by Benjamín Harguindey
To say Deadpool 2 (2018) is a better movie than its 2016 counterpart is faint praise. The original movie, which broke the box office record for an R-rated release, felt less like a feature-length movie (exhausting running time notwithstanding) and more like a demo, a proof of concept. Fox asked, would audiences care for a superhero flick with this kind of offbeat moxie? Audiences voted with their wallet. And so a sequel was Kickstarted.
Directed by David Leitch, or as he’s credited in the movie’s trippy James Bond opening ,”one of the two people who killed the dog in John Wick“, the sequel gets the standard bigger ‘n better treatment – more action, more violence, more fourth wall breaking – and this time around there’s actually a story, albeit not a terribly original one. The plot coils back and forth between comedy and drama, usually defaulting to its disingenuous j/k internet school of humor and trying hard for drama in a few scenes that seem largely out of place in such a clownish movie.
The first misstep is killing off Deadpool’s sweetheart, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), which sends the “Merc with a Mouth” into a prolonged mourning that not even that funny Bond-esque intro sequence shakes off. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) winds up again under the care of X-Men straight arrows Colossus and Negasonic, who put him to the test as an apprentice with disastrous results. Confined to an icy prison, Deadpool (both the movie and its protagonist) finally finds its plot in protecting young mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) from time-travelling cyborg Cable (Josh Brolin, fresh from Avengers: Infinity War and poking fun at it too).
At its best, Deadpool 2 gets to have fun in creative, borderline surreal ways that other superhero movies never do. The best parts of the movie are the ones in which the humor completely takes over the genre rulebook and subverts it in bizarre ways. I predict the “X-Force sequence”, in which Deadpool puts together a team of D-list comic book mutants, is going to stand out as a fan favorite for its surprisingly morbid pay-off. Pretty much every interaction Deadpool has with Cable is also funny – the pairing makes for a solid vaudevillian duo. Another welcome addition is Zazie Beetz as Domino, a cheery heroine with the power of blind luck.
So the characters are fun in a cartoony way, each operating with their own peculiar tunnel vision while being foiled by Deadpool, who routinely puts them down because of some imaginary character flaw. But the more the story takes itself seriously, the more evident it becomes that Deadpool is only crazy like a fox and so is the movie, which ends up patterning itself way too closely to the movies it’s trying to parody or belittle.
Consider the structure of the film, which begins in tragedy, has its hero looking for a renewed identity and sense of purpose, checks off familiar sequences such as putting together a team and climaxing on a big “CGI fight” (Deadpool’s words) before finally settling on a group shot where the voice-over imparts some wisened worse on the the meaning of family. For all its bravado Deadpool 2 is incredibly complacent with storytelling. The whole story revolves around swaying a young kid from a path of violence, for crying out loud, which not only is pretty tame and lame by Deadpool’s standards – it’s also somewhat hypocritical, given the death and violence that precedes it for the lols.
Another point of contention are some of its jokes. We could be here all night, folks. But the movie tends to repeat itself over and over, specially when meta-commenting on th careers of Reynolds and Hugh Jackman. A certain mid-credits scene has won over the internet for its presumed irreverence. To me it feels like the movie isn’t really commenting on the X-Men (“A tired metaphor for racism in the sixties”, Deadpool calls them) or the whole superhero fad in general, but rather it’s finally catching up to common criticism that isn’t theirs to take credit for.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).