Deadpool was the guy who the comic-book writers at Marvel created back in 1991, by setting aside the traditional superhero archetypes and letting their creativity flow, unconstrained by social mores. He was foulmouthed, awkward, amoral, diseased, and yet, somehow, a super-agile self-healing assassin. Last year, the writer Maddy Myers pointed out that Deadpool represents an "omnisexual, disabled, 'ugly' hero"—a subversive figure if there ever was one. Perhaps most interesting of all was his power to break the fourth wall (to be self-aware that he was inside a comic and speak directly to the reader). One Marvel writer spoke of doing "anything we wanted" because they expected the series would be canceled anyway.
But here we are, reviewing a $50 million Deadpool movie in 2016. How is it? Well, pretty good. For the most part, director Tim Miller stays true to the source material. The jokes—Deadpool's friend tells him, upon seeing his face beneath the mask, "You look like Freddy Krueger face-fucked a topographical map of Utah"—are hit-and-miss, but mostly dark and laugh-inducing. There's a delightful, cartoonish scene where Deadpool accidentally breaks his own hands and then hops around shrieking in pain, his hands dangling from his arms and flopping around. Even the opening credits are a well-executed send-up: no names of actors, just "a British villain," "a moody teen," and "a CGI character."
Would I watch it again? Sure. But is it a timeless film, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off (where, like in Deadpool, the main character breaks the fourth wall)? Far from it. For all of its poking fun at superhero tropes, the plot proves to be utterly conventional: Fight the bad guy, save the girl. There's little that's weird or imaginative or truly risk-taking about the story line or, for that matter, the film's handling of race and sexuality.
In the end, Deadpool is more fun than your average comic-franchise movie. But it represents a missed opportunity, and that leaves a bitter aftertaste.