Even though their position in movie culture often appears ankle-deep in concrete, superhero films are fluid, reactive things. Donâ€™t think for a moment that Margot Robbie andÂ Gal GadotÂ would each be co-starring in DC Entertainment productions later this year if Marvel Studios hadnâ€™t been so sluggish in getting their own female-led franchises into gear â€“ or, for that matter, that those DC films wouldnâ€™t have been part of a come-one, come-all cinematic universe if that model hadnâ€™t already proven so wildly successful for Marvel.
Thatâ€™s one reasonÂ Deadpool movie 2016Â feels like the wildest comic-book movie of 2008. Itâ€™s a smirking deconstruction ofÂ superhero-filmÂ excesses and clichÃ©s that the industry has, by and large, already moved on from of its own accord, like token â€œhot girlsâ€, defensive heterosexuality and gravelly, anti-heroic bluster.
Imagine a satirist coming on stage in 2016 and launching into a routine about Tony Blair and Gordon Brownâ€™s dinner at Granita: however funny and keenly observed it might be on its own terms, its moment has probably passed.
Ryan ReynoldsÂ stars as Wade Wilson, a Tyler Durden-ish contract killer whose black-market treatment for cancer turns him, as these things so often do, into an X-Men-like super-powered mutant.
TheÂ movieÂ channel-hops between the present, where Deadpool 2016 is hunting the â€œBritish villainâ€ (Ed Skrein, from The Transporter: Refuelled) responsible for his extensive facial ruining during the operation, and a long-form flashback which details Wadeâ€™s doomed relationship with Vanessa (Homelandâ€™s Morena Baccarin), a gorgeous prostitute he seduces while sheâ€™s â€œon the clockâ€ in a transcendentally numb-skulled and pandering scene.
As should already be clear, Deadpool movie is laser-targeted at the Venn diagram overlap between comic-book cognoscenti and hormonal teenage boys: two groups that are no longer as synonymous as superhero agnostics might expect, but undoubtedly qualify as a lucrative market.
Its sense of humour is sadistic and puerile, with lots of gratuitous female nudity and the splatter of organs on Tarmac. But to decode its barrage of in-jokes, youâ€™ll also need a working knowledge of the superhero-movie industry itself, including Reynoldsâ€™s two previous forays into the genre (in Green Lantern and X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and also the legal niceties that keep Marvelâ€™s stable of characters split between three studios, Fox, Sony and Disney.
When the metallic Colossus drags Deadpool 2016 movie off to meet the X-Men boss-man, Charles Xavier, our hero quips: â€œStewart or McAvoy? I can never keep track of these alternate timelines.â€ Itâ€™s a great gag in context, though youâ€™d probably have trouble making it work in a job interview.
Deadpoolâ€™s awareness of his own fictional status is the characterâ€™s USP â€“ and translated into film terms, this means heâ€™s aware of the cameraâ€™s presence (in an early sequence, he flicks a wad of chewing gum onto the lens) and regularly chats to the audience, often while the actionâ€™s in freeze-frame, with Reynoldsâ€™ hyper-caffeinated jabber in these scenes owing something to Jim Carrey in The Mask.
The fourth-wall-smashing is fun in a Ferris Bueller kind of way, but itâ€™s never pulled off with the devious panache of Blazing Saddles, let alone Funny Games or Hellzapoppinâ€™. Since it’s this stuff, instead of the continuing thud-thud-thud of bad language and gore, that seems mould-breaking, itâ€™s a shame Rhett Reese and Paul Wernickâ€™s screenplay doesnâ€™t have the courage to experiment a little more.
While they were at it, they might have also written a juicier role for Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), an intriguing X-Woman sidekick who might have neutralised the alpha-bro swaggering had she been given more to do than frown and occasionally burst into flames.
Yet much like Matthew Vaughnâ€™s Kingsman, the filmâ€™s bludgeoning enthusiasm for itself goes a long way. I chuckled along with its lavatorial riffs and winced at its butcherings and impalements, which are inevitably carried off with an incongruous soundtrack from Neil Sedaka or Wham!.