May 15, 2018
After the surprise success of the first Deadpool movie, what should we expect from the sequel? Violence, profanity, a surprising amount of genuine heart, absurd stunts, juvenile jokes, meta-reference overload, heavy CGI-laden fights, delightful cameos, and the kind of surprises that will leave your jaw on the floor. The Merc with the Mouth, nicknamed so for his fondness for oversharing via diarrhea of the mouth, is the head of this irreverent franchise that should never have been. However, if Deadpool 2’s an indicator of the strength in front of and behind the camera in understanding the character (and its audience) – Deadpool isn’t going anywhere and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since the events of the original film, unkillable assassin Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) splits his time between taking contracts on bad guys across the globe under the moniker Deadpool and spending time with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the love of his life. Before he can settle down in domestic bliss, soldier-from-the-future Cable (Josh Brolin) crash lands in the present intent on hunting a kid named Russell (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison). Though devoid of a moral compass, Wade manages to find himself stuck between the boy and the future man, unaware that the ramifications of his choices ripple through time.
Sitting in the director’s seat for Deadpool 2 is Atomic Blonde director and John Wick co-director David Leitch, who makes sure the audience knows he’s in control from the start. Opening in a kick-ass musical fashion in the vein of the initial outing, Deadpool 2 executes its cold open in a manner that feels both completely new and appropriate for the wall-breaking assassin.
Unfortunately, after the opening sequence concludes, the story slows down to a crawl in order to set up the catalyst that propels the core narrative forward. While the loss of momentum drags the experience for a brief period, it’s absolutely necessary to get the pieces set on the board. It also feels like an excuse for meta jokes and comic references. Just like Deadpool himself, there’s an aura of something cheap and meaningless even when he’s at his most his rewarding. That’s not to suggest that the script by the trio of scribes – returning writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, with Ryan Reynolds co-writing – lacks an engrossing, compelling story. Once it gets moving again it’s an unstoppable force, relentlessly hitting you with jokes and action shots until the literal end of the credits.
One of the major pluses Deadpool 2 has going for it over other Marvel franchises pushing ten-plus years in theaters – one having a pretty major time at the cinema at the time of this writing – is that the standard rules don’t apply. The band of misfits that sign up to join Deadpool’s narrative ride are the perfect embodiment of the type of homicidal screwball antics that follow Deadpool everywhere he goes. The Deadpool films can afford an “F-it” attitude since the first movie establishes that it exists within, yet apart, from other Marvel films. Some new characters fit well within the pre-established Marvel universe, like Zazie Beetz’s Domino, a mutant whose ability is to harness luck in her favor, and Terry Crews’s Bedlam, a mutant who can create and control a biological-electromagnetic field. Other new characters (and this is part of the fun) get zero explanation, like Lewis Tan’s Shatterstar, an alien from the planet Mojo who’s far more advanced than anything or anyone on Earth. If you don’t know who Brolin’s character Cable is from the comics, don’t expect much of a backstory here either. If the rumored X-Force film happens and Brolin sticks around (assuming he’s not too busy destroying the Avengers in his Marvel role as Thanos) maybe audiences will get some idea of who Cable is. This is the exact kind of narrative shortcutting Deadpool 2 can get away with. Because of the large swath of comic films in the cultural zeitgeist, audiences require less suspension of disbelief.
Without question, Deadpool 2 is a completely engaging, unrelentingly funny, stupidly ridiculous cinematic experience. Depending on where you sit philosophically, the onslaught of references, meta references, meta-meta references, and self-awareness will either border on grating or push you straight into annoyance. Deadpool 2 gives us the gift of an end credits scene that is *the* end credit scene of them all. No need for any more after this. All these cheap tricks and irreverence are sorta the purpose of Deadpool as a character. He’s a man without filter, which is the very thing that endeared the theater-going audience to him in the first place.
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5
A version of this review by Douglas Davidson first appeared on ElementsofMadness.com.