As a huge Deadpool fan I went into the movie hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, and after finally seeing the movie today, all I can say is it was amazing!
Seriously, this might be one of my all-time favorite comic book movies. It not only stayed true to the character, but was much more progressive than I expected.
Our movie begins with Deadpool heading out to confront Ajax, the guy who gave him his super powers but also tortured him, tried to enslave him, and caused his disfigurement. Deadpool, however, loses Ajax after the X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead interfere. The X-Men try to take Deadpool back to Xavier’s school, but he cuts off his hand to get away. We are then treated to flashbacks of Deadpool’s origin story. Wade Wilson is introduced as a mercenary with a heart of gold (somewhat). After a job, he comes back to a bar that his friend Weasel runs, where he meets a prostitute named Vanessa. The two fall in love and even get engaged, but their good times come to a halt when Wade is diagnosed with late stage cancer that has spread throughout his body.
Wade is later approached by a man Wade calls Agent Smith who tells him he works for a group that can cure his cancer and make him a hero. Wade reluctantly accepts because he’s worried about how his slow death from cancer will affect Vanessa. He’s taken to a creepy looking facility where he meets Ajax and his sidekick Angel, two super powered beings who torture him to unlock mutant genes in his DNA. Wade’s wisecracking eventually pisses Ajax off enough that he puts Wade into a machine that lowers and raises the oxygen levels making it so he can’t ever get enough air. This releases Wade’s abilities and cures his cancer, but also causes his skin to become deformed and scarred. Wade eventually escapes but is unable to kill Ajax. He returns home but worries that Vanessa won’t love him with how damaged he is and sets out to find Ajax, hoping he will fix his appearance, after which he plans to kill him. It’s around this time Wade starts calling himself Deadpool. Back in the present, Ajax wants to stop Deadpool from ruining his business, so he threatens Deadpool by kidnapping Vanessa. Deadpool recruits Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to help save her. The three battle against Ajax and his men and eventually Deadpool kills Ajax, despite protest from Colossus, and manages to save his relationship with Vanessa.
While Deadpool was always a character who sympathized with people on the outskirts of society, he was not always a feminist. However, I really enjoyed the feminist themes in the movie, though, granted, they weren’t perfect. One of the first scenes we are shown of Wade Wilson’s life before he became Deadpool is him threatening a teen boy for stalking a girl. The scene is truly beautiful and it’s even better when you realize that Deadpool charged the girl very little for the job. Deadpool doesn’t care for assholes who harass women and he’s willing to take care of people like that. We see this again when one of the other mercenaries in the bar smacks Vanessa’s ass. Deadpool’s initial instinct is to threaten the guy who did but Vanessa steps in and handles shit before Deadpool can. It really is very basic but it sends a good message to nerd boys about harassment.
Speaking of Vanessa, let’s talk about how awesomely pro sex work this movie is! In the comic books Deadpool and Vanessa first meet when she is working as a prostitute, and this remains true in the movie as well. Deadpool never demeans Vanessa for what she does and and though it’s unclear whether Vanessa continues working as a prostitute while she and Deadpool are dating, later we find out that Vanessa is working as a stripper, and her being a sex worker still appears to be a nonissue.
The other thing I loved about this movie is the lack of objectification. There was a strip club scene, Vanessa is a sex worker, and we see her and Wade having wild naked sex in a montage, but never once did I feel like the movie was objectifying women. I actually thought all of the sex scenes were relatively tame and even sweet, and the only real gratuitous scene is arguably in the strip club, but even that isn’t really gratuitous or unnecessary. Deadpool enters the strip club to talk to Vanessa. This wasn’t a random scene thrown in just for the sake of seeing tits. Plus, the way the scene is filmed the movie only really focuses on the women for a moment to set up the joke that Stan Lee is the DJ of the club. The rest of the scene, Deadpool is so focused on finding Vanessa that we aren’t really paying attention to the naked women because we are viewing things from Deadpool’s perspective. Furthermore, because of Vanessa’s good characterization and Deadpool’s lack of objection to her profession, we are more inclined to view the other women as people with a job and less as objects.
Despite how well developed she is or how well done her portrayal as a sex worker was handled, there are still issues with how Vanessa was treated in the film. She is very much damseled by the end of the film, and I was really hoping that would be dealt with differently. However, it’s not all bad—we see the movie makes fun of superhero tropes and critique superhero tropes, and in Vanessa’s case this is no exception. In the end when Ajax sticks Vanessa in the oxygen chamber we fear that she’ll literally become yet another fridged female character comic book character. However, she’s actually able to break herself out, with a little help from Deadpool’s errant axe throw. She plays the part of the damsel without being anything like your typical damsel. She is ultimately able to stab Ajax and help in the fight at least a little. It still would have been good to see any sign of her having powers, like in the comics, though. In the comics Vanessa is a shapeshifter and eventually becomes a mercenary like Deadpool, but sadly none of that was in the movie. Vanessa seems to simply be human and while she is well rounded as a character she still is sidelined as the kidnapped girlfriend. I hope her comic book history is explored more in the next movie.
I also enjoyed the discussion of feminism in the movie from the mention of International Women’s Day to Deadpool wondering about what the rules are in regards to fighting women working for his enemy Ajax. Just the fact that feminism is even brought up as a discussion point in the movie I think is a good thing. Furthermore, feminism and sexism are never made fun of in the movie—discussed lightheartedly, maybe, but still in a way that isn’t mocking. But the feminist themes are perhaps best expressed through the female characters, who are varied and express their womanhood in different ways.
Vanessa is very open and expressive about her body and sexuality. On the other hand, we have one of my favorite characters, Negasonic Teenage Warhead. She holds very little resemblance to her comic book counterpart, but is still amazing. Negasonic Teenage Warhead is a young X-Man being trained by Colossus; she is completely covered and never once wears a revealing outfit in the movie. She also skews traditional gender roles and femininity by shaving her head and wearing dark, almost gothic makeup. She is interesting and her disdain makes her the perfect foil for Deadpool while still allowing her to be her own character.
Overall, I loved this movie! I was laughing from the opening credits to the Ferris Bueller joke scene after the credits. And while the movie had some issues I am glad that it was often as subversive as the comics and discussed important issues in ways that where both lighthearted and interesting. Basically, while I hope that the next movie takes it farther, I greatly enjoyed the portrayal of one of my favorite characters in his first movie!