There’s a scene close to the middle of Deadpool where Wade Wilson (a.k.a. Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth) has a flashback. He breaks the fourth wall, conversing directly the audience before having a flashback within the original flashback, where he breaks the fourth wall again, insisting that he’s broken the fourth wall twice, which must equate to about 16 walls (4 times 4, see?)The whole movie is like that. Characters within the film actually ask him who he’s talking to. Just when you think he’s having an internal monologue, someone points out that everyone in the film can hear him. It’s extremely meta, but in a very fun and extremely irreverent way.
Deadpool himself was a creation of Rob Liefeld (name-dropped twice in the film as a nod to his creator). Originally, Deadpool was a generic Liefeld anti-hero. A badass with guns and swords who beat up everyone in his way and didn’t care about much beyond looking cool and taking names. The character stuck, though, because creating him allowed Liefeld to save the comic book X-Force, which was slowly being drained of readership (there were a huge number of mutant titles around this time and fans were getting worn out).
Rob Liefeld left to do other things, leaving the then generic Merc with a Mouth in the hands of other writers and artists. It’s here that Deadpool evolved into the character everyone knows and loves. He was in some ways the perfect character to do this to. He was popular enough that people wanted to see him appear, crazy enough that he could be written into any action-oriented situation and finally generic enough that other writers and artists could put their stamp on him. Which they did until Deadpool became recognizable as a virtually immortal killing machine who also happened to know he was a comic book character.
This brings us back to the movie, which keeps true to the character in spades. Deadpool is irreverent, crazy and totally aware he exists as a fictional character. The action is gruesome, but not gratuitous and the character is not a damaged anti-hero looking for redemption, but a damaged sociopath who becomes empowered to be even more sociopathic.
The response to the film has largely been stellar, but there has been the occasional bad review. The substance of the reviews are notable. The A.V. Club, for example, calls the film a normal origin story in irreverent drag. Gossip site The Superficial called it ‘Van Wilder’ with swords. In both cases, it’s really the technical details of the film they get hung up on. What gets lost is that there may be no other character with which a film like this could work. Only Deadpool can get away with it. That’s what makes it so much fun. Marvel, under Disney, really focuses on the moral superiority of the good guys as well as “the world outside your window”. DC, under Warner Bros., focuses on the idea of gods among men. It’s virtually impossible for either company to offer a film remotely like Deadpool.
That’s what makes the film so much fun. It offers something new to the superhero film genre right when fatigue is beginning to set in. It was a point that James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy had to bring front and center. In an article over at Comic Book Resources, he points out that the film is successful because it brings new ideas to the table. Specifically, the idea of trying to show something that hasn’t been seen before. That’s why the film is doing so well, and that’s why there’s going to be a sequel.
Here’s hoping the filmmakers can keep it up. (See that? I made a dick joke. Go see Deadpool.)