There's just so much we can learn as writers from Deadpool, and not just because the film manages to do that rarest of feats: to be an intelligent, creatively successful superhero movie, but also because Deadpool manages to both follow the rules of superhero movies and break them in really exciting ways.
The first rule of superhero movies that every single person knows is that your super hero is supposed to be a super good guy.
Superman: yeah, he's a good guy. Spiderman: sweet kid, good guy. Batman: a little dark, good guy. Thor: a very good guy. The Incredible Hulk may have a problem with anger, but deep down he's a really good guy. And Ironman may have a bit of an ego problem, but at the end of the day he's a good guy, too. The world of superheroes is populated by good guys facing down pure evil villains.
And what's wonderful about Deadpool is that its main character gives the big ole' finger to the entire notion of the superhero as the perfect good guy character. And, in doing so, Deadpool hopefully puts the last nail in the coffin of the whole Save the Cat formula: this notion that if the audience is going to love your main character he/she needs to be saving kitty cats out of trees and doing nice things for people.
That's not to say that Deadpool is a bad guy. He's a flawed guy a violent guy, a shallow guy, an annoyingly verbose guy with a hell of a lot of attitude. He's also a guy driven by love, but not driven by the love of the perfect girl next store. He's driven for the love of a prostitute who's just as messed up as he is.
Deadpool starts the movie as a super badass, work-for-hire hitman. He may have a heart of gold but definitely lives on the darker side of things. He comes from a really messed up childhood. He's petty, and selfish, and mostly self-interested, and not too deep. He does have a little bit of a soft spot: he's not an evil guy. His first assignment is protecting a girl who's being stalked.
But he's certainly not the prototypical hero we're used to seeing.
When we watch the origin stories of superheroes, we're generally watching an A to Z story. The story of a character who changes from being the dopey, put-upon, powerless, low-self-esteem dude who changes into the hero with complete power.
Of course that's a compensation fantasy for a lot of people. A lot of us feel like we're weak, or not as strong as we wish we could be. That we can't stand up for ourselves in the way we wish we could. That we can't quite be the heroes that we'd like to imagine ourselves as being.
So this is not the compensation fantasy story we're used to seeing in superhero movies of the weak kid made good. It's not the coming of age story of the guy who finally grows up. It's not the story of the wealthy child whose parents die at a young age and now he must become the Batman.
This is a different kind of story. And that doesn't mean that the character doesn't go through a huge change, because he certainly does. He goes through a change in relation to his own ego and his own vanity.
Ultimately Deadpool's journey is to get over his obsession with his looks, so he can finally be with the girl that he loves.
Deadpool's not fighting to save the world. Deadpool's not fighting to prevent the evil Ajax from filling the universe with superhuman mercenaries. Deadpool doesn't give a shit about all that. Deadpool only cares about getting his face back so he can get his girl back.
This is not exactly the noble selfless enterprise we're used to seeing in superhero movies. And yet when Deadpool does it, we're able to root for him entirely. Why?
There's an idea that the thing that makes us care about characters is how nice they are. But that just ain't true.
The truth of the matter is nice characters finish last. That doesn't mean you can't write a nice character. There are many nice characters that I've really enjoyed spending time with in movies. I love the Jon Favreau character in Chef, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, all the characters of Toy Story. Really good characters lovable characters.
But characters are also people, and the truth of the matter is there are a lot of people in the world who are flawed in wonderful, broken, and beautiful ways. You have a friend who's an asshole. And you love that friend even though they're an asshole. You have a friend who's unreliable. You have a friend who's selfish. You have a friend who's jealous. And you love these people. You love these people because you get these people.
And sometimes it's easier to get these people, who show us not just their good side but also their bad side.
The way that characters show us who they are is through a very, very simple concept. And if you understand this simple concept we will follow pretty much any character. We will follow Deadpool as happily as we will follow Leo's character in The Revenant. We will follow Deadpool just as happily as well follow a totally morally upright character like Captain America or Thor.
We will follow Deadpool because his want is super clear. Because we understand exactly what he wants. We understand exactly how he's trying to get it. We understand exactly why it's so darn hard. This becomes the backbone of Deadpool's story. This is what allows us to connect with him.
Like I said, at the beginning Deadpool doesn't break every rule. There is a saying by the great writer William Goldman that a commercial movie tells us the lie that we want to believe, whereas an independent movie tells us the truth we don't want to believe.
Now back in the day when William Goldman said this, it was probably true. But in today‘s era of movie making, the meaning of this statement has changed. And as a movie like Deadpool shows us, in today's market a commercial movie can tell us the TRUTH we want to believe and an independent movie can tell us the truth that we don't..."