc with a Mouth’ would need to be both comedic and highly satirical – a tough feat to accomplish in an action packed superhero film.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to realise that this is the perfect time for the film to come out. Considering the sheer number of superhero films being released at the moment, especially with DC Comics preparing to launch their own shared cinematic universe, to say that we’re over-saturated is something of an understatement but this could be a key contribution to the overall success of Deadpool.
Cast your mind back to 1996, cinema at the time was swamped with slasher-films, and yet Scream was still highly successful in the wake of this over-saturation. It succeeded because it not only lovingly parodied the genre but also stood apart as a genuinely great slasher-film. Hopefully Deadpool can do the same thing with the superhero genre.
Looking at superhero films throughout the history of cinema, the ones that have been the most successful are the ones that dared to be different. Tim Burton’s Batman followed in the footsteps of Frank Miller’s 1986 comic book, The Dark Knight Returns, presenting a far darker spin on both the genre and the character, consequently revolutionising them both and proving that comic-book adaptations could be for adults as well as children.
The success of Avengers Assemble lay in the fact that it was the result of several years’ worth of work, bringing together different characters into one film, the first time that such a feat had been accomplished. Similarly, Captain America: The Winter Soldier stands apart from other Marvel films because it did not shy away from tackling difficult issues such as surveillance and consequentialist governmental policy.
2015’s Ant-Man failed because it re-tread familiar ground, following a similar narrative structure to Iron Man. Whereas its best moments were when it was a heist-film rather than a bog-standard superhero film that we had seen before.
Deadpool has always been a different beast compared to his fellow Marvel characters, and if Fox want the film adaptation to reach its full potential then it must follow suit. It must be fairly light-hearted yet gritty, satirical of its forebears while also ensuring that it remains a solid film in its own right.
While I will withhold my final judgement until Deadpool is released on February 10th, however from the looks of things thus far it may just succeed. Ryan Reynolds is fully committed to the role – even going so far as to mock his own previous failures within the film; the action seems to be well balanced with the comedy – one need only look at the frankly stellar marketing campaign so far. Moreover, it has been certified 15 rather than the PG-13 hopefully meaning that the content and tone are as a mature as they need in order to be truly faithful to the character. If this proves to be the case then Deadpool will hopefully provide a new lens through which to view the genre, just as the character has done with comics. Ensuring that it is not just the superhero film that we need but also the one we ultimately deserve.
Image: BagoGames; Flickr.com