Comic book movies usually work by a formula. In the origin stories, the hero (or in some rare cases, heroine) gets special powers or is born with them or builds a special suit or some otherworldly being gives them their powers. Their home or family or lover is threatened by a powerful villain and at the end, more often than not there is a huge CGI showdown that levels whole cities. Of course, team-up movies are in fashion these days, in which case the villain is a godlike alien who wants to destroy earth or enslave her people. But the ending is nearly always the same: a mishmash between CGI characters destroying CGI buildings.
Precious few movies from the genre try to break the mould. The Dark Knight did that in 2008, and Deadpool did that in 2016. As the sequel releases this week, let us take a look at what made the original so compelling.
Deadpool was made on a shoestring budget – a laughably low 58 million dollars. Even the Netfix movie Bright took 90 million dollar worth of cash. And on that budget, Deadpool managed to earn upwards of 780 million dollars.
But Deadpool was subversive beyond the numbers. Here was a superpowered being not afraid to laugh at himself. Or other people. Or pretty much anything. He picked plot holes in his own storylines and movies. He frequently broke the fourth wall, addressing the audiences directly. Even though his origin story is pretty dark, it is hard to stay sad when the man himself does not dwell upon his cruel fate, unless to crack jokes about it.
Wade Wilson is a former special-forces operative who is now working as a mercenary. He gets diagnosed with cancer and undergoes a shady procedure under the supervision of a shadier Ajax. His cancer is not cured but he gets incredible healing abilities that perpetually fight the tumours in his body. Only, his face is scarred. Oh, and his brain is screwed up. He is borderline insane.
He looks for his girlfriend, certain that she will abandon him, scared of his disfigured face. He watches her surreptitiously. In the film, these scenes are the only indication that the Merc with a Mouth actually holds inside him deep pain that he hides by making fun of things. There is a fight scene at the end, but it is mostly stunt-work due to budget constraints. But really, everybody knows the appeal of Deadpool isn’t his fighting skills or how he heals himself, but the way he lampoons pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.