Against all odds, Deadpool is a success. Everything about its troubled production, possibly illegal tactics to generate buzz, and overall impact will make for a great industry memoir some day. Until then, anyone can only speculate as to what the future looks like for studio superhero movies. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn warns Hollywood will now aim to make everything “like Deadpool,” and comics writer Todd McFarlane is already hard at work resurrecting his cult horror antihero Spawn.
But as much of a “game-changer” as Deadpool may be, a portion of its success relied on a superficial element that allowed the movie to break bank, and it will be a luxury its direct sequel Deadpool 2 will lack: Ryan Reynolds and his handsome mug.
Among the biggest reasons why Deadpool succeeded is due to the performance and appeal of its star Ryan Reynolds, an impeccably handsome actor with sharp comedic talent. The man is a 6-foot-2 cocktail of non-threatening Canadian geniality with a dynamic voice that can change octaves on instinct and abs more solid than concrete. It wasn’t just great casting, it was downright necessary to have Reynolds lead, because only Reynolds can be comically expressive underneath an opaquely red mask.
Ryan Reynolds spent a good chunk of Deadpool without his mask and sporting his normal, chiseled face, and that worked to the movie’s benefit. Masks are death for superhero movies. Beyond how much they cover up the very expensive actors they hire, producers and filmmakers dislike it because it’s visually displeasing. The biggest hurdles the genre suffered in the modern era were compromising the toy-friendly superhero masks and the inability for performers to act with them.
This frequently-criticized scene in Sam Raimi’s otherwise great Spider-Man is a prime example: It’s like watching a director play with action figures.
Scenes like the one above are why the X-Men filmmakers never cover Hugh Jackman with Wolverine’s yellow mask. Today’s lucrative contracts, star marketability, and the general hindrance of masks are why in The Avengers, Chris Evans takes off Captain America’s helmet so frequently and why Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye doesn’t even have one.
But even if Reynolds spends half of Deadpool 2 without a mask, being Wade Wilson is no solution. Wade’s scarred face after his transformative torture is a key character element ripped from Marvel’s comics, but it will be a challenge to the future of the appeal of Deadpool. This wouldn’t be an issue if Deadpool were targeting toy-loving kids (see: every Batman movie ever), but Deadpool is definitively not for them and it’s leaving Deadpool as a franchise in a rough spot.
The first movie had other factors that worked in concert with Ryan Reynolds’ appeal that contributed to Deadpool’s box office dominance, such as its place in the oft-ignored winter season and for being the perfect Valentine’s Day date flick. It’s worth questioning if Deadpool would have performed as well as it did in the summer.
Deadpool fans know why Wade Wilson’s face looks, as T.J. Miller says in the movie, “like an avocado had sex with an even older avocado,” and no doubt those fans will return for Deadpool 2. But will viewers who only just became familiar with Deadpool or those not riding aboard the hype train this time be willing to climb aboard for Deadpool 2? If they don’t, that’s one wound Deadpool’s super healing won’t patch up.