Without Deadpool the character, Deadpool the film would be derivative, uneventful and possibly even boring, despite how much blood is brutally spilled.
But calling Deadpool "just another comic book movie" would do injustice to a film that makes a strong effort to deliver something different.
Mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a loose cannon and a particular brand of crazy, but he also has a heart -- somewhere deep, deep down. So when a cancer diagnoses threatens his blossoming relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) he's willing to go to great lengths to find a cure ... only to discover that the "cure" was more of a curse, making him practically immortal but ugly under his mask.
You've probably seen that story before, right? A boy with rough edges meets a girl with rough edges, they fall in love, their relationship is threatened, boy obtains a lot of power and goes on a murderous rampage for revenge (or a twisted sense of "justice"). Whether the boy has super powers or not, you can make good assumptions about how the end game plays out.
But Deadpool manages to work because its title character acknowledges all of this and does his best to make it entertaining anyway. Marvel Comics' "merc with a mouth" is unique in the extent to which he breaks the fourth wall just about any time he's on the page (or now, on screen). Deadpool knows you're in the audience watching a movie, and he doesn't want you to take it too seriously.
The entire film plays with this concept joyfully. The opening credits don't contain a single real name for any of the cast and crew. It is "Some douchebag's film" starring "a hot chick." During those same credits is a clear jab at Reynolds and comic book history.
At one point, a character acknowledges that the main reason to talk to a mysterious man is that it "might further the plot."
You could make the argument that a weak plot is still a weak plot whether the film acknowledges its flaws or not, but Deadpool plays with expectations enough to make the ride funny throughout. Even most of the gags that aren't laugh-out-loud funny are entertaining enough for a chuckle.
It's also a ride that's not at all intended for the younger superhero fans out there. Deadpool is super, but he's not a hero. Shortly after the movie begins, Deadpool starts talking to the audience about the qualities of Wolverine's (the X-Men character played by Hugh Jackman) genitals. Then he cuts off a guy's head and drops a bunch of bodies on a busy intersection.
It's that kind of movie.
More than anything, Deadpool is a vehicle for bloody action and puerile jokes. But dang, it does those things pretty well.
For those immersed in the larger narrative of comic book movies, Deadpool does intertwine with the X-Men series -- albeit barely. Two minor mutants from the franchise make repeated appearances (as Deadpool says outright, this film didn't have the budget for bigger stars), but prior knowledge of them isn't required to get the gist of what's going on.
If you want another comic book movie to compare it to? Guardians of the Galaxy works. Both films are focused on being upbeat and funny over dark and serious, though the sci-fi Guardians is much more appropriate for more age groups.
Deadpool was reportedly a passion project for everybody involved, having fought off cancellation from the studio thanks to demand from fans. It shows. Reynolds looks like he's having a blast in the title role, embracing everything that makes the character fun and unique.
Without his energy and without the character's wit, Deadpool would be dead on arrival. Instead, it's able to stand out among comic book movies that may have more substance but not nearly as much style.
Directed by Tim Miller. R (strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity). 108 minutes.