Deadpool 2 Film Review
More wisecracks don’t hide Deadpool 2’s lack of purpose
Probably the worst thing about Deadpool 2 is that it has no reason to exist, at least within the world of Deadpool. I know the obvious reasons. The original Deadpool, a passion project of its lead and producer Ryan Reynolds, made a truckload of money despite its high rating (MA15+ here, R in the US), and was a critical darling and fan favourite. Sending up superhero movies with jokes about the genre’s mainstays like ‘Superhero landings’ and Reynolds’s questionable career choices in the past (Green Lantern (2011) has been reduced to a punchline in popular culture), the movie came across as a breath of fresh air for the self-serious genre and a chance for fans to laugh at the things they loved. Far from anything revolutionary, it played like a straight superhero movie, in which a movie dork whispers wise cracks in your ear, but it was fun enough.
The sequel arrives and, befitting its brand of class clown nihilism, it seems to have no reason for being here and doesn’t care if you can tell. Where we last left the titular Merc with a Mouth, he’d cured his cancer and won back his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). They’re keen on having a baby, yet, when the film begins, Deadpool is lying atop a spread of fuel canisters in a room filling with gas, ready to light the match. Cue the time jump to bring us up to speed on the protagonist’s suicide attempt, which we all know doesn’t mean much to a guy that can’t die anyway.
The first thing you’ll notice in the beginning half of the movie is a weird tone problem. As Deadpool hunts down a mercenary we get a neat action sequence in a factory that shows director David Leitch, a pretty accomplished action director, flexing his muscles. He made the misfiring Atomic Blonde (2017), which featured a uselessly convoluted plot with one marvellous stairwell fight scene, while and also partnered with Chad Stahelski directing John Wick (2014). Here, Deadpool is walking away from the carnage in a factory behind him. As a man races across the screen, engulfed in flames, he cracks, ‘That guy’s on fire. That’s not CGI—he’s really on fire’. Cut ahead and suddenly Deadpool’s wife dies, giving way to a melodramatic death scene, followed by the opening credits with more satirical title cards and a send up of James Bond.
What exactly are we watching here? Why are we being made to connect emotionally with a nihilistic mercenary who laughs in the face of people trying to kill him? The first Deadpool (2016) had these moments and they dragged the film down, but it felt more cohesive. The sequel’s action and comedy blend nicely but its forays into drama are like missing steps in a staircase: they come so quick you lose your footing.
Clearly, the movie is stepping things up a notch, trying to compete with the big leagues and turn these movies into their own offshoot franchise, seeing as the movies’ candid violence and sophomoric humour are never going to fit in with the squeaky-clean Avengers. It’s really a shame. The idea that Deadpool could be like the Marvel movies for people who don’t like Marvel movies, or, at least, are fatigued with their formulas, is disregarded in the attempt to fit in with the popular kids.
It’s especially a shame when the movie has some clever gags and sequences that play like top-notch skits. In order to protect a temperamental mutant named Fire Fist (Julian Dennison) from the time-travelling Cable (Josh Brolin), Deadpool assembles the ‘X-Force’. A gaggle of mutants with oddball powers like ‘luck’ and permanent invisibility, you really expect the team to march into battle and the whole thing will play out the way all these superhero movies do. Instead, parachuting clumsily into an idyllic suburb, they’re all butchered in myriad ways, pointing to Deadpool’s incompetence as a leader and his disregard for human life.
Self-aware parody movies are a difficult thing to pull off twice. 22 Jump Street (2014), the sequel to 21 Jump Street (2012), proved this with an instalment that was, on all fronts, a tremendous effort and an admirable attempt to recapture lightening in a bottle. But it still felt kind of empty. The thing it was doing, we’d already seen it done. Deadpool 2 works like that. There’s effort in the gags and the performances—there’s also a lot more money and assurance of a blockbuster hit—but the whole thing is profoundly pointless. I guess this is what happens when the kid making wise cracks in the back of the class grows up—he doesn’t.
Feature image via nerdist.com