Film Review – Deadpool 2
Ryan Reynolds has found his career character. With Deadpool (2016) and now Deadpool 2 (2018), he has solidified a role that allows him to make the most use of his talents. In his previous work, Reynold’s sardonic, wise ass wit made him hard to sympathize with. But as the titular anti-superhero, it’s that very quality that makes him so entertaining to watch. Wade Wilson/Deadpool, the “Merc with the Mouth” who also happens to have healing abilities, uses his fast sarcasm as a weapon, just as much as he does his katana swords or handguns. Oh, he may physically harm you with his arsenal of tools, but he can also annoy you with his constant barrage of self-referential wordplay.
And that’s really what this franchise has to offer. Where other superhero pictures (particularly those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) stay within a relative safe zone to appeal to a mass demographic, Deadpool went outside of the box. It is fully aware that it is parodying the tropes of the genre, embracing the R rating with amplified violence, language, and comedy to make something that – at least with the first film – feels surprisingly refreshing. The challenge that the writers (Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Reynolds) and director (David Leitch) faced with the sequel is determining in which direction they would take this character and story. If they veer too far away from the original they may risk losing the audience that helped make it such a hit. If they stay too close to the original, they risk being called out for simply repeating what was done before.
The result leans more towards the latter. While Deadpool 2 is often funny and has a number of fun action sequences, it’s hard not to walk away from it thinking that we got pretty much more of the same. Reynolds’ charismatic performance carries the load in similar fashion as the previous go around, with a number of the same jokes transferred over. Yes, we know that Reynolds has tried portraying this character before and failed (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009). We also know that he tried starting up a completely different franchise that didn’t work either (Green Lantern, 2011). This was all covered the first time. The fact that the sequel relies heavily on the same meta-comedy as before doesn’t necessarily make it bad – many fans who simply want an extension of the first will come away satisfied. But for a franchise that sells itself on not playing by the rules, it is a little strange that it doesn’t shake things up very much.
When we dig beyond the jokes and constant breaking of the fourth wall, we find that the plot of Deadpool 2 is pretty straight forward. This time, Wade Wilson joins forces with X-Men Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), along with newcomer Domino (Zazie Beetz) to face apparent villain Cable (an underutilized Josh Brolin). Cable has come from the future to kill the young mutant Russell/Firefist (Julian Dennison). Deadpool – through tragic circumstances – develops a soft spot for the boy’s welfare, and thus brings together his ragtag group of friends (including Karan Soni‘s taxi cab driver) in an effort to take Cable down. This leads into the main action set piece, involving an extended chase sequence. While the action doesn’t have the size or scope of what we see in say, Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the fact that Deadpool has a body that regenerates itself allows the filmmakers to play with some funny (and gruesome) physical comedy. When Cable shoots at him, Deadpool splits the bullet with his sword (similar to what he did in X-men Origins: Wolverine). Cable subverts the moment by simply shooting off more rounds than Deadpool can deflect.
I was surprised to find how much effort was put into injecting sincere emotionality, especially between Wade Wilson and his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Their relationship is where the narrative comes screeching to a halt, striving for earnest compassion. It’s a strange dynamic and leads to a tonal imbalance. How are we supposed to take their love seriously when we are hit with a barrage of self-referential jokes that doesn’t take much of anything else all that seriously to begin with? Deadpool will comment about how ludicrous this whole ordeal is and in the next have a serious exchange with Vanessa as though they going through a real life hardship. In the very beginning, Deadpool tells us that this is a love story in a tongue in cheek manner. The reality is that it actually is a love story, but an underdeveloped one. Vanessa is used as the “perfect male fantasy” – who can be as rude and crude as any of the boys but is naughty and sexy when need be. How much more interesting would the Wade/Vanessa dynamic be if it were developed in a true, organic fashion?
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Deadpool 2 works perfectly fine in giving fans what they expect coming off the success of the original. I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments where I wasn’t entertained by the pop culture references, inside jokes, and surprise cameos. But when we try to connect with the more dramatic elements, we end up walking on unstable ground. If this series continues forward, hopefully Reynolds and the rest of the production really push the envelope and take it in weird and different places. You can only get so far by repeating the same schtick.