Unable to come up with a satisfying emotional arc for Deadpool's second movie, screenwriters Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese and Ryan Reynolds kill his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Suicidal and looking for purpose, DP joins the budget version of the X-Men on a mission to stop the boy from Hunt For The Wilderpeople (Julian Dennison) who is trying to burn down his school.
In an attempt to help out, Deadpool deploys his usual bag of homicidal tricks. Said bag gets him and Russell sent to the mutant prison known as the Icebox. From there DP has to contend with Cable (Josh Brolin), a man from the future who is out to kill Russell before he grows up to kill Cable's family and Cable turns into Thanos.
To save Russell, DP enlists a team of super-powered folks (including Terry Crews, Pennywise the Clown, that Irish Boxer from Snatch and Van from Atlanta) and Peter (Rob Delaney), the best guy alive.
Will they be able to stop Cable, and save Russell before he turns into Carrie White?
I was a little dubious going into this movie. You get this with any sequel - will we get a carbon copy of the first movie, or a complete break that tries something different?
The movie is not a massive leap above the first movie, but it's no disaster. The big problem is that it is overstuffed - with characters, subplots and jokes that don't hit. Deadpool 2 is best viewed as a buffet - there is plenty of good on offer, not all of it good, but you can cobble together a filling meal from it.
The main through-line of Deadpool dealing with Vanessa's death feels like a tired trope to give Deadpool a 'journey' (she gets fridged about a minute after they decide to start a family). It is so dark yet feels cosmetic when sandwiched together with the introduction of Cable, the birth of X-Force and all the returning players from DP1. Wade's relationship with troubled mutant Russell gets short shrift - their bond is established and broken so quickly that the final resolution does not carry the catharsis the filmmakers probably intended.
The plot is so dark that there is a certain disjunction with the film's humour, which is so meta that the movie's attempts at real emotional weight don't really work.
This movie made me wonder if Deadpool makes sense as the protagonist of a movie - does he really need to have an emotional arc? Does he need to grow?
The best parts of the movie are where Deadpool has to bounce off other characters dealing with big emotional burdens - Colossus's earnest belief in being a superhero; Cable's single-minded desire for vengeance. I am interested to see where they take the character in future sequels. If they continue down the road of finding some area of personal growth for Wade, will he just end up like Jack Sparrow?
Johnny Depp's character was the highlight of the first Pirates of the Caribbean because he was not encumbered by having to anchor the movie - he could float about doing whatever he liked. In the sequels, the filmmakers tried to turn him into a hero and whatever was interesting about the character was neutered.
A big reason why these problems don't bother me as much as they probably could is Ryan Reynolds' performance: Reynolds is underrated as a comic and dramatic actor, and Deadpool gave him the perfect vehicle to show his range. The same is true of the sequel - he does so much heavy lifting that he makes the emotional stuff work, while being able to make the transitions to DP's pithy asides seamless. He has a lock on the contradiction between the character's fourth wall-breaking humour and his earnest sense of loss that I never felt whiplash.
As the ostensible co-lead, Josh Brolin is a terrific straight man. The character comes off a little one-note at first, but that is the point. He is like the proverbial bull in the china shop, and most of the film's best moments come from watching the established characters try to get out of his way.
Brolin is a great minimalist, which works for the character's pain, and his gradual softening as the story progresses. I am really hoping that the next movie ends up being some kind of buddy comedy between him and Deadpool. It would probably result in the kind of sweet and sour dynamic that would work for both characters.
|For a movie that delights in turning things on their head, it's a pity the marketing department could not have done a switcheroo with these standees posters so Beetz was not doing this pose.|
Zazie Beetz - so good in Atlanta, and the saviour of the cinematic black hole known as Geostorm - is great here. She does not get a lot of to do here character-wise, but she gets so many great comic moments that she comes close to stealing the movie away from its ostensible leads.
My bigger qualm was with the director - David Leitch's last solo directorial effort was Atomic Blonde, which I was not too keen on. Considering the tone established in the first Deadpool, I wondered if he would be able to juggle the violence and comedy as well as Tim Miller. All in all, I think he did a pretty good job.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, they are all really good - although most of them end up just being set-ups and/or punchlines to jokes. The X-Force assembled here is a collection of sight gags - their horrific fates are one of the highlights of the movie, although I would have liked to see Terry Crews get more to do.
As the movie's unorthodox villain, Julian Dennison is fine. His character is set up as a key part of Deadpool's arc, but he gets a bit lost in the deluge of gags and other characters. Speaking of jokes that did not work, the jokes about Russell's size just feel mean-spirited, and make Wade's talk of 'caring' about the kid feel superficial.
|Standee unavailable. For shame|
The other standout for me - like a lot of people, I'm sure - is Rob Delaney as Peter, a regular joe who signs up to X-Force because it sounds exciting. Sure, the character is just a gag, but it is such a good gag I am completely onboard with Peter returning as a Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern character. The one bummer to his character is that it marginalises the already-established Dopinder (Karan Soni), who is already the regular joe in Deadpool's world.
While it is a lot of fun I hope the next Deadpool slims down a bit, and does not get caught up trying to give him an emotional arc. Too many franchises feel the need to give their lead character emotional stakes, but it doesn't work because the next instalment will probably re-set the characters to their established persona (e.g. most Marvel movies). It would be fresh to just allow Deadpool to be Deadpool, without having to do all the heavy-lifting.