When Ryan Reynolds spearheaded the original Deadpool movie after a botched rendition of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), leaked test footage from Reynold’s project was praised in 2014, and the film cleared enough loops and obstacles to make the 2016 release, on the whole, a triumph. Deadpool (2016) is overall beloved by fans for its action, meta-humor, and Reynolds’ total dedication to the character throughout the production. It paved the way for Logan (2017) to get the R-rating Fox was almost too afraid to sign off on. My point being: whether you enjoy the first Deadpool or not, it was a monetary success and because of that, we have Deadpool 2 (2018). Director Tim Miller steps down from the director’s chair after helming the first installment and hands the baton off to (uncredited) John Wick (2014) co-director David Leitch. Reynolds obviously returns as Deadpool, and this time he’s on a journey of self-discovery after being accosted by a time traveler named Cable (Josh Brolin, who is having a hell of a summer blockbuster season), who comes back in time to kill a mutant teen named Russell (Julian Dennison) whom Deadpool has been tasked with protecting. Russell is pretty much the reason the world goes to hell in the future, so Cable makes it his purpose to deal with Russell in the past in a very Terminator-type plot. Deadpool manages to recruit a team to stop Cable, the standout being Domino played by Zazie Beetz, whose power is literally luck. Yes, that’s a power and she proves it in spades.
For the newcomers to the franchise, Brolin and Beetz are fantastic to watch. Brolin’s Cable is badass, but it takes him forever to come into the movie. As the plot slowly unfolds (more on the pacing later), I began to think, “Where the hell is Cable, isn’t Cable in this movie?” When he finally makes it to the screen, it’s great, except his scenes are too few and far between. There are some lulls in the story which more Cable could have fixed. Zazie Beetz as Domino is hands-down the best character in the movie but does that even surprise you if you’ve seen her in FX’s Atlanta? Domino’s powers of luck work like a literal domino effect – as if she were in a Final Destination movie – but every cause/effect causes her to live rather than die. Beetz is sarcastic, her delivery is so succinct it’s almost too perfect, and she’s the perfect foil to Deadpool’s cocksureness – as in she doesn’t put up with any of his nonsense. The rest of the cast, Reynolds included, do well with what they’re given. It’s frustrating, however, that standouts from the original like Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Weasel (T.J. Miller) don’t get nearly as much limelight in this movie – especially Negasonic. I really enjoy her in DP1, and my gripe with her in that one is that I want more scenes with her. In DP2, I still want more of her and we get even less than the first time. But hey, Colossus is back (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and he has plenty of screentime. Colossus has always been one of my favorite X-Men so this is a personal pleasure for me, I’m not sure if the world has the same love for Colossus as I do.
If you look at the ingredients of Deadpool 2, everything you want is in there: bloody R-rated action, meta-humor that makes fun of Fox, DC movies and movies in general, Ryan Reynolds himself, etc. The movie is the perfect platform to address issues in the comic book genre, such as superhero fatigue and franchising, but the jokes just feel too on-the-nose and almost serve as a validation for nerds who take to the comment sections on Reddit and YouTube to express their love/scorn for a movie. While there are certainly niche-jokes for people like me who have been fervently following comic book movies the past two decades, I just didn’t laugh at them the way I laughed at them in the original Deadpool. The asides in DP1 are, for lack of a better term, just more clever. The jokes in DP2 play out like a middle schooler trying desperately to make jokes the cool kids make to fit in, rather than just make fun of the cool kids themselves – which is always funnier. This isn’t to say that Deadpool 2 is completely stale when it comes to humor. There are gags all over the movie and references to pop culture and 80s nostalgia just like every blockbuster has right now. The movie takes quips from the original and “sequels them up” because they were funny the first run though. What’s wasted here is the opportunity to address sequels using jokes from their predecessors and making said joke twice as gratuitous for twice the laughs. It’s a sequel trope I hate more than anything, and Deadpool 2 could have been the one movie to get away with it because they could have addressed it in the process. Instead, I’m left with the expectation to laugh at something I saw on screen two years ago because they did it again, only “bigger”.
With David Leitch in the director’s chair, I expected Deadpool 2 to really up the ante with the action and violence. Deadpool is the kind of character who warrants absurd action scenes. The sequences are competently shot, something that comes to no surprise when you look at Leitch’s work on Atomic Blonde (2017), but for the most part I thought it was relatively tame. Save for a great opening montage of Deadpool being a true contract killer (the BEST version of Deadpool) set to Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’, the action isn’t nearly as exciting as the highway chase in DP1 or carries the same weight as Deadpool’s final confrontation with Ajax in the original. There is, as always, a big CGI fight, but the characters involved are the saving grace here because the CGI is pretty abysmal compared to other blockbusters – especially when it’s 2018 and you already know Deadpool 2 certainly has the budget to afford better CGI.
Deadpool 2’s true demise is the pacing. The movie begs you to take Deadpool seriously on more than one occasion, but the transitions to and from these moments take you completely out of the movie and feel far too forced. It’s difficult to give Deadpool any emotional weight when he is the one exception to a character needing weight. Deadpool doesn’t need any weight because his weight is the fact that he can call other people out on their own and usually make fun of it. It puts viewers between a rock and a hard place because how can you expect audiences to take the character seriously when the character itself is begging not to be? That doesn’t mean the Deadpool movies should be condemned to umbrella terms like ‘comedy’ and ‘drama,’ but the reason the first movie effectively balances its comedic moments with its few genuine serious moments is because, to put it bluntly, the simple plot allows it to do so. The original Deadpool’s plot is very straightforward: get the girl. With Deadpool 2, it’s a massive juggle for Deadpool between his self-discovery, protecting Russel from Cable, and of course establishing an X-Force team (Domino, and a few forgettable minor characters) that may be able to carry their own movie in three-to-five years depending on when the hell the Disney/Fox deal is finalized.
Despite the shortcomings, Deadpool 2 is a well-made movie. The shots are concise and the action sequences flow naturally for the most part. There are plenty of superhero jokes to go around and as a superhero nerd, I laughed at all of them. But the film feels like it limits itself by taking the easy way out of situations and it feels like another lazy attempt to pump out a sequel to either act as a bridge to a team up movie, or just to make more money…
probably definitely both.
Jokes and action aside, Deadpool 2 (2018) bit off more than it could chew with its budget and a story that flops all over the place. It’s funny, but the humor is definitely targeted more towards ‘the fans’ than a general audience as opposed to the first Deadpool, wherein there are jokes for both ends of that spectrum. The action is good but compared to the sequences in the first, these come off as lazy easy-ways-out. I wish I could be more satisfied with this movie, but there are simply elements to it that I don’t like. As much as Deadpool is a character I’ve loved and followed over the years, he doesn’t get a free pass when it comes to his movies.