Before I totally understood what the title character was, I thought Deadpool was cool. In my middle school years was when I first got into comic books, mostly because of the animated X-Men series from the 1990s. Because of that, it was Marvel Comics all the way. I do not know how it came into my possession, but somewhere along the line I became the owner of a Deadpool action figure. I did not have any accessories for it, so maybe one of my friends left it at my house? I am not even sure I knew immediately that it was a Marvel hero. I simply saw it as a neat looking toy. While I gained more knowledge of my favorite comic book properties, I do not believe I fully understood the “merc with a mouth” until the test footage for his eponymous movie leaked on YouTube. From that point on, I watched more videos to get a feel for Deadpool as a character. The internet can be your best friend or your worst enemy. This was also at a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was coalescing into the meta-narrative that became its famous phases, concluding with Avengers: Endgame (2019). There is also a whole backstory of how Marvel properties became detached from this overarching story arc, and Deadpool was the symbol for the once disjointed nature of these films. Interestingly, it was also going to be the first Marvel movie rated R, and would rival The Passion of the Christ (2004) for box office returns for a film of that rating. Deadpool (2016) is a vastly different movie, and while at times enjoyable, some of the material will leave you wondering how it ever made its way into the Disney and MCU folds.
Like most first installments of a franchise, Deadpool is an origin story. Also, get ready for some trademarked fourth wall breaking at the start, as our title character (Ryan Reynolds) gets into a random taxi driven by Dopinder (Karan Soni) on his way to a mission. He is chasing a man named Francis (Ed Skrein), who goes by the codename Ajax. Interspersed with Deadpool catching up to Francis’ entourage and brutally murdering them are flashbacks to how he got to this point in the first place. Deadpool did not start out in the now ubiquitous red and black mask that matches the rest of his costume. Instead, he was once a former special forces soldier turned local mercenary named Wade Wilson. He seems to have a soft heart for people in trouble, getting revenge for teenage girls with stalker ex-boyfriends. After completing such a feel-good assignment, he meets up with a prostitute at a bar for other mercenaries run by his friend Weasel (T. J. Miller). The lady of the night is Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and their date turns into a love affair. Unfortunately, on the same night that Wade proposes to Vanessa, he falls ill with cancer. Such is the advanced stage of the disease that they tell him that he does not have long to live. Wade’s first reaction is to leave, not wanting to put Vanessa through the trauma of seeing him die. Another option presents itself, though, when a stranger (Jed Rees) shows up in Weasel’s bar offering a solution to Wade’s illness. He is recruiting for a secretive weapons program that turns regular people into superheroes with incredible powers. The person in charge of this program is Ajax, and Wade’s latent sarcasm angers Ajax, who particularly does not like to be called Francis. In the process of unleashing Wade’s mutant genes that would unlock his powers, which makes him stronger and able to heal from literally any wound, his skin is turned into a melted mess. Francis claims that he can counteract the side effect to his flesh, but does not want to because he dislikes Wade. A fight ensues that results in the lab being burned down and Francis escaping. Looking as he does, Wade feels he cannot return to Vanessa. Instead, he dons the costume and moniker of Deadpool, and tracks down Francis so that the nemesis can get rid of his skin condition. Just as he is on the verge of interrogating a wounded Francis, two X-Men in the form of Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) intervene. Doing so allows Francis to escape, and now Deadpool must start over. Francis’ next move is to kidnap Vanessa, which he does right before Wade finally musters up the courage to speak to her once more. Given the resources at Francis’ command, Deadpool enlists the help of Colossus and Negasonic in order to rescue Vanessa. In order to do so, Deadpool has a final showdown with Francis where it is revealed that the latter lied about fixing the former’s appearance. Having no other reason for keeping such a villain alive, Deadpool shoots Francis in the head killing him, much to the chagrin of the boy scout-like Colossus. A confused Vanessa is finally reunited with Wade, and that is basically where the movie ends.
Most of Deadpool is irreverent and crass. There is gratuitous violence, foul language, and nudity. It is clearly made for an adult audience. While I firmly cover my eyes for the nude scenes, I am not sure the rest is entirely necessary either. The only reason I bring this up is because the character has become so popular as to almost break the internet when anything remotely related to Ryan Reynolds and/or his most famous role is released. I can all but guarantee you that, if you were to go to some public place right now (presuming you are comfortable doing so), you will find somebody wearing something related to Deadpool. And I am not talking solely about adults donning such merchandise, but young and old alike. I do not think that anything in this film is appropriate for minors, or even really for adults for that matter. Images have power, and too much exposure to the wrong ones can be damaging to your soul. While I am sure the people behind these movies are not all that concerned about the hereafter, I do sense that this was some pause when they made the sequel. Deadpool 2 (2018) is equally as crass and violent as its predecessor, though gone is the nudity and it tackles some weightier subjects. The conspiracy theorist in me says this is because Disney was in negotiations to buy Twentieth Century Fox, and the Deadpool franchise was a key piece of that transaction. Hey, it makes money, and Disney is a business for and foremost, no matter how magical is its persona. Thus, they toned the sequel to show that it, too, could be in the Disney family, even if extended.
But I am getting ahead of myself, so let us get back to the first Deadpool. One of the moments I can appreciate as a practicing Catholic is the mentoring that Colossus attempts with Deadpool. Though most of what the giant, metal Russian has to say falls on the purposely deaf ears of the “merc with a mouth,” Colossus at least says the right things. When Deadpool is about to murder Francis, Colossus momentarily stays his hand. With the gun pressed against Francis’ skull, Colossus shouts “Four or five moments!” Confused, Deadpool allows Colossus to continue. The Russian goes on to explain that it is really four or five moments in a person’s life that make the difference in being a hero or not. This is a great message to remember if you are struggling to be a Christian. I know that sometimes I wonder if I am doing enough for God, which is a sin in and of itself. But what God wants is for you to be a Christian when it truly matters. Did you pray this morning? Did you go to Mass this weekend? Did you help a person in need? I do not mean to make this out to be a checklist, like if you do these couple of things then you are set and you can go back to your sinful ways. To be clear, God loves you no matter what you do. But being a Christian involves acting as one, including turning the other cheek to our enemies. This is not what Deadpool does, and him shooting Francis makes Wade into an anti-hero. But at least he was fighting for the right reasons?
I enjoy Deadpool. I own a digital copy of it. Yet, the more I grow in my Faith, the less I watch it. When I do, there are still some jokes at which I chuckle. At the same time, there is so much content in it that I could do without. Still, there are definitely worse movies.
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