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Every Comics Adaptation Starring Ryan Reynolds, Ranked

May 25, 2023May 25, 2023

Ryan Reynolds is most widely known for playing Deadpool, but that wasn't his first comic book movie.

Ryan Reynolds is one of the most likable performers on the planet, and a pretty darn successful business man to boot. After getting his start in the sitcom Two Guys and a Girl, Ryan Reynolds broke into film via the same genre with National Lampoon's Van Wilder. Over time, however, his filmography has diversified considerably, and this includes the occasional foray into the superhero subgenre. Unfortunately, some of these films are low points in his filmography.

But in the case of Reynolds' comic book movies, the failures have gone on to inspire the successes. And now that he is to be formally inducted into the MCU with Deadpool 3 alongside a returning Hugh Jackman, the string of successes looks to continue. It's the type of movie audiences never thought they'd get, considering Wolverine's brutal death in Logan and Jackman saying his time with the role was done. But his archfrenemy Reynolds and his Real Steel director Shawn Levy (who also helmed Reynolds' The Adam Project and the superb Free Guy) have roped him in with something that assuredly must be special.

R.I.P.D. plays like a movie where the filmmakers came in with the idea of replicating Men in Black's success (a franchise that peaked with its debut in the late '90s) and then a quarter through the production they realized that was it, gave up, but left the cameras rolling. It's an absolutely broken film that not once plays to the same audience the previous scene did. That's because the movie doesn't know who it's for (there are an awful lot of fart jokes, an awful lot), so its financial failure was inevitable. If the cast and crew don't know who they're making a product for, how is a marketing department?

Reynolds plays Nick Walker, the straight man soaking in the movie's endless tirade of silliness while Jeff Bridges takes on Tommy Lee Jones' Men in Black mentorship role. But, instead of bringing a personality that is endearing, Bridges plays Roicephus like he's True Grit's Rooster Cogburn turned up to eleven. It gets old, fast. At the very least, though, Kevin Bacon appears to have fun as corrupt cop Bobby Hayes. But, like Reynolds and Bridges (Iron Man), Bacon has been in much better superhero projects like X-Men: First Class as well as James Gunn's Super and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.

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1998's Blade was a surprising early title in Marvel's first run of superhero films, but it was a well-reviewed box office success nonetheless. The same could be said of Guillermo del Toro's Blade II, which pushed the franchise and title character in interesting new directions while introducing memorable new characters such as Norman Reedus' Scud and Donnie Yen's Snowman. Blade: Trinity attempted to be even bigger than those two films, yet with all the added stars and an A-list antagonist, it feels beyond cheap. Wesley Snipes is also fully checked out, and his atrocious behavior on set has become the stuff of legend thanks to testimonials from co-stars like Patton Oswalt.

But, in fairness to Snipes, he had just delivered two financially successful, moderately budgeted franchise films both of which featured him as the sole lead. Then David Goyer's Blade: Trinity rolls around and makes him share the movie with not one but two other vampire killers, both of whom get extensive screen time. It was a franchise getting taken away from the very performer who made it a success, so why give 100 percent? But Snipes and the cookie cutter Hannibal King (Reynolds) and Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel) aren't the only problems.

The script is a little more interested in Biel's Whistler than anyone else, which on one hand is logical considering she's the daughter of trilogy fan favorite character Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), but on the other hand, it makes the movie feel very much like a passing of the torch narrative instead of a fitting conclusion (or even just a fitting entry) for the title character. But, audiences weren't even done with Blade yet, nor was Snipes, so perhaps a lighter touch would have been best. Include the younger Whistler and have Blade take on a mentorship role. In other words, there's an argument to be made that Blade: Trinity shouldn't even be one of Reynolds' comic book adaptations at all.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine may not have the best reputation by this point, but it did well kicking off the 2009 Summer movie season. This is especially true considering, one, it leaked online ahead of time, and, two, its quality is genuinely pretty low. But Hugh Jackman's star power was enough to get the film made and distributed on a massive scale and, while he's good, the movie itself is an ugly slog.

Or, as Reynolds would put it, the movie's critical failure is Jackman's fault and Jackman's fault alone. And the two stars' endearing friendship is telling when it comes time to analyze Origins' impact. The movie itself is skippable, and Reynolds' Deadpool is relegated to a few tame quips and CGI-fueled action sequences, but the friendship it led to, not to mention the creation of the true Deadpool (and Jackman's subsequent MCU-based reintroduction as Wolverine), will last forever.

It took director Martin Campbell four years to follow up on his success with Casino Royale. And, when he did, he did so with the one-two punch of 2010's Edge of Darkness and 2011's Green Lantern. After the latter film, Campbell would go on to take another six-year break, and the generally unfinished-feeling DC film is self-evident as to why.

It's not that the movie is terrible, it's just that it's bloated and doesn't seem to know what decade it was made in (it feels much more of the era of Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man). It's all a very average origin story with Reynolds' Hal Jordan coming across as cookie cutter, but at least he comes across better than the shrieking Peter Sarsgaard as underdeveloped antagonist Hector Hammond.

But Campbell's movie is entertaining in a time-passing kind of way, as long as the viewer isn't expecting to remember more than a scene or two five minutes after turning it off. Even classic DC characters seem like bland variations of their original selves. Most notably, Green Lantern features an early cinematic version of Amanda Waller, who would go on to be played more memorably by Viola Davis in the DCU.

That said, Green Lantern's Waller (Angela Bassett) is a doctor, not a cruel overseeing governmental figure, and the movie wastes Bassett after just a few scenes. Fortunately, her talent was much better utilized in the MCU's Black Panther and, especially, her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nominated work in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever​​​​​​.

While David Leitch's Deadpool 2 is a little too mean-spirited to be as purely entertaining as Tim Miller's original, it still manages to be a more than worthy sequel. Furthermore, Leitch's experience as co-creator of John Wick is as evident in many of this film's fight sequences as in his Atomic Blonde the previous year. Sean Levy's Deadpool 3 will almost certainly have a lighter tone, given his history of directing movies like Cheaper by the Dozen, This Is Where I Leave You, and three Night at the Museum movies. But, it would also have to be given its inclusion in the MCU. It's confirmed to be rated R, but it's doubtful it will be as hard an R as Deadpool 2.

Regardless, the 2016 smash hit's first sequel is a success both in terms of quality and ticket sales. For one, it realizes that the first film's supporting cast was of great importance (most of whom, save for T.J. Miller, will be back for 3), and while its treatment of Morena Baccarin's Vanessa ruffled feathers, it gives everyone a purpose and a punchline or two. Leitch's film also gives new inclusions like Josh Brolin's time-traveling soldier assassin Cable and Zazie Beetz mercenary mutant Domino plenty of snarky dialogue to chew on and memorable set-pieces to fight through.

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Tim Miller's Deadpool was a modestly-budgeted breath of fresh air for the superhero subgenre back in 2016. The sarcastic Merc with a Mouth is the character Reynolds was born to play, and it's obvious from frame one. He's like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop: The movie is special because the perfect lead was chosen.

From the self-deprecating Green Lantern jokes to the calling out of "Superhero landings," Deadpool is precisely what it should have been. Some have taken issue with relatively low-key antagonists Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano). And, sure, Cable in Deadpool 2 is more memorable, but there's a certain appeal to the first Deadpool's lower stakes and (often cheeky) focus on character. The X-Men franchise was already on its way out by the time Deadpool hit theaters but, like the next year's Logan, it proved that there was life (and financial potential) in the universe yet. Things just might have to get a little dark to sell tickets.

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