It’s not even the end of May and here we are with our third super hero film of the year. As we talked about in our Ready Player One review, the superhero genre has well overstayed its welcome and only once in a blue moon do we see something truly different. One film that self-proclaims its uniqueness is Deadpool 2.
Directed by David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), Deadpool 2 promises to be a deviation from the standard superhero fare while upholding the core tenants of the original: a film full of profanity, loads of ultra violence, and an R rating that the MCU won’t dare touch. The good news is the sequel has carried over a lot from the first film. The bad news is the sequel is just like the first and it doesn’t have a leg to stand on beyond its lazy writing and intolerable humor. With few exceptions like the addition of Domino and a fun third act action sequence, Deadpool 2 tries to be differentiate itself from the genre it inhabits, but proves that it is essentially everything wrong with the superhero genre, if not worse.
Deadpool 2 kicks off with Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) living high off the success of the original. He is globe trotting and killing criminals left and right, but after an early film death, Wilson finds himself depressed and his life without meaning. It isn’t until later when he meets Firefist (Julian Dennison), an orphaned mutant who is angry at the world for the tests they conduct on him, that he takes on a paternal role and begins to find purpose. Wilson now chooses to protect Firefist from Cable (Josh Brolin), a cyborg who has time traveled to kill Firefist and stop the death of his family, to not only cause a change within the young mutant to stifle his anger, but also to find meaning within himself.
The major problem with the film is how incredibly stupid it is and how it justifies itself in the name of authenticity to Wade Wilson. The fourth wall breaking habits of Deadpool is fine at the start, but after the twelfth time, the third and second walls are brought down as well and you’re left with a shabby one wall movie that consistently wants to remind you that it’s meta. Piggybacking off of that is the over indulgence in references. Again and again the film makes references and allusions to pop culture items, and in the same vein as the meta jokes, they are fine initially, but by the end you are amazed that the film depends so heavily on them. The self referential nature is not insightful, amusing, or palatable and embodies just how poor the script is. The writing feels phoned in and when it is bad, the lines are written off and justified with a self referential joke. Instead of writing something competent or actually funny, the writers throw in the towel and self-mock itself. And I know what you’re thinking: “This is how Deadpool is in the comics.” Sure, but it’s insufferable. This stuff isn’t funny and by the end of it all I found it profoundly lazy.
Side Note: The reactions in the theater were a kin to my own. No one was laughing all that hard or consistently at the jokes which is problematic when they’re nonstop. It is just one showing, but highlights the broader lack of amusement in the audience beyond my own.
Surprisingly, Deadpool 2 makes the original film retroactively better which is hard to do since it too was lazy and bombastically idiotic, but at least that film had a consistency with its flippancy. In it, the film wanted to be a metaphorical middle finger to superhero films, and while it only partially achieved that goal, it was at least consistent. In this film, Reynolds’ script tries to inject heart and emotion into Wade Wilson where it simple doesn’t belong. To do that, the film wants you to take it seriously at times, particularly with the aforementioned early movie death. In a film that tries so hard at being subversive and against the grain of other superhero films, these periodic moments of gravitas contradict what Deadpool is: a merch’ with a mouth who stands in stark contrast to the MCU. These moments are exactly what the original Deadpool parodied, but Deadpool 2 comes full circle; that is, as it tried to move further and further away from the genre it tried to mock, it eventually came back around and ended up exactly where it started: another mundane superhero film.
There are a few bright spots in the movie. Domino is a welcomed addition due to her luck power, making for clever scenes with fun action choreography. Occasionally a joke will land and get you to laugh (particularly a good mid-credit sequence). And the third act is a true highlight thanks to some impressive parallel editing of three simultaneous sequences that result in a satisfying payoff. However, these are unfortunately my only points of praise. The rest of the film is burdened by my complaints above.
The way in which Deadpool 2 operates is very flamboyant; the incessant need to embody Deadpool at every breathing moment is exhausting and the narrative that is weaved does not uphold the genre differentiation that Deadpool 2 wants you to think it is. By the end of it all, the film’s gimmick collapses in on itself, and while the original was somewhat permissible, this time it simply exposes how similar the franchise is to other super hero films.