Two days ago, 20th Century Fox released the trailer for Deadpool, the first solo film starring everyone's favorite Merc with a Mouth. The former X-Men villain is one of the few breakout comic characters in the in the past 20+ years. (Seriously, it's very hard for new characters to take off in the industry because of sheer publisher and fan inertia. More on that another time.) That's led to the Pool appearing in this upcoming solo film, his own monthly comic, a solo game, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, Lego Marvel Superheroes, Marvel Heroes, and much more.
This Deadpool film has been in development hell since 2009, with only positive fan feedback to some leaked test footage getting Fox to greenlight production on the film. Now Deadpool is finally coming on February 12, 2016, starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Leslie Uggams, and Andre Tricoteux. The trailer was shown to audiences at Comic-Con, but now we have the full public release. You can catch the worksafe trailer above, but Fox has also released a proper NSFW Red Band trailer, because the film itself is Rated R.
The trailer nails Deadpool. I'm pretty excited for the film. The cast is solid, the trademark humor is there and most importantly, Reynolds and director Tim Miller realize that the film has to show Deadpool as a person, not just a cartoon. A number of creators just glance at the surface version of the character and work from there.
This is the problem with the character and why getting him right is so hard.
Deadpool, the version of the character that exists in most people's minds, is the fast-talking, fourth-wall breaking, mercenary with a face like ground beef and a healing factor turned up to eleven. That's a fun character, when used sparingly. Deadpool pops up briefly in Lego Marvel, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon does his thing for a bit and then we move on. Deadpool is great for that.
The problem is you can't extend that one-note presentation of the character into an entire game or movie. High Moon Studios tried in its Deadpool game, but by the middle of my playtime, Deadpool himself grated on me. The always-on style, with constant references, jokes, one-liners, and fourth wall breaks just gets tiring. That's the bare minimum of Deadpool, but if that's all you give people, they're going to realize there's not much meat there.
In contrast, the trailer spends time with Deadpool before and after the experiments that made Wade Wilson the merc we enjoy. We see glimpses of his relationship with Vanessa, his friendships with Weasel and Blind Al, and the things he wants to achieve. Deadpool can be funny, but what some miss about the character is that he needs a purpose.
Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza are credited with creating the character, who debuted in New Mutants #98 back in 1991. Deadpool was a homage to DC Comics' Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke, but the collaboration with Nicieza allowed Liefeld's obvious copy to diverge significantly from his origins. Even from his first appearance, Deadpool's humor is on display and that version of the character continued to appear in cameos and two mini-series.
The real legwork with Deadpool wasn't done until 1997, when writer Joe Kelly and artist Ed McGuinness took on the character in a solo series. Kelly crafted the Deadpool that's been largely carried forward until today. (This is why I bristle at the 'created by' focus. Stan Lee and Bill Everett created Daredevil for example, but the modern perception of the character owes far more to Frank Miller.) Kelly found the core of Wade Wilson: a guy who wants to be a good guy, but he's really good at killing people and he lacks the moral compass to make the right choice in most situations.
Deadpool kills people, yes. Hell, he enjoys it most of the time. But at the end of the day, he wants to be loved, he wants to belong, and he wants to stand alongside the heroes of the Marvel Universe. He's just really bad at being a hero.
That's the core of the character that actually resonates with readers. Who can't relate to that? We all want to be better than who we are, we just make poor choices sometimes. Deadpool is the average person with no limits, the ability to heal from any wound, and the in-depth knowledge of the frailty of the human body. He knows he's a screw-up and the best option he has in life is to kill the right people for a change.
When Deadpool joins Wolverine's mutant-saving murder squad in Uncanny X-Force, the line he doesn't want to cross is killing a teenage clone of Apocalypse. Deadpool is the one who call Wolverine out on his lack of morality.
Deadpool ends up saving that kid and bonding with him because the kid is mistrusted by everyone. (Being a clone of Apocalypse and all.)
When he finds out that he has a daughter, Ellie, he does his best. He moves in next to her foster family. Deadpool stays close to her, but just far enough away that she's not a target. He tries to be a good dad, despite all the killing and super-villains.
I'd go so far to say Deadpool is a good dad.
Deadpool isn't just a quipping murder machine. That's a surface-level reading of the character. And yes, that surface-level is enough for Deadpool when he cameos or guest-stars, but when he's on his own you need to dig deeper. Deadpool is wacky and fun, but he's also a person. When you forget that, then you lose the ability to tell lengthy, sustained stories with the character.
So, I'm glad the film isn't forgetting the man beneath the mask. The jokes, the action, the great costume; that's all well and good, but you need to give audiences a reason to care.