I was not impressed with the first Deadpool. It was fun, and the fight scenes were full of good energy, but the story was pretty basic. I get it, Superheroes in all their earnest need to save the world are easy to mock. It feels like a returning to mocking nerds for their enthusiastic embrace of what they love, so for me, the mockery better be pretty damn clever. Deadpool is a fun character, I love their marketing, and Ryan Reynolds’ clear affection for Deadpool is very endearing. So I’m always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Deadpool 2 continues the mocking, but also embraces what it purports to disdain. Unfortunately, the result is a bit of a mixed bag.
One of the major problems with the original Deadpool movie was the by-the-numbers love story/superhero origin storyline. Deadpool followed the exact same tropes it purported to subvert by talking to the audience. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) becomes Deadpool in an attempt to cure his deformative terminal cancer. Becomes an anti-hero who can’t die, as one does. Girlfriend is kidnapped. Hijinks ensue.
However, for most origin stories this is a tried and true formula. The fun of watching Deadpool talk to the camera and have a great amount of fun skewering bad guys all while mocking the super earnest X-Men and making pop culture references allowed most people to forgive some laziness in the storytelling.
Deadpool 2, on the other hand, leaned in too hard. Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) was fully fridged, as were Cable’s (Josh Brolin) wife and daughter. Using the deaths of women to give male characters an excuse to go on an epic adventure to save them or take down the supervillain in rage-fueled vengeance is such a tired old trope that the writers weren’t even aware they were using it. I actually said out loud in the theater, “They actually did it, FUCK.” My excitement was immediately taken down several notches.
Indeed, the marketing tried hard to cover up this story point. It focused on the X-Force and Cable so hard that it was clear they were trying to hide something. Theories flew all over the Internet, maybe Juggernaut was the real bad guy (we know from the comics Cable isn’t a villain), Vanessa was only ever seen in that one scene, clearly from the beginning, so she probably died. When the most basic theories turn out to be the story it’s wildly disappointing (the wild speculation that Juggernaut was the actual Big Bad was exciting to see brought to life, though he wasn’t Big Bad enough). Vanessa died after suggesting she and Wade start a family…so now Deadpool wants to protect a kid? Sure. Why not? There you go, another boring plot. A half-cybernetic man from the future also on a vengeance-fueled mission is a somewhat nice attempt at a twist, but his motivation dampened what could have been an interesting story. Just, do better, writers.
The plot is confusing, and most of the jokes don’t land. For example, the Terminator joke was too easy and also wrong, John Connor wasn’t trying to kill the kid…plus, that dumb joke made me think how wrong that dumb joke was in the middle of the movie! Ugh, that’s not a good sign. Some of the jokes were good, but not nearly as many as in the first film, and they were not particularly memorable. Too many of the jokes were just the same frat-boy level, gross out, and dick and fart jokes. Wade wants to be an X-Man, except when he doesn’t. Wade suddenly wants to protect children, except when he doesn’t. Wade wants to die, except when he doesn’t.
The fight scenes didn’t live up to the fun of, for example, the first movie’s bridge scene. The truck scene came close with the Rube Goldsburgian machinations of Domino’s “superpower,” but having a completely computer-generated scene in the opening fight sequence montage was extremely disappointing and not at all kinetic enough to move the movie along. There are so many great stunt guys who could have done that scene! Tam Lew is right there! Dammit!
Deadpool 2 also ends up being a movie with so many superheroes that the interesting ones get nowhere near enough screen time (Teenage Negasonic Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand)), the non-interesting ones get far too much (I’m looking at you, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic)), though the script dispenses with half of them in a somewhat amusing, if way, way too heavily foreshadowed, way. It would have been much funnier without the nonsense that TJ Miller spewed about high winds while confessing what Deadool’s plans were to Cable. Bye Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Vanisher (hey 2.4 seconds of Brad Pitt!), Bedlam (Terry Crews, never enough Terry Crews), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), and Peter (Rob Delaney, (but don’t worry, he’s fine)). We barely knew ye’, but it wasn’t surprising. We only got to see Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) in action once, and she was helpful! Who is that girl?! Tell us more about her!
Cable is the time traveling, half cybernetic, Terminator-esque mutant, who came back from the future to kill his family’s murderer before he becomes a monster. Josh Brolin admirably portrays the pain and rage of Cable given what he’s got, but that is the full extent of the character’s depth in this film. After seeing his Thanos in Infinity War, it was certainly disappointing to not get more from him.
Domino (Zazie Beetz) was also a fun addition to Deadpool’s act. Her superpower is “luck,” which led to the fun exchange between Wade and Domino debating whether or not it’s a superpower (boo spoiling that in the marketing!). Which clearly, it is. But it helps that she seems to have decent combat skills too. There were some fun, complex machinations around her to keep her safe and it just didn’t go far enough. She showed up at the terrifying orphanage where mutant children are tortured, and offhandedly said, “Oh this is why I’m here,” and then was relegated to saving children. They could have added so much more Domino. So much more Cable, TNW (her name is too long), and Yukio.
Some of the jokes landed, the cameos were fun, the pop-culture references are pretty good (except that John Connor one, you’re never living that down, Reynolds). The action sequences weren’t as on point as most of the clashes in the first film. This movie seemed to try so hard that it ended up being too basic, too franchise friendly, instead of the subversive, hyperkinetic, foul-mouthed, silly romp I was promised. I also felt the music was trying too hard for a James Gunn-esque Awesome Mix that fell flat because it didn’t match up with the rest of the movie. The post-credits scenes almost-but-not-quite made up for my disappointment. And Ryan Reynolds, as always, is fun and charming. Deadpool 2 was fun, but ultimately didn’t live up to the hype for me.