At this point, it is safe to say that movie-going audience is done with superhero franchise movies. You know the drill – a regular everyman / handsome billionaire is offered the chance to save the world, he does so prove himself to the love of his life / redeem himself / resolve his daddy issues, is helped along the way by an old wise mentor (preferably black / European / Asian, who dies tragically, but not before giving a rousing speech on duty and honour). Our superhero must not only overcome physical obstacles, but win the tussle within, and find out who he is, while smashing a city to smithereens. The same story is told over and over, by different superheroes, boots and reboots, prequels and sequels and alternate universes. It’s the decade of the comic-book nerd, and mainstream audiences were loving it, until it all reached a saturation point. Or has it?
The superhero movie of yore made its protagonist infallible and invincible. Then Batman Begins (2005) came along, and the flawless hero was humanised, and audiences discovered The Story; the ugly flashback which explained to us how troubled our hero really was, and how he decided to rise above his limitations. Then Marvel started making the Iron Man (2008 – ?) movies – fun, witty action-fueled romps, without the intense gravitas of Nolan’s trilogy in the DC Comics universe. Story again gave way to stunning stunts and action sequences. Production houses joined the mad race to create the next biggest summer blockbuster, which would smash all previous records.
Hot on the heels of unexpected hit Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the movie which launched Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt into one of the biggest Hollywood stars today, Marvel took a chance on Tim Miller’s Deadpool (2016), with Ryan Reynolds playing the Merc with a Mouth, who wields his katanas and cusses with equal aplomb. Like its (anti)hero, Deadpool is a movie that shouldn’t have been. Constantly spoofing the traps and tropes of its genre, the opening credits eschew the actors’ names completely, and set the tone for the rest of the film. Loaded with gags and jokes at the X-Men universe and how it might never get a sequel, Deadpool is irreverent, uncouth, crass, and oh so much fun. You will raise your eyebrows and laugh despite yourself at all the dick jokes, notwithstanding the Indian Censor Board’s best efforts to ruin enjoyment for adults.
Deadpool has many faults – Homeland‘s Morena Baccarin’s character is not given any depth, the criterion for casting Ed Skrein as the villain appears to be just a British accent, the climax isn’t particularly remarkable, the storyline leaves much to be desired, and the film seems to be playing into all the clichés it has been so gleefully mocking. But go watch it as a purely spoof movie, and you will get your price of admission’s worth. It’s a giant fuck-you to superhero movie clichés, probably in hopes that directors and writers will buckle up and write fresh storylines for the next hot ticket at the box office. To borrow a line from a rival – maybe Deadpool is the antihero we need and deserve right now?