Deadpool has arrived on the big screen amid much fanfare, and its success guarantees we haven’t seen the last of either the Merc with the Mouth or R-rated superhero fare. While the quality of the latter will vary from movie to movie, the quality of the former seems guaranteed by the near-religious zealotry actor Ryan Reynolds brings to the role. Rumored to be at least in part responsible for the leaked footage which momentarily distracted nerds across America from the MCU-dominated 2014 Comicon and lead to the movie being green-lit, Reynolds was extremely outspoken in his belief that proper treatment of the Deadpool character would lead to a successful flick. Now that the movie has earned more than five times its budget at the box office, all that remains to argued is whether or not Reynoldspool qualifies as the proper treatment of the character.
First, and most simply, Reynoldspool nails the look. Back in 2000, X-Men director Bryan Singer was responsible for determining that the “classic” superhero look wouldn’t work on screen, and so he made the decision to put the X-Men in all-black leather. A decade and a half later, Reynoldspool sports one of the most comic-accurate costumes ever to adorn the silver screen, and it couldn’t be a better decision.
Given that Deadpool’s red-black-white color combination is instantly iconic, and furthermore, since the costume is supported by character motivation (as highlighted by the movie, making the suit red means bloodstains don’t require extra Tide pens), the . Normally, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but considering how badly the character was botched in Wolverine: Origins – a fact the movie itself comments upon – we’ll take an extra moment to appreciate the costume.
From the opening credits of the movie, it is evident that this incarnation of is entirely cognizant of his status as a movie superhero. This is supported throughout the story, as Reynoldspool repeatedly addresses the audience, or asks the non-diegetic soundtrack to start again, or makes jokes about Fox’s budget and casting decisions. Ultimately, Reynoldspool might be slightly more aware of the fourth wall that most incarnations of Deadpool, but not to an extreme: for example, Cullen Bunn’s Deadpool Killogy sees a parallel universe Deadpool becoming so self-aware that he decides he must deliver his fellow superheroes from their genre-defined narrative prison by murdering all of them. Reynoldspool leans on the fourth wall liberally, but remains within the narrative during climactic scenes. Modulating Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking was a smart decision which allows Reynoldspool to gleefully partake in the meta elements of the character without deflating the tension of the central conflict.
Reynoldspool ensured that his supporting cast would be welcomed by fans of the character by pulling his friend roster from Joe Kelly’s Deadpool run, Deadpool’s first solo series and still one of the best-respected Deadpool stories among comic book nerds. In the book, Deadpool is joined by Blind Al, a blind woman he inexplicably holds hostage in his home, and Weasel, his arms-dealer and punching bag. His relationship with both these characters is tenuous: he is not above placing his associates in danger to lure an enemy, and occasionally, he even becomes so frustrated with them that he subjects them to torturous confinement in a razor-blade filled box.
The Blind Al and Weasel that join Reynoldspool onscreen, however, have been streamlined: their rough edges have been worn down, and their relationship with the Regenerating Degenerate is much closer to a conventional friendship than their comic-bound counterparts. Blind Al is not Deadpool’s inexplicable hostage, but rather a recovering addict that answered his craigslist ad; Weasel has been shifted from Deadpool’s arms dealer to Reynoldspool’s bartender. Ultimately, the two characters serve much the same function in the narrative in both versions: Blind Al shows that Reynoldspool is capable of legitimate human compassion (even if he doesn’t want to admit it), and Weasel serves as a sounding board and adversarial friend.
As acknowledged by Reynoldspool in the third act, the two X-Men that made their way into the movie are far from A-listers: while Colossus has a bit of a cult following, Negasonic Teenage Warhead is the sort of obscure mutant even True Believers might have forgotten. However by using these constraints to spark creative solutions for a movie that wasn’t given the budget to have Hugh Jackman show up (even for a cameo), these “lesser heroes” are used to elevate the movie, rather than dampen it. Colossus’s simple, Boy Scout perspective provides a counterpoint to Reynoldspool’s vengeful fury, while Negasonic’s dour attitude (but ultimate heroism) provides a balanced counterpoint between the two. One of the best interactions in the movie comes when the X-Men confront Reynoldspool about the havoc he’s wrecked on the highway: it’s a near-ideal utilization of more traditional superheroes against Reynoldspool’s anti-hero.
Perhaps the most dramatic shift from the Deadpool of the comics comes from Reynoldpool’s desire to not be included on a superhero team. Colossus makes it repeatedly clear that Deadpool would be welcome among the ranks of the X-Men, if only he would consent stepping up and fulfilling the role of hero. This is a clear departure from the Deadpool of the comics, who has attempted to join the X-Men and the Avengers on multiple occasions. In the comics, Deadpool is a perennial outside who longs to be included with the popular kids; the narrative of the movies, by contrast, seem to suggest that Reynoldspool could join the “cool kids” at any time, but actively declines the invitation.
Why this fundamental shift in the character? One possibility is that, with the advent of “nerd” culture, Deadpool no longer makes sense as an outsider: he is a legitimate pop culture icon, and reflecting this in the movie makes sense. Another is that the attractive, charismatic, and successful Reynolds – clearly the controlling creative mind behind Reynoldspool – simply cannot relate with the idea of being excluded from the cool kids table.
While Reynoldpool may not be perfect adaptation of the source character, he certainly lands very close to the mark – and as discussed in the preceding entry, variation across interpretations of the character is an indelible aspect of Deadpool’s character. However, if too many of Deadpool’s rough edges are sanded down, there is a legitimate possibility that the perennial outsider at the heart of Wade’s character may be lost. As the Reynoldspool franchise continues, there will be ample opportunity to further explore the darkness that lurks underneath the black, red, and white mask – and if the series wants to fulfill its potential to be true to the character, we’ll be seeing plenty of that darkness the sequels to come — probably to be followed immediately by a dick joke.
This is Deadpool, after all.