We asked one of our regular contributors who also happens to be a mayyy-jor fan of Deadpool and the movie of the same name to give us his take on why the first film was such a huge success and why he can't wait to see the sequel when it premieres in theaters this week.
(Note: this is not a sponsored post, but PattyJ.com is part of the Showcase Cinephile Ambassador program and does have other sponsored social media posts related to the Deadpool franchise in rotation this week on FB, Instagram, and Twitter.)
Ryan Reynolds’ first Deadpool movie came out in 2016 on Valentine’s Day weekend, and it had a tall order to fill. The movie had to negotiate a lot of concepts that worked in a comic book, but were hard sells for a film. Fox had previously tarnished the character (also played by Reynolds) in the 2009 widely criticized X-Men Origins: Wolverine. On top of that Deadpool was a deep cut at the time, even for nerds. Fans, including myself, who loved the character were nervous for Reynolds’ movie, but boy were all of us wrong.
Let’s backup for a minute and think about 2009. The X-Men movie franchise had been dead in the water for three years, but Fox was still trying to hold on to their superhero movies, Warner Bros. was riding high in the middle of The Dark Knight trilogy. Iron Man had come out the year before. So this is basically pre-MCU (Marvel’s Cinematic Universe), which is almost hard to imagine now. And there I was sitting in my seat for X-Men Origins: Wolverine to start. I have never shifted gears so quickly from excitement to utter hatred. In the span of less than two hours Fox had messed up two of my favorite characters, Wolverine and Deadpool. Critics and audiences shared my opinion.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Ryan Reynolds was also a huge Deadpool fan and was also gravely disappointed with how the film hadn’t been true to the character. There was a silver lining though, Reynolds leveraging his role into a solo film for the character (after several years and a LOT of clever guerrilla warfare with the studio). And in 2016 we got the Deadpool film we both needed and deserved. It was the right time for the character to carry a film and here’s why.
2016, a lot can happen in seven years. Now not only is the MCU in full swing, but Warner Bros. and DC Comics have reboot Superman and are in production on Batman v. Superman. There are superhero movies everywhere and that meant there was material for a self-aware comedic merc with a mouth to play with everywhere. The thing about Deadpool is he knows he’s a character, whether it’s in comics or film. That’s part of the charm. He breaks the fourth wall and frequently talks to the audience. He’s snarky, chatty, often grude, and overall has a license to do and say whatever he wants.
Here’s why these movies work now, but wouldn’t have seven years ago. As much as I love (most) of the superhero movies that have come out even I understand that they’re ridiculous at times. DC takes itself too seriously and Marvel is like your friend in grade school who had every toy and video game - it’s cool, but calm down already. Deadpool, because of his nature, is allowed to say the things we’re already thinking about these movies. He makes jokes about the Marvel universe and the DC one equally.
And that ability creates a sense of comradery with the audience. It’s like we’re finally in on the joke instead of watching everyone else laugh. Breaking down the fourth wall is an old performer trick, it brings you into the world and makes it more tangible. The ancient greeks had the chorus talk to the audience, Shakespeare played the soliloquies the same way, Matthew Broderick did it in Ferris Bueller, John Cusack did it in High Fidelity, even Elvira would talk directly into the camera in a one-on-one style.
It’s old hat, but it works so well and Deadpool has been doing it for most of his existence. Breaking down the fourth wall wasn’t a part of his character from day one, but pretty close. He was created in 1990 by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza as an answer to DC’s villain Deathstroke. Originally more of a side character, he quickly found his footing and eventually started being written with a more comedic tone, and with a lens that was much more focused on being hyper-aware of the real world.
All that being said, these are also just really good movies. That’s because Reynolds loves this character and wanted to do justice to it. Many people believe that the first one did so well because of the R rating, but I disagree. It’s because he went above and beyond to be 100% loyal to the source material. And when you do that the fans love you for it. Especially comic book fans.
You don’t even have to be *as* invested in the character as I am to appreciate these movies. But if you are going to see Deadpool 2 this weekend know that it’ll be violent and it will definitely be earning that R rating. So maybe leave kids at home for this one, preferable with a babysitter and not just the family cat.
Thanks for reading!
+ Colin Carlton
Join Colin for a reading of his book Infinite Velocity, with a discussion to follow, on Tuesday, June 12th at 6pm at Mohr Memorial Library in Johnston, RI.