Cinema Dispatch: Deadpool 2

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Deadpool 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by David Leitch

The first Deadpool was really solid for what it was, and I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it only SORT of is!  It was not so much a movie in its own right as it was a proof of concept for a character to show how something this dark, comedic, and off the wall can be done in the super hero genre.  It makes sense considering this character had pretty much been struggling to prove itself for years as a cinematically viable presence what with the awfulness that was Origins Wolverine (there was an even a stinger for him to return in later X-Men films) or even that CG rendered test footage that became the big car action scene in the real film.  I wasn’t THE MOST thrilled with the end result as a movie, but I was glad that Ryan Reynolds found a character perfectly suited for his capabilities as an actor and that a studio was finally ready to back him up on that.  Now that EVERYONE knows who Deadpool is and are ready to see him in action outside of an origin story, is there enough left to work with to make the amazing film he truly deserves, or was he just a gimmick the whole time and lightening won’t be striking twice for this one?  Let’s find out!!

After getting his revenge, resolving his character arc, and making a boat load at the box office, Deadpool AKA Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is living his Merc with a Mouth life full of blood, snappy quips, and awesome days with his lady love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).  Sadly the good times won’t last forever and Wade is basically left to his own devices which can only spell doom and gloom for those foolish enough to get in his way… unless of course you’re made entirely out of metal.  Oh hey!  His best buddy Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) is made of metal!  Maybe he can get Wade out of his funk and FINALLY get him to join the X-Men!  Thing is, that’s KIND of a monkey’s paw wish as he DOES indeed join the team (as a trainee) but right away screws things up when a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennsion) gets himself into trouble and Deadpool comes to his aid in a manner that doesn’t QUITE meet the X-Men code… or the law, and winds up going to Mutant Jail which is apparently a thing.  If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s ALSO a half cyborg dude named Cable (Josh Brolin) pulling a Terminator by coming back to the past to save the future and it SEEMS to involve both Wade AND death, so Deadpool certainly has his work cut out for him in order to escape prison, keep the kid from ending up a reprobate like himself, and stopping the Future Cop from whatever the hell it is he plans on doing.  Will Wade learn how to not just be an irreverent jackass, but an irreverent jackass with a HEART?  Just how far will Cable go to complete his mission, and how much collateral damage will Wade have to suffer because of it?  He may not be the best man for the job, but is he at least the FUNNIEST one!?

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“This isn’t really going as I planned.”     “Do you want to take a break?”     “No no no!  I’m good!”

It has a rough start to be sure, but overall I did enjoy this more than the first one by a pretty significant margin.  I wasn’t sure about that for the longest time, but by the end it was clear that what we have here may not feel as fresh and original as the first film did, but it’s definitely more refined and with a much clearer sense of purpose as a film in its own right rather than as a jumping off point for future endeavors.  I’d say that we’re STILL not quite there to a BRILLIANT Deadpool movie; mostly in terms of this STILL being under the Fox umbrella which means cut corners like a mo-fo, but each step has taken us a little bit closer and I think this is the biggest one yet.  Maybe it won’t be the massive success and out of nowhere surprise that the first film was as everyone is now more acclimated to his shtick which has become GASP… MAINSTREAM, but in trying to not chase after the easy goals of shock value and rebelliousness (it has commercial deals with Mike’s Hard Lemonade; that’s pretty freaking corporate) it managed to tell a heartfelt and genuinely interesting story about a guy who needs to find a modicum of meaning in his life and goes about it in a shall we say… UNORTHODOX way.

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“Hey, Mr. Face!  Meet my friend; Mr. CONCRETE!!”

What makes this movie better than its original can basically be boiled down to the fact that this feels less like a Deadpool story about Deadpool and no one but Deadpool, and more of an X-Men movie from Deadpool’s point of view.  The expansion of this world outside of Deadpool’s rather narrowly focused origin story and ongoing hijinks is the best decision they could have made because simply watching him bounce off the walls in his own little universe a second time would be insufferable (just look at the first ten minutes of this film to see that) and a character like this that is all about being subversive needs to exist in a world that he can then subvert.  Being a part of the X-Men Cinematic Universe (the XCU I guess) opens the door up to so many possibilities that the film cruelly teases here while also giving us a rather satisfying taste of what we could see in the future.  Like last time, there are barely any big name mutants on hand to join in the fun, but the ones who do show up like Colossus, Cable, and Domino are great foils for Deadpool and add some much needed depth to him as a character simply by being around to interact with him and ground his more ridiculous tendencies.  Josh Brolin by the way proves more than capable of playing yet another Marvel bad ass as he’s certainly a highlight of this film, and to compare him to Thanos (which Deadpool does in this movie; LOL so random!) would be a bit disingenuous considering how vastly different of a role he’s asked to play here.  Okay, both are stick up their ass serious types who are REALLY good at killing things, but Cable is less of a ponderous examination of what true evil can look like and how it can delude itself into thinking they are the good guy, and more of a genuine tough guy forced into an absurd situation where it’s less about him than it is his reactions to what’s going on around him.  The macho physique, the Terminator-esque backstory and design, the taciturn attitude, all work great as a springboard for Deadpool to then take the piss out of, but Brolin is so good of an actor that he takes a giant walking, talking, half-robotic, cliché and adds some pathos to it which makes him at least interesting enough to stay engaging whenever he’s not directly interacting with Deadpool.  Even better than him though (or at least the character that has a lot more potential) is Domino who comes in a bit late but steals every scene she’s in and manages to get to Deadpool in a way that Cable’s tough guy attitude and Colossus’s boy scout moralizing can’t; namely that she makes him feel inadequate with how easily she’s able to do what he can’t or at least would take a hell of a lot more effort to do.  Sadly she feels a bit underutilized, mostly due to her coming into the story at the halfway point, but Zazie Beetz is a commanding presence on screen and would certainly be even more of a standout in a role with a bit more meat to it.  Sadly, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and her new girlfriend Yukio (who is supposedly the same character that Rila Fukushima played in The Wolverine which even for a continuity as convoluted as this series is an… interesting choice) are criminally underutilized here as glorified cameos at best which seems like a very odd choice considering how much notice the former got in the last film, but hopefully the CONTINUED success of this franchise will no doubt lead to more mutants with bigger roles and more ways to interfere with Deadpool’s unending stream of wacky bullshit.

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“Where the HELL is my screen time!?”

Now throwing in more characters for Deadpool to bounce off of was kind of a given since that’s basically what you do with sequels; make them bigger, add more stuff, and try to remind the audience of why the liked the first one.  What you probably didn’t expect though was that the story they came up with here is actually a lot more nuanced than its flippant star would have you believe, and while I have no idea if his characterization in here is in any way accurate to the comics, we at least know that the filmmakers are more interested in making him an INTERESTING character than a one stop Meme Machine.  A lot of it has to do with the plot itself which has Wade Wilson more or less taking responsibility for a kid who’s angry at the world and may become a monster if he continues down the wrong path; a path by the way he was pretty much forced down by an abusive school and a society that does nothing to stop them.  We’ve gotten X-Men movies before that took aim at the xenophobia and the harm that being thought of as outcasts has done for these people with powers, but the way this kid is treated by his educators, thought of as a thug by the police, and then railroaded into the criminal justice system once he starts to lash out, are WAY more poignant than having Iceman’s parents ask if he can STOP being a mutant.  The way that Wade simultaneous pushes this kid away while also being protective of him isn’t the MOST original idea out there (they basically did the exact same thing in Logan which this film references every now and again), but it’s honestly WAY more than I was expecting out of the guy and the places it takes him are a lot more grounded and serious than his reputation would seem to ever permit him to be.  Things get real towards the end which is almost the anathema of cheeky edginess that makes him such a fun character to watch, but it’s handled with enough grace and gravitas that the shift in tone works in emphasizing the drama instead of just distracting from the fun.  If you want a character like this to have longevity as a viable box office draw, this is how you do it.

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“Can you feel the LOVE!?”

The movie sadly falters in quite a few key areas that keep this from being an all-time classic film even if I DO think it’s a more satisfying package than the first one.  The prologue is REALLY sub par because it felt like a straightforward continuation of everything we saw in the first film which was quite a bad sign that this character couldn’t sustain even another ten minutes of the shtick from the first film, let alone a whole other movie and a possible franchise to boot.  Fortunately once we get to the James Bond style opening cinematic (the new version of the freeze frame opening from the first film) is when things started to feel like a NEW movie and not just a retread of the last one, but there was still one element of the prologue that hung around this movie’s neck like an albatross and only further pointed out how little gas was left in the tank from the first film.  This movie had absolutely NO idea what to do with Vanessa, and the way they write her out of this one feels less like a natural turning point for Deadpool’s character and more like they were shoving her off screen before they were asked to even TRY to find a reason for her existence now that they got back together.  It’s bullshit because Morena Baccarin did such a good job in that first film that basically writing her out here robs this film of having any significant female characters, at least for the first half of the film until Domino shows up (Negasonic Teenage Warhead COULD have filled that role if they bothered to put her in for more than a few minutes). Speaking of when Domino shows up, she’s part of a significant GET THE TEAM TOGETHER subplot where Deadpool hires a few other bad asses to help him on his quest, and it DOES have a rather funny ending but still felt like a BIT of a misfire.  I don’t know, maybe these characters would have gotten REALLY old REALLY fast if they stayed on screen for even another ten minutes (and the payoff is pretty damn funny), but I thought the characters were kind of interesting and there’s one that’s played by one of the best character actors OF ALL TIME, so seeing them go away so soon feels like a BIT of a wasted opportunity.

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“Wow!  We actually got YOU to show up for this?”     “I know, righ-”     “Shut the fuck up, TJ.”

The first Deadpool was fun and certainly exceeded expectations, but it felt a bit empty for the most part; telling a rather standard superhero origin with the twist that its character was a lot naughtier than Steve Rogers or even Tony Stark.  Maybe it was necessary to hedge their bets a bit by making essentially a big marketing package to try and sell this character to the general audience, and with Deadpool 2 being the result of it, I feel it was a very wise investment.  This is the movie the first film SHOULD have been had Deadpool been a known quantity already like Batman or Spider-Man, and I think this will stick with people a lot more even if it won’t get the same box office or notoriety in the short term.  Definitely go check this out at the theaters because it’s a great palate cleanser for the rather annoying aftertaste that Infinity War left in your mouth.  NO, I’M STILL NOT OVER THAT!!

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