Deadpool 2 is a fun movie with too much to do
The first Deadpool movie hit with the simple expectations of making its meager, sub-$60 million budget back and pleasing fans of comic-book movies. It ended up having the biggest opening for an R-rated movie ever, and it’s second in overall box-office take only to Passion of the Christ. As the merc himself notes, it’s just Deadpool and Jesus up at the top.
The first movie blew away those expectations, and so we go into the sequel with a whole different set. Instead of simply not sucking, Deadpool 2 has to be a good movie. It has to be better than the first one. It has to be as novel as the first one. It has to build on the first one.
That’s a lot of work, and I don’t envy Ryan Reynolds, except for his perfect hair and jawline, great sense of humor, great career, and beautiful family. I don’t envy him at all.
That’s a lot to accomplish in one movie, and Deadpool 2 does an admirable job of meeting those expectations, but the movie we get is ultimately a little over-ambitious, asking a lot of a character that has a hard time staying connected with all the realities he simultaneously exists in.
There may be some light spoilers ahead.
Is novelty a mutant power?
The biggest and toughest problem Deadpool 2 had to overcome was the novelty factor. Despite having piles of superhero movies, there was nothing like Deadpool. Even the irreverent Guardians of the Galaxy looks run-of-the-mill in comparison. The Merc with a Mouth’s first true outing was a slam dunk that showed a true mastery of the character’s tone and style from the whole crew, from Ryan Reynolds and the writers on down.
With Deadpool 2, we know what we’re in for. The very fact that Deadpool didn’t suck was a surprise, and that surprise is gone.
And that’s going to suck a little bit of wind out of the sails for many viewers. I try to keep that from interfering with my viewing of the movie, but with Deadpool in particular that element of surprise is a bigger part of the magic than in most other comic-book movies, and it’s something worth taking into account as we look at the sequel.
This is a family movie
Deadpool 2 is a family movie – he says so right in the first few minutes of the film. But it’s a big family, and the movie has a hard time containing all of it. Compared to something like Infinity War, there’s a huge amount of entirely new characters to deal with, so the movie has to take some time to introduce them.
The main emotional arc of the movie revolves around a young mutant named Russell Collins, who Deadpool finds himself protecting. After a slow opening, this pairing starts the movie’s plot moving at a breakneck pace that makes it hard to keep up with the plot at times. It’s not a complicated plot, but nothing gets time to really sink in. Characters are introduced one after another, and any charisma they have is entirely up to the actor and dialogue.
The movie’s most-advertised cast member, Cable, is a perfect example of this. A future soldier hellbent on assassinating Russell, Cable is the gritty and grim style of 90s comics in a single image. Josh Brolin plays him perfectly, acting as the cybernetic straight-man/machine to Deadpool’s endearing idiocy. He’s a far better Cable than fans of the character could’ve ever hoped for, delivering lines both serious and funny right on point.
The story we’re given for why he’s there, though, is about as weak as you can get. It’s just enough to justify why he’s there and why he’s acting the way he is, and no more. It explains and justifies it, but it doesn’t have any weight – we know why he’s there, but we don’t feel it.
Another weak point comes from Collins himself, played by New Zealand actor Julian Dennison. The actor does a fine job with the character, but we see the character swinging between moods so quickly that it’s hard to nail down what he’s supposed to be. One moment he’s a sidekick. The next he’s the mutant-in-distress. Then he’s a villain. Then suddenly he’s a kid again. None of these lasts long enough, again, to set in and give us a chance to feel it. It feels more like these changes are in service of the plot than the character.
The most frustrating flaw, for me, is that Deadpool’s lady-love Vanessa is pulled out of the movie pretty early on to move the story forward. In the first movie, at least, we got to spend enough time with her to really care about her and about her relationship with Wade Wilson. Actors Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin just ooze chemistry, and every moment they’re on-screen together only adds to Deadpool and its sequel. That she’s once again put on ice means we don’t get much of that. Instead, it feels like the movie is cashing in on the bank the first movie built with these characters, and it’s cheap.
Maybe it’s not a family movie
The weak plot would be more of a problem if the characters and writing weren’t what they are. Ryan Reynolds got a writer’s credit this time around. If his affection for the character wasn’t obvious enough in interviews, it really shows in this sequel. He seems at home in both the costume and that makeup that looks like it’s absolutely miserable to wear. The movie goes harder on some of the R-rated humor. The way the movie handles the X-Force was pretty shocking and had me in pieces.
A few of the character don’t get enough screentime, with the movie doing little more than introducing them. A movie this overstuffed with new characters – there are more new characters than old – was bound to run into this to at least some degree.
But then the movie uses these light intros to good effect with Zazie Beetz’ character Domino, whose mutant power is that she’s really lucky. Beetz steals every scene she’s in, even those directly with Reynolds – himself a scene stealer. Both Beetz herself and her character’s style and powers are cinematic as hell, and her action sequences rival Deadpool’s best stuff. You can really tell that director David Leitch knows how to do action when these two are on-screen together. She and Cable are really the highlights of the movie, and both act as excellent foils for Deadpool himself in addition to being entertaining in their own right.
The jokes in Deadpool 2 go, if anything, deeper into in-joke territory than they did in the first one. There are quick one-off jokes that reference things like Cable and Deadpool’s original artist and elements of Cable’s wildly over-complicated comic-book backstory. There’s plenty of more accessible stuff, though, too, with references to the always-empty X-Mansion and Colossus’ Russian Boy Scout demeanor hitting just as well as they did in the first movie.
Overall, Deadpool 2 is going to please fans of the original and of the character. It still has a heart and is a far cry better than pretty much everything else in the X-Men movie catalog. It has a slow first act, though, and the story never works quite as well as the simpler story of the first film. The movie tries to do way too much. Despite being much bigger in scale than Deadpool, it’s miniscule compared to most superhero films. But it sets the stage for a proper X-Force film, and it gives us enough of Deadpool, Domino, and Cable that it’s hard not to be eagerly anticipating that movie. It’s a whole new dimension to Fox’s X-Movies that I can’t wait to see explored, and I hope Reynolds stays for the foreseeable future to help guide it with his honed Deadpool sensibility.