Deadpool just wants things to be the way they used to be. He wants to hunt down Ajax, make him return his face to normal, and jump right back into living happily ever after with Vanessa. This seemingly simple revenge plan is emblematic of Deadpool's resistance to change. He's absolutely positive that Vanessa won't love him anymore because of his gnarly new face.
He's wrong, of course; Vanessa loves him no matter what, but superheroes on the whole aren't exactly known for welcoming change with open arms.
Neither are the comic book industry and its fans. In comics, character very rarely die; if they do, it's a solid bet that they'll be back thanks to a magic spell, errant space rock, or even a brand-new continuity that erases any changes to their existence and makes their resurrection possible.
Take Iron Man 3, for example. In the 2013 film, Marvel decided to alter the film's villain, a character named The Mandarin who first appeared in print in 1964. In the comics, The Mandarin was a racist Chinese caricature. In the film—and we'll keep this spoiler-free—The Mandarin was tweaked so that he was no longer and on offensive stereotypes. Comic book fans were thrilled to see a racist character updated after 60 long years, right?
Nope. Hordes of fans were outraged. The Mandarin may've been a deeply flawed and offensive character, but he was a constant. The comic book industry responds to the will of its readers. Characters don't change, at least not permanently, and, as Deadpool shows, they don't like change either.
Mutants like Deadpool, Colossus, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead aren't just men and women with extraordinary abilities; they're symbolic of marginalized and oppressed peoples. Just like women, racial and ethnic minorities, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community, Deadpool and his fellow mutants have to fight to fit in and be accepted for who they are.
After Deadpool's mutant DNA is released, he also struggles to accept himself. The change in his appearance is drastic, but it also comes with super-powers and cures his cancer. In other words, he's got a lot going for him. Ideally, he should focus on the big picture, but that's far easier said than done when you're noticeably different. When he walks down the street, people stare and murmur to one another. Ultimately, Deadpool's insecurities rob him of valuable time with Vanessa.
At the end of the film, Deadpool lefts Vanessa lift his mask, essentially coming out to her, and he's relieved to find that she loves him all the same. She doesn't love him despite the fact that he's a mutant; she loves him because he's a mutant. He's just Wade, and she loves everything about him.
Okay, maybe not his devotion to Wham, but she loves everything else.
This one's a classic.
In art and literature, the color red symbolizes many things. Take a quick look at this incomplete list, and see if it reminds you of anything…or anyone:
It's no coincidence that Wade chooses red for his Deadpool suit. It's eye-catching and symbolic of his extremely outspoken and fiery personality. The allusions to violence it drums up also reflect his brutality. That guy skewers bad guys like cubed steak at one of Aunt Shmoop's old fashioned fondue parties.
Can you imagine Deadpool wearing a cheerful yellow costume, or maybe a soothing green ensemble? Yeah, us neither. For the Merc with a Mouth, only red will do. It's lascivious, combustible, and thoroughly savage, just like him.
Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Wade Wilson in a New York City mercenary, always down to make a quick buck by ruffing up some dudes who deserve it. At his favorite watering hole, Sister Margaret's School for Wayward Girls, he meets Vanessa, a prostitute, and they fall in love and get engaged. Mazel tov!
Right after Wade and Vanessa get engaged, Wade is diagnosed with late-stage cancer. We know what you're thinking: Cancer? That's not an adventure! Zip-lining through the jungle is an adventure. Riding a roller coaster after you've eaten an entire plate of nachos by yourself is an adventure. Here's the thing: In the life of a hero, "adventure" means anything that disrupts their ordinary world, and cancer is one heck of a disruption.
Vanessa meets Wade's diagnosis with determination to stave off its effects for as long as possible: vitamins, experimental drugs, faraway clinics. She'll do anything to ensure they have as much time together as possible. Wade, meanwhile, isn't having it. He's resigned to his fate and decides to leave Vanessa in the dead of night without saying goodbye so that she won't see his eventual decline.
Wade meets his mentor when he agrees to let Ajax trigger his mutant DNA. Ajax may turn out to be a sadistic scumbag, but, initially, he offers Wade hope and the promise of superpowers: two things that help mitigate Wade's fears about his diagnosis.
Wade crosses the threshold when the torture tank awakens his mutant DNA and disfigures him. His cancer is effectively cured; he has super healing powers, strength, and reflexes; and he thinks he looks so incredibly grotesque that he adopts the masked persona "Deadpool." After that, he can't go back to his old life. He moves in with Blind Al, lets Vanessa think he's dead, and swears revenge on Ajax.
Deadpool lays waste to throngs of Ajax's lower-level baddies as he works his way up the food chain to Ajax. He's also tested at the strip club, where fails to talk to Vanessa. Along the way, Deadpool's greatest allies are Weasel, who keeps it real; Blind Al, who loves Wade just the way he is; and Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who are willing to set aside their grudges about Deadpool's dislike of all things X-Men and help him save Vanessa after Ajax kidnaps her.
Deadpool prepares for his big fight with Ajax by gathering all the guns he, Weasel, and Blind Al can find and packing them into a duffel bag to bring to the shipyard.
Deadpool goes head-to-head with Ajax at the shipyard while Vanessa's life hangs in the balance. Deadpool emerges victorious—kind of. He doesn't get his face fixed, but he does kill Ajax, and Vanessa's life is spared.
Deadpool's prize for besting Ajax is being reunited with Vanessa. His victory saves her life…and lets her know that he's been alive this whole time. Uh oh.
The Road Back is where the hero has to jump back into his journey and head toward the Ordinary World. For Deadpool, that means having a difficult conversation with Vanessa about how he could desert her in the middle of the night and how he could be alive this whole time without telling her.
The Ordeal is major, but the Resurrection is even major-er. Fine, that's not a word, but in Deadpool's case, this difficult obstacle takes the form of Vanessa lifting his mask and seeing his disfigured face. This is what he feared more than anything; this is why he left the love of his life in the middle of the night, consented to being tortured, started wearing a mask, and dedicated his life to finding Ajax. No one can help Deadpool with this one; he's all on his own and, oddly enough, in order to succeed, he needs to not put up a fight.
This stage is the final reward. Our hero has passed all tests, ordeals, and resurrections with flying colors—or at least a solid C- average—and he's found a way back into the ordinary world. For Deadpool, that happens when he and Vanessa make up. She forgives his deception, she still loves him, and she isn't so shallow that she's repulsed by his appearance. If this wasn't the first in a planned film franchise, we'd say that these two crazy puzzle pieces were going to start planning their wedding and live happily ever after.
When you want gritty realism for your superhero flick, you don't set it in Peoria; you set it in New York.
New York City's shadowy corners and dangerous alleyways are Wade Wilson's stomping ground as a mercenary and Deadpool's playground as an Ajax-hunting vigilante hell-bent on revenge. He's a rough-and-tumble man in a rough-and-tumble city that's chewed up and spit out lesser men. Deadpool's seen things. He's done things. And the film's setting reflects his lack of glossy superhero sheen.
New York is also a place where anything can happen, whether that's dim sum at 3:00 in the morning or being recruited for a top-secret torture program that turns mutants into super soldiers using their DNA and cures metastatic cancer. It's a city that's full of potential, and its underbelly is home sweet home to Deadpool.
Its colorful characters are his family, whether we're talking about Vanessa, the hooker with a heart of gold; Weasel, the bartender at his favorite dive; or Blind Al, the visually impaired senior citizen roommate he found through Craigslist. (Like one does.) Deadpool just fits. He's New York City in human form: volatile, open-minded, moody, and resilient.
In keeping with his "Maximum effort!" catchphrase, Deadpool employs a pair of splashy narrative techniques to tell the titular character's tale.
Deadpool regularly breaks the fourth wall to address the audience directly. It's a technique that meshes well with his self-awareness and inability to stay silent for more than ten consecutive seconds. Like Bugs Bunny, Ferris Bueller, and Patrick Bateman before him, Deadpool uses direct address to make jokes and to explain himself and his movie:
DEADPOOL: You're probably thinking, "My boyfriend said this was a superhero movie, but that guy in the red suit just turned that other guy into a f***ing kebab!" Well, I may be super, but I am no hero. And yeah, technically this is a murder, but some of the best love stories start with a murder. And that's exactly what this is: a love story.
Your English teacher probably told you that good writers "show, don't tell." Clearly, Deadpool's never met your English teacher. As the example above demonstrates, he not only wants to make us laugh, but he also wants us to know what makes him tick and how to understand his origin story. Control freak much?
Deadpool is an origin story that's told mostly through flashback. During the film's opening credits, Deadpool's already knee-deep in the film's first big fight scene: a highway clash between Ajax's convoy and our masked protagonist. From there, we flash back to Deadpool's cab ride to that fight. Then we flash back two years before that, to where our story really begins, with Wade Wilson the mercenary, intimidating a sketchy pizza delivery guy for tequila money.
The effect of all this flashing back in time emphasizes Wade's transformation into Deadpool, as well as his motivation for said transformation. By that we mean that, when we first meet Deadpool, it's quickly apparent that he's not like other superheroes, and that makes us want to know where in the world this trash-talking, hyper-violent dude came from.
Once our curiosity is peaked, the film helpfully flashes back to a kinder, gentler Wade. He meets Vanessa and falls in love, and then we really wonder how he ended up in a full-body costume skewering bad guys like teriyaki chicken on the expressway. The flashback explains it all. It also underscores that, beneath the clever quips, Deadpool's just a guy who misses his girlfriend.
For proof that satirizing superhero movies is a tricky business, look no further than Deadpool. With its digs at the long-running X-Men film franchise, as well as its very own production studio, Deadpool desperately wants to subvert the superhero movie genre, and it does…kind of.
Deadpool is one of just a handful of R-rated superhero movies, and it's the only superhero movie that takes sex, violence, gore, and profanity to stratospheric heights. It's also a raucous and self-aware comedy, even if not all of the gags land. (Limp Bizkit jokes in 2016? Oof.) The stream of bawdy pop culture references, creative insults, and geeky in-jokes that flows from behind Deadpool's red mask is rivaled only by the lumpy torrent of blood and guts he leaves in his wake when he heads home to Blind Al.
Still, Deadpool follows many of the superhero genre's constructs. It's heavy on the action, filled with weapons, combat, and a car chase. It's also a love story, right down to its damsel in distress, that follows familiar story beats: Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy struggles to win her back. Deadpool puts its own dirty spin on these beats, but it still hits them all the same. Like all superhero films, it ends with a huge action set piece (in this case, a shipyard), and like all Marvel movies, it includes a cameo from Stan Lee. In the end, Deadpool may not subvert all the clichés of the superhero genre, but, at a minimum, it calls them out, and that's more than we can say for most movies that are heavy on the tights, capes, and tidy ethics.
Comic book origin stories were all the rage at the start of the 21st century, and, as a general rule, their titles tended to be short and to the point. As in, "just the character's name and that's it" short and to the point.
Spider-Man. The Avengers. Wonder Woman.
There's no need to bog viewers down with flashy adjectives and wholly unnecessary verbs up front. For origin stories like Deadpool, the goal is to introduce the star. Besides, if that first flick goes well, there will be plenty of room for flowery, vaguely descriptive titles later in the franchise.
(Yeah, we're looking at you, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.)
For a superhero flick that tries to be very nontraditional, Deadpool wraps its ending up in a neat little bow.
Deadpool beats the bad guy and gets the girl. Vanessa may be mad at him for letting her think he's been dead this whole time (whoops!), but that fades in an instant, and soon she's in Deadpool's arms.
There's also a callback to an earlier joke in the film. When Wade and Vanessa argue about his desire for her to leave before his cancer gets bad, he tells her that he's going to boom box Wham's "Careless Whisper" outside her window in the next life. Vanessa's not having it. She doesn't want to think about '80s slow jams in the next life; she wants to focus on Wade's life right now and, more specifically, how to prolong it. At the end of the film, as Deadpool and Vanessa make out amidst the ruins of the shipyard and the camera zooms out, he blasts "Careless Whisper" off his smart phone.
You can look at this callback two ways. On one hand, it suggests that after so much turmoil, Deadpool and Vanessa have fallen right back into their own ball-busting version of romance, and everything's going to be okay. On the other hand, it might also suggest that these two lovers are actually in the next life. Not literally; they're not in the afterlife or anything like that. Rather, now that Wade has a new job as Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth, their lives are going to be completely different than they were the first time around, and not just because without his mask, Wade looks like a giant dried salami.
Sorry, Wade. There's just no other way around it.
Deadpool works hard to earn its R rating. It's over-the-top in its depiction of violence, sex, and profanity. That's kind of Deadpool's calling card as a character. It's also frightening at times, particularly when Wade's being tortured at the Weapon X workshop.
And did we mention the profanity?