DEADPOOL 2 (Directed by David Leitch, 119 minutes, USA, 2018)
BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Ryan Reynolds returns as everyone’s favorite Merc with a mouth in Deadpool 2, one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the summer. The first installment of turned the superhero genre on its head with its hard-R, low budget take on the fan favorite character that was known for not only his miraculous regenerative abilities, but his penchant for breaking the fourth wall, providing a bizarre meta-commentary on the comic book world. With original director Tim Miller walking away from the sequel due to “creative differences,” we have David Leitch (John Wick,Atomic Blonde) settling into the director’s chair.
This time around Deadpool is tasked with protecting Russell (AKA Firefist) a troubled young mutant from Cable (Josh Brolin), an unstoppable super soldier from the future. Cable believes killing Russell is the only way to save his family from their predestined fate. Deadpool’s girlfriend Vanessa is once again dispatched early on in the film and to save the day Deadpool has to put forth maximum effort and form his own super hero squad, X-Force to thwart Cable. While the first film hilariously deconstructed the superhero origin story this film tackles the tropes and conventions of Marvel’s multi-hero extended universe films. Of course, if you’ve read the comics you know Cable and Deadpool eventually team up, and in this film they are forced to put aside their differences by the third act to to take on a big bad that threatens all of human and mutant kind. This third act twist highlights the misdirection that filmmakers have begun to employ, thanks to toxicity of comic book fandom and its strange compulsion to spoil and dismiss a film, before its even hits the theater.
Deadpool 2 feels at times a bit too derivative of the original with its fractured narrative and recycled gimmicks that riff on Hollywood’s bigger-is-always-better approach to superhero sequels. The filmmakers wisely use this framework as a springboard to blow open Deadpool’s world, expanding the scope of the original’s low-budget universe to rival Disney’s own Marvel offerings. The film’s script, while lacking some of the original’s nuance, does up the ante with a constant stream of densely-layered in-jokes and meta-references that are simply impossible to consume whole in a single viewing. While Deadpool 2 definitely delivers more laughs than the original, it does feel a bit overwhelming at times, and laughing too hard could result in missing something possibly relevant to the plot or the next joke. While the first film did a better job of balancing the action set pieces and the laugh lines, Deadpool 2 goes straight for the laughs. (While the post credit sequence joke is one of the best of its kind it also brings into question the entire narrative of the film as Deadpool does some time traveling of his own.)
Deadpool 2’s screenplay wisely sidesteps Cable’s convoluted back-story to focus on bringing together X-Force and setting up Deadpool as the best thing Fox currently has going Marvel-wise. Reynolds is back in his element and isn’t afraid to be completely self-deprecating when it benefits the punch line or a deliver a gross out gag if it will get a laugh. For instance, Deadpool 2’s take on the baby hand gag is something that can’t be unseen, but probably should be. On the upside, Brolin is just pure badass and gives Deadpool the straight man he deserves, while also delivering a formable physical presence as the no nonsense half man/half cyborg. While most people probably assume, judging by the trailer, that Peter’s everyman is going steal the show, but that honor goes to Zazie Beetz’s Domino, whose superpower is good luck. It’s no secret that the camera loves her and every moment she’s on screen her effortless charm and charisma makes her the center of attention. The film also features one of the best blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos of the summer, giving Matt Damon’s brief turn in Thor: Ragnarok a run for its money for sheer brevity.
The thing that surprised me most about the original Deadpool was the sheer re-watchablity of it; catching it on cable when it was in heavy rotation I found the film easy to pick up and impossible to put down. While it still remains to be seen if the newest entry will enjoy that same bottomless replay value I do know I have to see it again if only to catch the jokes I was too busy laughing to get the first time around. Suffice it to say if you liked Deadpool, Deadpool 2 will likely be the funniest film you see all summer.