Posted: Friday, May 18, 2018 – 11:43 AM
By Adam Sherman
Deadpool, the wisecracking “Merc with a Mouth” endured a lot of trouble in his journey to the big screen. His “cinematic debut” in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was blasted by fans and critics alike from diverging from the look and essence of the character, his solo film was constantly hindered by then-Fox chairman Tom Rothman, and the failure of Green Lantern – Warner Bros.’ superhero blockbuster that starred Ryan Reynolds – caused many to doubt the ability of such a character to reach a wide audience. And yet, come its 2016 debut, Deadpool made back its budget in its opening weekend alone in spades, received praise from fans and critics alike, and became the highest-grossing R-rated feature of all time.
Needless to say, a sequel was quickly greenlighted and entered development for a Summer 2018 release. This sequel which would experience its own issues, from the change in director (from the first film’s Tim Miller to Atomic Blonde director David Leitch) to the departure of its composer (the first film’s Junkie XL to Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Tyler Bates) to controversies involving crew (stunt woman Joi Harris died in a crash on set) and cast (co-star T.J. Miller’s sexual misconduct allegations and false bomb threat). And thus, the question to ask is whether Wade Wilson will be able to reach through the fourth wall and pull in audiences once more.
The answer is yes… to an extent.
Years after killing Francis, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) experiences a tragedy which results in taking up Colossus’s (Stefan Kapičić) offer to work with the X-Men in a misguided attempt to find purpose. Needless to say, his first mission goes horribly wrong and he winds up locked up in jail with Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) – the main cause of the failed mission – and winds up taking a liking to the kid. However, when a time-traveling cyborg soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) tries to kill Rusty, Wade must find some way to save the boy, whilst trying to prevent the dark future Cable hails from, deal with his own grief, and form a spin-off team to convince Disney not to cancel his movie series.
The cast – or the main cast, at least – remain the series’ biggest strength. Ryan Reynolds continues to shine as the Deathstroke rip-off he was born to play, managing to transition from laughably, violent loon to grieving, suicidal victim to concerned, inspirational hero on the flip of a switch. In addition, Josh Brolin manages to bounce off Reynolds pretty well whilst conveying both an utterly “done with this crap” attitude when it comes to the action and a melancholy aura driven by something far more intimate in comparison to his previous Marvel role as Thanos. Zazie Beetz stands out as Domino, managing to come off as both carefree, yet absolutely capable of being an action heroine in her own right. Julian Dennison also manages to come off as someone who you want to both give a hug, yet keep your distance from. However, while this major quartet get quite a bit to work with, many of the other character – both new and returning – don’t get as much to do.
In fact, it becomes clear right off the bat why Deadpool 2 is so hit-or-miss – like last year’s Thor: Ragnarok, it tries to do too much at once (though unlike the aforementioned Ragnarok, it actually succeeds at the balancing act more than it fails, and the humor, though less laugh-out-loud, avoids undercutting too many of the dramatic moments).
Deadpool 2 tries to have its cake and eat it too, attempting to – at times, literally (down to the score, in one scene) – emulate Logan as a tale of grief, loss, and redemption that become all too clear in the film’s opening minute, while also trying to act more like an installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in regards to Cable and X-Force (which is set to receive its own film in the near-future). And then the film tries to mix-in its own madcap irreverence, to mixed results. The end result is a tug-of-war between tones that only works once the film decides to drop one of the above three in the second act.
The humor remains at play for this sequel, but at times comes off as more mean-spirited than the first film. Some of the jokes feel rather repetitive, substantial, or downright nonsensical. It borrows more from the Family Guy school of “references equal funny” than the first film, and as a result turns its jokes against itself. However, when the second act kicks into high gear, this mostly disappears thanks to a stand-out sequence featuring X-Force.
The action sequences vary in quality, starting off strong, but somewhat fizzling out by the end.
Yet in spite of all these flaws, Deadpool 2 manages to pull itself together and create something truly fun – though likely not as emotionally resonant as intended.
Deadpool 2 is distributed by 20th Century Fox and shoots its way into theaters starting today.