Movie Review: Deadpool 2
By Matthew Huntley
May 30, 2018
“Deadpool” (2015) was such a fresh and unexpected entry in the Marvel superhero world because it was crude, crass and vulgar. “Deadpool 2” is also crude, crass and vulgar, but at this point, we know what to expect and the freshness of the original is, perhaps inevitably, not as present. Granted, there are still some big laughs and inspired moments to take away from it, but they're more peppered throughout instead of consistent, and most of the time we find ourselves wading through the film as it piggybacks too heavily on its predecessor's coattails.
Of course, “Deadpool 2” already knows this about itself—it continues the original's theme of “breaking the fourth wall” as Deadpool routinely takes time out of the plot to have a conversation with the audience, commenting on such things as its predecessor's box-office success and its own “lazy writing.” And to be fair, this is not a mere carbon copy of the first movie, but rather an amalgamation of several other movies—traditional action and superhero alike—and even though it's self-aware about being derivative, that doesn't negate the idea that it is, in fact, derivative, and as it plays out, we often find ourselves thinking about the movies it's imitating when we should be focusing on “Deadpool 2.”
Perhaps the movie not quite working stems from the “Deadpool” franchise priding itself as a comedy series first and a superhero saga second (another attribute that made the original so bold and appealing), and because its “story” takes a back seat to its attitude and humor, it's more on the jokes to stimulate us if the movie wants to hold our attention, but if they don't, the whole experience slows down and we grow a tad weary. That's unfortunately the case here.
The self-critical plot opens with our smart-alecky, anti-hero friend, Deadpool, a.k.a. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), attempting to kill himself in a most elaborate fashion, even though we know, as does he, based on his origin story, the serum that gave him his superpowers in the first place essentially rendered him immortal. But what the hell? He's desperate.
How did it come to this? “For that,” Deadpool tells us, “we need to go back six weeks ago,” as we see he's taken his mercenary services international, eliminating major crime bosses from China to Italy to the American South. Back in his hometown of New York City, he fails to kill his latest drug lord foe when the little weasel secures himself in a panic room. Deadpool lets him live for now because he's late for his anniversary with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), with whom he's more in love than ever and the two even say they're ready to make a baby (“It'll have a single name, like Cher or...Todd”). But their would-be familial bliss is short-lived when the aforementioned drug lord tracks Wade down and kills Vanessa (I'm not giving anything away here; this is all happens before the opening, James Bond-inspired credits).
When Wade's suicide attempt fails, his X-Men pal Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic) brings him to the X-Mansion for rehabilitation, where Wade just keeps asking where all the major X-Men characters are (“You'd think the studio would toss us a bone!”). To help him find purpose again, Colossus makes Wade an X-Men “trainee” and they team up with Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) to settle a standoff between police and another mutant, 14-year-old Russell, a.k.a. Firefist (Julian Dennison), whose power is just like it sounds. He claims the authorities at The Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation are hurting him. The situation gets hairy and both Wade and Russell are arrested and brought to the “Icebox” prison for mutants in a remote arctic location, where they're fitted with a collar that quenches their mutant powers.
Enter the movie's chief bad guy, a cybernetic soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin, in his second major role as a Marvel villain in less than three weeks after “Avengers: Infinity War,” which this film isn't shy to reference). Cable has traveled back in time to kill Russell for reasons I won't reveal (and just in case you were wondering, the movie is well aware the idea of a cybernetic organism traveling back in time to kill is hardly groundbreaking).
Cable's sudden presence jumpstarts the movie's second and third acts, which finds Deadpool, with the help of his bartender friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) and crime-fighter-wannabe cab driver, Dopinder (Karan Soni), auditioning gifted individuals to form a progressive, gender-neutral superhero unit, aptly named “X-Force.” The audition sequence is one of the movie's funniest and I can imagine the actors, however short-lived their appearance, jumping at the chance to get in on the fun of lampooning Hollywood's most successful genre as each explains their character's power. They include Zazie Beetz, Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgard, Lewis Tan, Rob Delaney, and one other famous actor as “Vanisher,” whose reveal is an unexpected treat.
Just like “Deadpool,” “Deadpool 2” mostly uses its plot to make fun of itself and others of its kind, particularly “X-Men,” but it also takes some jabs at the DC Universe, over-the-top action movies like “The Fast and the Furious,” concepts like homophobia, and even current political figures. When the movie hits its marks, it hits them hard and it's a riot.
But to me, the really fresh and inspired moments of “Deadpool 2” are too few and far between, and the problem, I think, rests with the movie being too self-aware of its own self-awareness. In other words, the film knows all too well the original was onto something and successfully embraced a very funny concept, and so naturally this one wants to do the same thing. The way it does this, though, is by merely recycling the same jokes and devices, not taking into account the first film's attitude and the brazen manner by which it delivered its humor has waned a bit and lost some of its edge.
It's very hard for any comedy sequel to escape this trap because their agenda is generally not to progress a story (even though it should be) but rather to make us laugh. And if the original was good enough (or profitable enough) to warrant a sequel in the first place, the writers, in order to meet the audience's expectations, often fall back on what worked the first time instead of conjuring up new material. We've seen this across several comedy franchises, including “Men in Black,” “Austin Powers,” “American Pie” and “The Hangover.”
To be fair, director David Leitch and writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds did have a heavy task to bear because the first movie was so good, and to their credit, “Deadpool 2” has some very fine and funny moments, including the aforementioned audition sequence, another scene when Deadpool has to grows new legs, and an end credit sequence to end all end credit sequences. Ultimately, though, these aren't enough to warrant a trip to the theater. Most of the time, “Deadpool 2” has us recalling the original and hoping this one would break free from that film's shadow and really come alive on its own. Perhaps I'm asking for too much—after all, this is a superhero sequel—but given the moments when “Deadpool 2” does shine, I know it can be done. Perhaps for “Deadpool 3,” after the hype of this first sequel dies down, Reynolds and company will have gotten a chance to catch their breath and examine what they really have, and instead of re-using the same material again, try their best to create something from scratch.