1 Hr., 50 Mins.
Deadpool 2 June 14, 2018
ven a life-altering, first-act tragedy does not dismantle the lovable irreverence of Deadpool 2 (2018), the exceptional sequel to the as-lovably-irreverent Deadpool (2016). 2, like its predecessor, is, technically speaking, a superhero movie. You could mechanically group it with other extensions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and see the connections.
Yet such a categorization feels off. As it happened so memorably back in 2016, we are presented with a capital C comedy so bawdy and provocative that we rarely think of what we’re watching as anything quite so
comparable to, say, the X-Men films. (Which are constantly referenced.) It is fanatically unserious and flippant, and feels less like another facet of Stan Lee’s fever dreams and more a joke-a-minute style of parody movie broadly in line with the Jim Henson-directed, self-referential, Muppet-centric features of the 1970s and ‘80s that epitomized the meaning of cinematic self-awareness. Just octaves more vulgar, obviously.
In contrast to the almost-obsessively sallied tone of the first film, though, 2 begins with what looks like the violent death of our witticism-fondling anti-hero. After turning his apartment into the opposite of a safe space — he turns his stove top and oven on, breathing in the fumes, with suicidal intentions — the eponymous paragon of political incorrectness lies atop a grouping of gasoline-filled tubs, lights a match, and then explodes, his muscular limbs ripping apart as if he were in a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie.
After redefining the “*record scratch* *freeze frame* I bet you’re probably wondering how I got here, huh?” cliché popularized on Twitter, the film jumps back to a happier time in our central Wade Wilson’s (Ryan Reynolds) life. (If a happier time means an action-packed, superhero movie-style opener.) We go through the motions of inaugural carnage, then watch him go home to his quick-witted girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who tells her lover that she’s ready to have children.
Shortly afterward, though, we come to understand just why Wilson eventually decides to blow himself up. Right after he and Vanessa embark upon an off-screen lovemaking session (while watching Barbra Streisand’s 1983 musical Yentl, which is referenced a startling four times throughout the film) goons with the intention to kill Wilson barge into the apartment, guns blazing. One of the bullets hits Vanessa. Understandably, Wilson decides that he simply cannot go on after this.
But, of course, the man is incapable of being killed thanks to the medicinal wonders he was subjected to in the first film. Wilson is rescued by the European, steel-bodied macho man Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and brought to the X mansion to recover. Eventually, he’s marked an X-Men trainee, and Wilson, albeit begrudgingly, accepts the title.
The film comes to revolve around the troubled teen mutant Russell Collins aka Firefist (Julien Dennison), who is able to wield fire like Zuko of Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-‘08) fame. When we first meet the angsty kid, he’s wreaking havoc upon the Mutant Reeducation Center, an orphanage-like facility just as questionable as it might sound. Wilson is determined to save Collins from himself — especially after they’re thrown into a snowbound slammer in the middle of nowhere partway through the film — but this is complicated by the arrival of Cable (Josh Brolin, who’s called “Thanos” at least once), a cybernetic soldier from the future. The latter aims to terminate Collins. Years from now, he will have recklessly slaughtered Cable’s family. But Wilson, seeing potential, is inspired to make peace.
But all-important in 2 is not the narrative, even if it is a major driving force. Whereas part of the appeal of the orthodox superhero sequel is the seeing how the storyline touched upon in the previous picture will further develop, we’re less concerned with plot here and more with how hard the movie is going to make us laugh. And laugh we do. The gag-a-minute mindset, kept alive either verbally or physically, works well. The screenplay, written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds, is packed but never cluttered; the movie is even more comfortable with its subversive brand of humor here.
It is joyous and reliably energetic; it is fan service at its best. But even in the midst of my enjoyment, I was sometimes turned off by its cynicism and its “make fun of everything” attitude. Though the cast is diverse, sometimes the attributes which define them are exaggerated and prodded, while Wilson remains talkative but unscathed. Similarly off-putting is the fact that T.J. Miller, the comic actor who was recently accused of sexual assault, was kept in the movie, prominently, no less. The infrequently bro-esque, “woke” jokes often fail to prompt laughs because the film is so apolitical and jaundiced that they feel too mocking, even if that wasn’t necessarily the intention.
But to hold a movie whose principal reason for existing is to serve as an iconoclastic, absurd counter to the superhero norm as accountable as we might a film which doesn’t feature offensiveness as a stylistic element isn’t as pressing an issue. But it’s smart to be mindful that, in lieu of how many things Deadpool 2 does well, it can’t quite get everything right. Even then, it’s rapturously fun. Just not spotlessly so. A-
This review also appeared on Verge Campus.