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Deadpool

Year: 2016
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Tim Miller
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Fabian Nicieza, Rob Liefeld
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, TJ Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapipic, Gina Crano

After the real onslaught of superhero movies began in the early 2000s, it was already possible to be sick of them as far back as 2008. Then Iron Man happened – it had all the CGI, origin story tropes and explosive climactic battle that we know and love (or hate) from comic book adaptations since. But it had something few of them had until then, or have since – personality.

The smarmy but lovable Tony Stark seemed the role Robert Downey Jr was born to play, and the verve he gave it elevated the script far off the page and made all the checkbox-ticking elements that were already standard much more palatable.

It's actually quote ironic that the success of that film led directly to the very identifiable Marvel brand name we know now (exciting/alive/well structured or corporatised/cookie-cutter/assembly line depending on your tastes).

It's been the best example of a character-driven superhero movie... until now. Deadpool spits gleefully in the Marvel model's face by making fun not only of the superhero movie in general but the entertainment universe they exist in (visiting Professor X's School for Gifted Mutants, he wonders if the reason he only ever sees the same two people is because the studio couldn't afford more X-Men).

The fun-poking tone starts from the get go. As we wheel around the scene of a destructive freeway attack frozen in time, credits including 'a hot chick', 'a CGI character', 'Produced by Asshats' and 'directed by An Overpaid Tool' appear on screen.

It's the first of many jokes delivered both through the script itself and a series of asides and fourth wall breaks – and fourth wall breaks within fourth wall breaks, as Wade Wilson (Reynolds) reminds us at one point.

But it's also messing up the works of the origin story template itself, in the same way the movie intends to overturn everything emblematic of the genre. We meet Deadpool in costume and fully formed, launching a blistering attack on nemesis Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his goons as they race down a freeway in black SUVs, and the story of how we got there is told in a series of extended flashbacks.

Wilson is a mercenary for hire who hangs around a dive bar picking up work along with his increasingly shady contemporaries when he meets gorgeous lady of the night Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and they fall in love. When Wade is later told he's riddled with cancer that will kill him soon, he accepts an offer from an enigmatic stranger he meets at the bar, telling him not only that he can cure Wade but give him super healing powers.

But the offer is a swindle and Wade is made a captive of Ajax, who proceeds to torture him with the help of his fearsome right hand woman Angel Dust (Gina Carano), trying to force the mutation to generate a race of super soldiers to do their evil bidding.

After it emerges and Wade is cured but left covered in hideous scar tissue, he makes his escape and vows to hunt Ajax down to force the cure out of him – finally catching up with him at the freeway battle.

Like Downey Jr and Tony Stark, the role of Deadpool feels tailor-made for Reynolds' unique blend of talents. Even when he played the role the first time in 2009's uninspired X-Men Origins: Wolverine it was a waste both of him and the character.

One of Hollywood's truly gifted comic actors, his sarcastic and profane motormouth owns the film and makes the usual elements and beats fade into the background. This is truly a comic book movie about the characters, and its willingness to skewer everything fans hold so dear about the X-Men and Marvel universes makes it all the more fun.

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