Doubles down on everything, for the better
Making a Deadpool movie involves a lot of nuance. Yeah, an absurd statement for the character that yells the word “chimichangas” constantly, but hear me out. Go too far down the spectrum, and you end up with a Deadpool that becomes an “LOL SO RANDOM!” unbearable meme. On the other end, Deadpool could become standard superhero fare that the character thrives in satirizing. To make such a movie successful, you have to get it just right.
So here’s my hot take on Deadpool 2: it’s the Goldilocks of Deadpool movies.
Director: David Leitch
Release Date: May 18, 2018
Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is an absurd character—his comics counterpart is one who would basically walk out of the page and deliver a unique blend of self-referential and crude humor. These characteristics might make Deadpool a good foil to a serious protagonist, but as Deadpool is the protagonist, the movie requires some thematic heft and a moral lesson to be learned. “Is Deadpool a true hero?” is the dramatic question in the foreground of both of these films.
The sequel certainly progresses this unlikely hero’s journey for Deadpool, though some of the stops along the way are questionable—there is a certain fridging in the beginning of the movie that even the James Bond-inspired opening credits sequence is completely shocked by. Still, the screenplay demonstrates that Wade Wilson is not just a one-note wisecracking character, with his primary goal being to protect a young mutant (Julian Dennison) from a time-traveling, gruff and vengeful Cable (Josh Brolin, sans purple CGI makeover).
Brolin certainly looks and sounds the part of Cable, and he gives off a Schwarzenegger Terminator 1 vibe, in the sense that he has a menacing, near-unstoppable presence, but with a bit of humanity in him (so essentially, Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2). While Cable’s brawling and gunning make for good action scenes, I felt that there was a missed opportunity in this film to have Deadpool and Cable riff off of each other. These two characters are polar opposites in personality, which creates potential for some fun buddy cop moments, but unfortunately, most of their screen time together is composed of fights between the two. And compared to Brolin’s other Marvel character Thanos, there isn’t a whole lot to Cable’s character, with his arc ending in a decision that feels mostly unearned.
The other new supporting player is Deadpool’s X-Force recruit Domino (Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz, stealing the hearts of millions), and the same could be said about her. Domino’s superpower is essentially just passively being lucky, which does indeed make for some excellent cinematic moments (even with the obvious CGI). Domino is a welcome presence in the film’s action scenes, but the story makes little effort to have her fit in with the rest of the comedic cast, and she has virtually no character arc of her own. Ultimately, Deadpool essentially described her only purpose in the film: being a young superhero with franchise potential for the next decade.
And to cap all of that, the film’s story doesn’t feel particularly original—the premise is way too close to Looper, and one hilarious sequence with the X-Force in the middle of the film gave some MacGruber vibes. It was slightly disappointing that a movie I expected plentiful lampshading from never really called itself out on that.
Even with all of my gripes over the film’s character work, it was the execution of action and humor that made Deadpool 2 a fulfilling experience. Audiences probably expect crude humor, fourth-wall breaking, pop culture references and the use of music as absurd juxtaposition. This sequel is more plentiful in all of the above, and rarely in a way that felt irritating or detrimental.
In fact, it’s exactly what I wanted.
See, looking back at the first Deadpool in comparison, that first film actually feels a bit more restrained. It was a movie that was a bigger risk at the time, with outdated pop culture references (a Rosie O’Donnell joke, for God’s sake) and the fourth-wall breaking feeling more “wink wink nudge nudge.” But with the first movie’s success, this sequel went all-out with the humor. There was a higher jokes-per-minute rate, and Deadpool’s pop culture references felt less Friedburg/Seltzer Epic Movie and instead felt like a natural part of Wade Wilson’s character and personality. Expect plenty of explicit, verbal references to the X-Men films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC films (including and especially Green Lantern).
This is a Deadpool that is fully aware that he is in a movie, looking at the camera frequently, mentioning the film’s script, and even at one point declaring that a minor character will no longer have speaking lines for the rest of the film. We never get Mel Brooks-style moments of Deadpool accidentally shooting a boom mic operator or running around the sets of other movies on a soundstage, but the mid-credits scene (fair warning, there is no post-credits scene) does go in that direction. It all just works—not only do these jokes and references feel more like the voice of the character rather than of some hack screenwriter, but it feels like Wade Wilson is saying what the audience is thinking out loud.
Director David Leitch, a veteran stunt performer and director of Atomic Blonde has already proven his action movie chops. Being an absurdist comic book movie, the action is less gritty and realistic as say, his work on John Wick, but Leitch demonstrates that he knows how to stage comedy as well. A montage sequence in the beginning has all of the bloody violence we’ve come to expect from a Deadpool film, but it was magnificent seeing every square inch of the frame being used for comedic purposes. One slow-motion shot has a baddie running away, as Deadpool massacres his goons in the background in hilarious fashion. The film keeps throwing gags at the audience, even hiding some away in the background for eagle-eyed viewers to find (for example, a news ticker saying “Christopher Plummer turns down Deadpool 2 role”).
So perhaps this film does fall short of character development—but I don’t think that there is a single person reading this review who plans to watch it for that primary reason. There’s plenty of blood, severed limbs, body horror/humor, constant funny uses of popular songs, fourth-wall breaking, pop culture references and all-around absurdism.
The first Deadpool was just a warm-up. Deadpool 2 is the most Deadpool that Deadpool could Deadpool.