Director: David Leitch
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz
Maybe its simply Marvel fatigue (even if Deadpool is kinda tangential; not part of the ‘MCU’, whatever). Maybe its the lasting shadow of the two triumphs we’ve already received in this overstuffed year; the heavyweight Black Panther and the still-fresh Avengers: Infinity War. Or maybe it’s that aggressive marketing campaign all over again. Trailers upon trailers. Viral whathaveyous. Or maybe – as Deadpool 2 repeatedly suggests – it’s really the fault of shitty writing (not unlike this paragraph)… but this movie blows.
Yes, the supposedly subversive prankster anti-hero is back, breaking the fourth wall and dropping F-bombs as if Wile E. Coyote started to speak and turned out to have the voice of Eric Cartman. Holy Christmas, what have we done to deserve this?
But back up. Deadpool was… all right. Take away the clownish direct-to-camera schtick and it was a serviceable if uninspired origin story. Actually, a lot closer to conventional material that it would probably like to admit. But it was okay. It passed two hours well enough if you wanted it to. The problem here is that, in the current climate, such movies instantly receive a sequel, even when there’s not a convincing argument for one. Deadpool was a franchise before the first movie even landed. That’s just what happens now.
So here we are, and Wade Wilson’s cheery catchphrase “maximum effort” is nowhere in evidence. In the assumed hope that what worked once will work again, Deadpool 2 offers up the exact same shit. The same narrated flashback entry point (albeit much shorter), the same kitschy pop music cues to counterpoint ultra-violence, the same jokes. Literally, the same jokes. It’s full-tilt recycle time. Deadpool 2 is stuffed with pop culture references, but it loves nothing more than its own forbearer. If you didn’t watch film one, boy are you fucked.
Excuse my potty mouth, but if you’re at all initiate in this trailer park of the Marvel universe then you’ll already be numbed to that shit. Deadpool 2 ups the ante by dropping a couple of naughty C bombs, and the slapstick violence is upped to just cruel and unusual. Remember when awful lads’ mags would have pages dedicated to snapshots of nasty wounds, as though its readership wanted to walk through a masturbation minefield? That’s basically this movie. Sound like fun?
Not that I’m squeamish. Not that I’m offended by bad language. But Deadpool 2 wishes I were, so badly. It is desperate for your attention, when most of the time it is exhaustingly dull. When the jokes aren’t recycled, they’re simply absent. There’s a brief yet endless sequence here which takes place in – sigh – superhero prison. One with those neck braces that render superheroes inactive. Great. Pick any scene from this first-act slump and you’ll have a contender for worst scene in the movie. Wade loves pointing out how much things and people look like other things and people, awkwardly reminding the viewer how derivative everything being presented actually is.
Take the whole premise here, which is so pointedly pilfered from The Terminator that it feels redundant to even highlight it. Josh Brolin’s Cable, with his red eye and his total lack of shading, makes me sorry that I even suggested a lack of depth in Thanos. I eat my words. And when the script isn’t mocking sensitivity its balls deep in some of the most thudding sentimental dross I’ve recently come into contact with. Are these afterlife scenes with soft focus lenses supposed to be ironic in some way? Because they’re played far too straight for Deadpool. David Leitch really seems to mean it.
Tim Miller’s first movie was no cinematic masterpiece, but Leitch’s follow-up looks terrible. Action sequences lack any sense of dynamism or energy, and Deadpool himself bounces through it all like a rubber ball; Wade seemingly no longer even feels pain. Perhaps appropriately, its numbing to watch. Leitch’s presentation often recalls the that’ll-do staging of Kevin Smith, only there’s even less beneath the relentless immaturity, other than a recycled ‘message’ that your friends can be your family. We know that. See every other superhero movie for further examples of this idea.
Very occasionally a subtly dark joke or blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sight gag will land and raise a smirk, but otherwise this is a joyless bore. The disruptive kid in the class is funny for a bit, but after that everyone just wants to get on with their day. Reynolds’ wise cracking spandex man had his fifteen minutes and it was fine. Deadpool 2 is a strong argument for quitting while you’re ahead. Evidently, however, this isn’t a franchise that’s going away anytime soon.
But spin-offs are a big thing. Marvel know the potentiality there. So here’s hoping that Zazie Beetz gets some solo time as Domino as she’s easily the best thing about this movie. Arriving somewhere around the middle of the picture (in, admittedly, its comic high point), it’s a little while before she’s allowed to shine as the film’s very own Lady Luck. But she does so, bringing much-needed pizzazz to an outing that has otherwise firmly located its autopilot. In fact, while we’re renegotiating the boundaries of the MCU, how about a buddy movie between her and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie? Now that really could be something….
But as for this title, y’know what really would be subversive?