Deadpool’s Flailing Family Sequel
Deadpool has become a modern Hollywood success story: a beloved comic book character whose first screen appearance was met with universal disdain, then resurrected by an impassioned campaign led by the actor who played him, determined to now get it right. Despite its low budget, by superhero movie standards, its edgy, twisted, nerdy sense of humour, unconventional lead character, meta narrative, and R-rating it was still a massive hit. But it felt very much like lightning in a bottle. Deadpool 2 tries to recapture that, achieving some of its predecessors’ appeal, but with hiccups along the way.
Trying to find purpose, Wade Wilson a.k.a. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) encounters a persecuted, powerful teenage mutant called Russell (Julian Dennison) whom he forms a begrudging friendship with. However, a cyborg from the future called Cable (Josh Brolin) is hunting Russell, and Deadpool subsequently forms a team which he dubs X-Force to protect the boy, all the while making quips, getting maimed, and perhaps learning a lesson about family.
Aping off the first movie’s startlingly good romance plot, Deadpool 2 tries to do the same thing for the theme of family. It tackles this only capably though, creating an okay dynamic between its characters, but still hitting a number of clichés including the inevitable team of misfits becoming a de facto family. The movie makes use of a lot of plot tropes, including a misunderstanding, which keep the action from being completely investing. It’s still entertaining thanks to the films sense of humour, but there is only so far it can go. Deadpool 2 is still largely funny, but every so often the bits get old. It’s also a very specific kind of humour, emphatically raunchy and pop culture heavy, which can feel repetitive after a while. Rewarding if you’re culturally savvy enough, especially since it’s not afraid of being obscure (this is a movie that gets a running joke out of Yentl of all things); but some gags, such as a joke coupling Deadpool with The Passion of the Christ only makes sense if you know the box office record for R-rated movies.
Ryan Reynolds still delivers on the snarky anti-hero, being likable and unlikable for the right reasons. This movie allows him to share the spotlight more, which goes a ways to keeping his personality in check. Josh Brolin’s Cable comes off a little wooden, but grows over the course of the film. Zazie Beetz does a great job as Domino, a character with one of the greatest super-powers, and Morena Baccarin is wonderful as Wade’s girlfriend Vanessa. But the stand-out is definitely the knock-out performance of Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison as the troubled youth. Everyone from the first movie, save for the villain, returns in this one, but in smaller roles, including T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, and Karan Soni. Even Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead isn’t given much to do to make way for new additions. But among the novice cast are underutilized performers too. Eddie Marsan is wasted as a cartoon villain and Rob Delaney plays a character with hilarious potential that’s never taken advantage of. There are also quite a few cameos.
The movie’s mostly decent, and visually engaging enough to watch -thanks in no small part to action director David Leitch. But there’s a disturbing shadow cast over most of it due to the movie committing a cardinal cinematic offence early on -a harmful cliché that’s especially depressing and even insulting given the focus of the first Deadpool. It occurs before the opening credits, which themselves crack jokes about it, but the films’ self-awareness doesn’t make it okay. It’s still a severe problem that Deadpool 2 is painfully ignorant of, and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for disliking the movie because of it.
While that element may be the movie’s biggest failing, it’s awfully mediocre in a lot of other respects too, carried mainly by a few performances and some of the humour. Stay until the credits, as some of the funniest moments and a few good course corrections are made in a series of quick scenes. These afterthoughts though, don’t change Deadpool 2’s shortcomings. The film just doesn’t have the strength and the novelty of that original Deadpool, the character and style have been thoroughly showcased, and far from being ready to move on, we’re not going to be able to bear it much longer. He’s got legs for sure, short though they may be, but at some point Deadpool -the franchise or character- really is going to have to die like Wolverine, as is alluded to in this film. And there’s no way in hell it’ll outdo Logan.