The first 20 minutes or so of this movie are pure gold. I don’t even have to defend that part but I will trumpet them because I love low-hanging fruit. Besides, at the beginning is usually the best place to start. We begin with the origin story of young James Howlett and Victor Creed. We learn that Victor and James are brothers which is an interesting twist on what we have seen in the comic books. It definitely sets up complication within their later adversarial relationship.
Anyway, the first scene is followed by a great title sequence where we see James and Victor fighting in several wars through history in the United States Army (and earlier incarnations of it). I liked the idea of the two of them being warriors because they’re the best at what they do and what they do is fighting. It clearly and quickly paints a picture of the two of them as a brothers and teammates. With no dialogue and brilliant facial expressions and editing, we get the entire big picture between these two characters.
This is followed by meeting Team X, a team pretty much comprised of characters ripped from the comic books.
They threw in Fred Dukes but he really works especially the way that Kevin Durand plays him in a more military setting. He comes off as a meat and potatoes kind of guy who lacks fear due to having indestructible skin. When he reappears he is fat, hard to move, hard to hurt and operates on a more mercenary mentality.
Zero is played by Daniel Henney and does a great job. Not much to say here as he is a loyal government soldier who seems emotionless at first but it turns out their are subtle touches here and there that betray him as an actual human being.
Will.i.am plays John Wraith which I didn’t even realize until I looked it up just now. He does a good job for somebody who probably has fifteen lines in the whole movie. He especially does a good job considering that rappers are notoriously bad actors.
Dominic Monaghan plays Chris Bradley and is actually really a fun character. He’s a little sad and a little mischievous and he comes off great in the movie. Unfortunately he is so under utilized that he either needed a bigger part or needed to be taken out. I love his first scene in the carnival. It’s one of the highlights of the movie.
Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson is very much how I imagine a proto-Deadpool on film. He constantly ran his mouth in an amusing fashion and believably kicked ass. My problems come later when he gets his mouth sewn shut and gains everybody’s superpower. I’m all for throwing out an original idea and taking a left turn from the comics sometimes. What they did was take a character who has “talkative wise-ass” as a main trait and then turned him into a cold and unfeeling character. They definitely would have done better to put the wackier Deadpool onscreen and just trick him into being the bad guy somehow. I’m looking forward to them giving this a second chance in the rumored Ryan Reynolds Deadpool movie.
Danny Huston’s William Stryker is a great take on the character. Obviously Brian Cox was too old to play a young William Stryker. Huston plays Stryker with ambition while Cox plays him with smoldering hatred. Both are valid and the events of this movie show a lot of how the character makes that change.
Liev Shreiber is awesome as Sabertooth. He really captures the dangerous arrogance that I always saw in the character. He is really fun to watch in the role, especially in confrontations with Wolverine. It’s unfortunate that they cast Tyler Mane as Sabertooth in X-Men. He had the basic look of the comic book version but either did not have the acting chops or simply was not written as knowing Wolverine from before. I love pro-wrestlers but he should never have been cast in the role. Shreiber brings more fun and more depth to the character.
Lynn Collins is good as Kayla and I loved the back and forth between her and Wolvie. This is pretty much straight out of the comics and they couldn’t have done better with her. It did not hurt that Hugh Jackman seemed to bring out the best in her portrayal.
Which brings us to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He was excellent but he is always excellent as Wolverine. There is a reason they keep building the X-Franchise around the guy. I don’t care that he’s too tall or whatever because he is entertaining. He’s funny, believable as an action star and has the acting chops to pull off drama. Period.
There’s a lot of little cameos and supporting roles in the movie. None of them are awful. They could have trimmed it down a little because we don’t get to spend much time with people who look interesting. That goes for the main cast as well (minus Wolvie and Sabertooth). They could have taken a breath now and then or just cut the cast down a bit to give each more screen time. I’m especially talking about Gambit because he’s a real fan-favorite and there was a lot there to like but it was very brief especially considering he only shows up at the end of the second act and the end of the third.
Now that this is entirely too long, I will talk about what I don’t like. Weapon XI is interesting but not as interesting as following the comic more closely. Deadpool sells a lot of comics and they should have trusted that. The plot meanders a lot in the third act. I’m especially troubled about the movie being unclear about which side Victor is on constantly. We lose a lot of momentum in the third act which makes me want to get up and grab something to eat. And lastly they kill too many characters that could have been fun to use later. The good news? They have hand waved a lot of this movie’s plot away already so we can conceivably see some characters again.
I still give this movie a higher grade than most reviewers gave it. It’s still fun and still has a decent story to tell.