by Adam Frazier May 16, 2018
After playing an ill-conceived faux-Deadpool in 2008’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds spent years petitioning 20th Century Fox to give the beloved Marvel character the raunchy, irreverent big-screen treatment he deserves. He succeeded. In February 2016, Tim Miller's Deadpool debuted with the biggest R-rated opening of all time. It would go on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film in history with a global box office of more than $750 million in total. A hit with both moviegoers and critics alike, Deadpool's massive success made a sequel inevitable, but does Deadpool 2 live up to the enormous expectations of its rabid fan base, or does it do to sequel cinema what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late '90s?
Directed by "One of the Guys Who Killed the Dog in John Wick" (David Leitch, of John Wick and Atomic Blonde), the film stars Reynolds (of Green Lantern and R.I.P.D.) as foul-mouthed mercenary Wade Wilson a.k.a. Deadpool, a disfigured mutant with accelerated healing abilities who looks like Freddy Krueger face-fucked a topographical map of Utah. When he isn't dismembering crime syndicates, Wade hangs out with his pals Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), Dopinder (Karan Soni) and Weasel (T.J. Miller) and lives in erotic bliss with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who he hopes to make a baby with someday soon.
Meanwhile, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) wants to reform the exceedingly violent Deadpool and make him an X-Man. Decked out in a mesh crop-top football jersey that says "X-Men Trainee" on the back, Wade suits up and joins Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and her girlfriend Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) to rescue an emotionally disturbed mutant kid, Russell (Julian Dennison, of Hunt for the Wilderpeople), who has the psionic ability of pyrokinesis. You know, like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter. Needless to say, things don't go smoothly.
Complicating matters is the arrival of Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-traveling mutant cyborg sent back in time to kill Russell before he becomes the deadly mutant terrorist known as Firefist. Don't worry about Cable's backstory; it's convoluted and of little consequence to the proceedings. All you need to know is that he's the Terminator meets Winter Soldier, with a touch of Thanos. Kicked out of the X-Men but woefully outmatched against Cable, Deadpool assembles his own mutant militia: the X-Force. The team includes the lucky Domino (Atlanta's Zazie Beetz), the acid-vomiting Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård of It), Bedlam (Terry Crews), and Shatterstar (Lewis Tan). Oh, and Peter (Rob Delaney), a mustachioed man with no powers or abilities whatsoever; he just responded to an ad.
That's really all I'll say about the film's plot – there's a lot of surprises and gags that shouldn't be spoiled. Deadpool does all the things you expect him to do, mocking everyone from Fox's X-Men franchise, including Logan, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the dark and aggressively angsty DC Extended Universe. Screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, along with Ryan Reynolds, craft a raunchy, action-packed screenplay that's heavy on choreographed chaos, zippy one-liners, and fourth-wall breaks that even Ferris Bueller would envy. Unfortunately, it's light on story and even lighter on character development. If you loved the first Deadpool movie, you'll no doubt enjoy this one, but if you were hoping to see a sequel that surpasses the original, you might be a little underwhelmed.
Despite being underutilized, Brolin and Beetz nearly steal the movie right out from under Reynolds, whose steady barrage of jokes can often get in the way of the storytelling. The first film had a lot of heart, and there's still some of that here, but something's missing. I didn't emotionally connect with the characters the way I did before. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this movie doesn't make me feel the way Foreigner felt when they wrote, "It Feels Like the First Time." Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying Deadpool 2 is terrible – I liked it a lot – but I can't bring myself to love it. I don't want to harsh anyone's buzz; there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and extremely satisfying character beats, but it also feels like a stock Fox X-Men film with an overblown budget and needless CGI-heavy action scenes that add little to the story.
I'm a big fan of David Leitch – I friggin' loved Atomic Blonde – and I can totally see why Reynolds thought his action sensibilities would be a perfect fit for Deadpool 2, but I have to believe that the secret ingredient to the first film's success was Tim Miller. Miller left the project in October 2016 due to creative differences with Reynolds, and that's too bad because what Reynolds gained in control of the character he was born to play, he lost in a visionary director capable of capturing lightning in a bottle. Leitch does a more than adequate job, I mean it's not like this is The Crow: City of Angels or anything, but it feels like he was too busy choreographing balls-out action sequences to make us care about the characters caught in the middle of all that manufactured mayhem.
Who even knows if we get a Deadpool 3 at this point – the movie will be successful enough to warrant to a third dip into the pool (see what I did there?) but the proposed/ongoing acquisition of Fox by Disney makes me wonder what the future holds for the X-Men franchise. I'd love to see more of Reynold's Deadpool, but I don't think the character has the same shelf life as Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. Can we handle 11 Deadpool movies? Would we want to? I don't know, but I look forward to Drew Goddard's X-Force follow-up, which focuses on Deadpool, Domino, and Cable. Hopefully, the director of The Cabin in the Woods can add some new dimension to these characters before they get stale.
One last note: my two favorite things about this movie are the opening credits and the post-credits scene. Take that as you will. Honestly, I kind of wish the movie was just a two-hour music video for Céline Dion's "Ashes." Goddamn you, Céline, you French-Canadian angel. You truly are the songbird of a generation.
Adam's Rating: 3.5 out of 5Follow Adam on Twitter – @AdamFrazier
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