Katana-wielding wisecracks have existential woes too. At least that’s the two-year-old chicken soup that the new superhero film, “Deadpool 2”, insists you unspool. David Leitch, the film’s director, goes to admirable lengths to make this one stick, but thinking of its scarlet-masked, fourth-wall-piercing mercenary, that phrase sounds like an oxymoron. Deadpool, the motor-mouthing, self-regenerating mutant conjured to exist on the ledges of comic book panels as an antidote to superhero fatigue, is the very essence of irreverence. He’s narrative contradiction personified, the punishingly talky kind. To suggest that his heart “is not in the right place” is sillier than even the property’s own conceit because it suggests that heart is vital to his character, and not the brain-freezing wink-bombs he drops.
Like its titular hero, the film cautiously tears itself limb for limb only to later revert itself intact. That’s no fault of Lietch’s direction, who lends the film formally with a visual finesse most notable in its action sequences. The wrong turn, in my book, is taken by the relentless pulls of the screenplay, on which Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds all collaborated. This time, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) learns about and outright mocks heroism the hard way. Elsewhere, a time-hopping cyborg named Cable, played by Josh Brolin, jumps back in time to kill a young mutant named Firefist, played by Julian Dennison, who will kill his family in the future. I guess that adds “stakes”—feel the violence of thine air quotes—like the superhero films it tries to upend and whose stripes it also perfunctorily embraces.
The promotion for “Deadpool 2” doesn’t mislead: the “D” here is certainly bigger, folding in superior dick jokes and DCEU trash-talking at every opportunity it gets. Many of them hit, and those who have a working knowledge of the comic book world will get plenty of incentive laughs. If you left “Deadpool” with a joyous appreciation for its eruption of pop culturally conscious meta-gags two years ago, you’ll get off on this film too, whose lesser parts are much of the same as the better parts of the first one. It is, mostly, a sing-along of the brand of juvenile comedy that director Tim Miller has—in my opinion, clunkily—established. The gates to a full-buffet of Marvelphillic humor is opened, with pansexual allusions and peppery bromances offered as available sides. You can bet, too, that the merc with a mouth pines on Josh Brolin jokes, noting that he also played Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War”. And though that particular joke has been teased a few trailers ways away back, the audience at my screening still gobbles it up. Blessed be the power of DP, I guess?
Superhero franchises are the staple subjects of Deadpool’s jeers, but here he’s tight-lipped about one that’s forthcoming and one which will involve him greatly—the X-Force, a band of mutants, who, by this film’s end, feel inevitably ripe for their own sequels and solo outings. Call it the DP-verse, I don’t know. But other hero-verses aren’t safe: you can count that the film will spit—deliciously vapid—Martha jokes, whose context, sadly, only those who’ve endured “Batman v Superman” will know. Such quips flick hard like whiplash, even if they’re less of quips than they are clever references designed to incentivize those who have already invested time with the films. In its sea of crowd-pleasing set piece gags, there are a few that are uniquely subversive, such as the early confrontation between Deadpool and Fistfire. Such moments, in ones when it embraces the silliness and raunch of its titular mutant, the film beams with life. Subversion, after all, is to Deadpool what luck is to Domino, an indispensable mutant, played by Zazie Beetz, thanks to her unending amount of good fortune.
At the film’s core is Ryan Reynolds, who as he did in the first film, enlivens the property with boundless enthusiasm and charisma, and doubtless anchors the entire film from cover to cover. A handful of surprise cameos make the cut, and there’s an overwrought wildness in the post-credit sequence which will leave those who care even just a bit about superhero movies in approving uproar. These, however, don’t change the fact that what we’re seeing is, for the most part, a do-over. A respectable do-over—which reinforces what made much of the appeal of the first film, and along with it, its most frustrating faults—but a do-over just the same.
2018 / Action, Comedy / US
Direction: David Leitch
Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Jullian Dennison
Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA. Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy of supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling mutant, Cable.