Film Review: Deadpool 2
Fourth-wall-breaking protagonist Deadpool has returned to the big screen in a sequel to his 2016 cinematic superhero caper. This time he assembles a group of mutants to neutralise the kind of threat that can only manifest due to the raging anger hormones and nonsensical brain thought patterns of a teenage boy in full bloom.
If you read my review
of the first Deadpool
movie you'll know that I (contrary to popular opinion) didn't like it so you may be wondering why I subjected myself to watching, and writing a review of, the sequel.
It's all in the name of comics journalism, plus I thought I would give the franchise a second chance as, every once in a while, cinema offers surprises.
is such an example - I liked it. It's not perfect. There are problems and, as you can guess, I am going to jump into them (without spoiling anything, as I always try not to do) but if you are one of those rare individuals who didn't like the first movie either, this will give you a more objective exploration of whether the sequel is worth your time.
My primary complaint is that the catalyst in the story involves two instances of fridging
, which most writers in the past few years, across many mediums, have learnt to avoid like the plague as the plot device has become so well understood that even mainstream audiences are able to identify and vilify it. Fridging is all to common in the X-Men universe - it was used as recently as 2016 as a plot device in X-Men: Apocalypse
- and it's just lazy, unimaginative writing.
(Should you not know the term, "fridging" refers to the trope in which (primarily) female characters are killed off or badly maimed as a catalyst in the story to push the hero and/or villain into action due to his grief and/or growing need for vengeance.)
Seeing this in 2018 is, of course, very disappointing. What saves the movie are the new characters that have been brought into the franchise and the skilled performances by the actors who portray them.
First, it offers a more complicated villain in Cable (much credit, of course, to Josh Brolin, who also did an excellent job as Thanos in The Avengers: Infinity War
), which is refreshing after so many superhero movies that have pushed the megalomaniac who makes sky swirlies to prove his power.
Cable is intelligent, he has a purpose, and he also has some very cool technology to play with. Again, much like Thanos, you morally understand the reasons for his actions even if you don't ethically agree with them.
We also have additional villains in Juggernaut, who is perfectly cast (Ryan Reynolds portrays the voice) and recreated in this movie, unlike his appalling representation in X-Men: The Last Stand
, where he was portrayed by Vinnie Jones but he looked more like a Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
team member than a physically unstoppable force, and the headmaster (Eddie Marsan) of the Essex Home For Mutant Rehabilitation, an orphanage where children with mutant abilities are forced into abusive "reparative therapy". (This is, of course, a thinly veiled analogy for the ex-gay movement
and conversion therapy.)
We're also offered a conflicted character, Russell Collins/Firefist (Julian Dennison), a young mutant scarred by the reparative therapy who is on the verge of turning into a villain.
Second, the new heroes in the form of X-Force, a team of mutants that Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) assembles in his quest to try and save Firefist. The most prominent of these characters is Domino (Zazie Beetz), who is smart and self-confident. Her "luck" superpower, which she has learnt to rely on and utilise to her advantage, causes utter chaos around her, if necessary, as it serves her needs and gets her out of tricky situations. She joins the X-Force for no other reason than she feels there will be a reason for it - at some point.
In most instances the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends not to know what to do with its female characters (case in point is The Avengers: Infinity War
, which is on circuit now as well, in which most of the women are given very little to do) so it's refreshing that Deadpool 2
, which, while full of Marvel characters isn't part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to the complicated studio-business nonsense of who owns the rights to what, hands over a major action sequence to Domino. She's allowed to shine in this well thought out extended moment of mayhem and it really solidifies her importance, unlike that of Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who is once again shoved in the background.
Speaking of whom, she returns from the first film (this time with an X-Man girlfriend, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), casually thrown into the story, which is a good evolution of how we should be seeing gay characters portrayed), along with all its previous characters - Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Dopinder the taxi driver (Karan Soni), Colossus (Stefan Kapičić), and Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) - all of whom, bar Colossus, who gets more screen time, take a back seat to the strong new characters.
Also returning is Weasel, Wade's best friend, who is portrayed by TJ Miller, one of the many actors who has been accused of sexual assault through the #MeToo movement. I'd happily never watch him on screen again - I never particularly liked him anyway - so it was frustrating to see him in this movie. The argument is that it was too late in production to replace him (and, to the franchise's credit, he won't be returning in any sequels or spinoffs) but this was done successfully for All The Money In the World
, with that film's team replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer.
This was, sadly, a missed opportunity for the film on a number of fronts. It would have been a fantastic comedic coup had Christopher Plummer replaced TJ Miller (this franchise, like no other, is best suited for that joke), especially as the movie actually makes a Christopher Plummer reference in a news ticker that runs across the screen during a news broadcast of events going on in the story, which some argue is an acknowledgement of the TJ Miller issue. It also would have been a way for the franchise to offer solidarity with the #MeToo movement in a double whammy during its pursuit of topical, political, and pop-culture references.
With regards to things that return, the X-Mansion features in this film too and is again populated by Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, plus Yukio (who gets one brief action moment in the movie and a handful of lines - she certainly deserves more). As before, the mansion is echoingly empty everywhere else, although this time the movie makes a good series of jokes about it, one of which almost
explains the emptiness. Unfortunately the emptiness remains jarring, even with the contextual jokes, and really makes no sense - why can't the production team hire some young extras to roam around to make the place seem less deserted?
Once again we also have the weird problem, in the aftermath of all the action sequences bar the first one, of characters blabbing on and on (especially at the end) while no first responders, authorities, or ambulances arrive to deal with the massive destruction that's taken place around them. The areas are as empty as the X-Mansion. It annoyed me in the first movie and it annoys me again in this one.
I did enjoy this movie more than the first one as the humour was more sophisticated, although I missed some of the jokes that were thrown in quick succession due to people in the audience doing that thing in which you laugh really loudly to prove that you caught the pop-culture reference. (For this reason, actually, I'd recommend not
watching the film in a cinema and waiting until it's on home video or streaming services, unless you can find an early morning screening when no one is likely to attend.)
The extensive pop-culture references, jokes, and meta jokes, which integrate better in the movie than the previous one, still take up valuable space, however, and in the pursuit of what, exactly? Empowering thousands of YouTube creators to assemble top-10 lists of "things you missed in Deadpool 2
"? It's bizarre to me to make a movie filled with what is essentially a treasure hunt for nerds. Rather make a better movie. Why does expending so much energy on these sorts of things make people happy? You could use that energy for science, or activism, or art.
However my main complaint with the first movie is what most applies here - the storytelling lacks balls, to use a metaphor Deadpool would approve of, and a real exploration of the possible actions of a man whose brain is constantly being rewired by cancer, consequently manipulating everything from his moral compass to his sexuality.
Much like the first movie was really just a boring, angsty romance, the story in this one can be simplified to fridging motivating not one but two
main characters, tacked on to another heavy-handed theme revolving around "family", which I'm extremely tired of after The LEGO Batman Movie
and Tomb Raider
The movie is enjoyable enough because the acting is good, the character balance is better and more interesting, and the humour, to its credit, is smarter, less juvenile, and occasionally more risqué in the right ways - but the storytelling is not.
Deadpool 2 was written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds based on characters created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, was directed by David Leitch, and stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, and Stefan Kapičić.
The press screening was courtesy of Empire Entertainment.
, speculative fiction
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