The Merc With a Mouth comes again
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Directed by David Leitch
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Morena Baccarin
In 2016 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool blew the lid off the superhero genre. Taking a fan fave comic book character almost entirely unknown to the general public and spinning it into the highest-grossing R-rated film in cinema history (international, not domestic) was no mean feat and did not go unnoticed by the movie industry. Not only did it make a ton of money off a tight budget and cement the viability of Marvel Comics’ more obscure characters, its successful R rating proved that superhero movies aren’t just for kids (something that actual comic books proved decades ago). Plus, the film single-handedly pardoned star Ryan Reynolds for his two previous (and super crappy) superhero flicks (X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern) Now, the much-anticipated sequel—which, to its credit, doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel—arrives in theaters, foul-mouthed and covered in various sticky substances. While the raunchy prankster vibe isn’t going to welcome in a whole new audience, it’s more than enough to satisfy the many fans of the original.
The film itself starts out with our “Merc With a Mouth,” Deadpool, ripping on his old pal Wolverine for riding his coattails by making an R-rated movie (the also incredibly successful Logan). DP’s only recourse now is to match Wolvie beat-for-beat and die dramatically in this new movie. Things only get progressively more self-referential from there.
It’s impossible, of course, to replicate the sense of surprise audiences got watching the original Deadpool. The ballsy blast of sarcasm, ultraviolence and fourth-wall-breaking was precisely the relief audiences were craving more than a dozen films into Marvel’s epic cinematic universe. Moviegoers more or less know what to expect this time around, though, so the rude jokes and bloody slapstick aren’t going to hit with the same sense of shock and awe. That said, Deadpool 2 does up the ante with some even more rapid-fire joke writing, most of it aimed squarely at the medulla oblongatas of longtime fanboys and fangirls. If you have no idea who freakin’ Shatterstar is, you’re still going to get some rock solid belly laughs out of this one. But the deeper your knowledge of early-’90s comic books, the more you’re going to feel fan-serviced.
This go-around starts off in considerably darker territory than the original, with violent vigilante Deadpool returning from a world tour of murder and mayhem only to be met with great tragedy. Deciding to end it all (unsuccessfully, thanks to his mutant healing ability), Deadpool is pulled out of his funk by old friend Colossus (his CGI companion from the first film). Colossus drags him along on an X-Men assignment, trying to rescue a short-tempered, fire-fisted kid named Russell (Julian Dennison, young star of Taika Waititi’s wonderful Hunt For the Wilderpeople) from an abusive orphanage for mutants.
Realizing (perhaps unwisely) that he needs to have a family to be complete, Deadpool decides to “adopt” young Russell. This sends him off on a quixotic quest for perfect fatherhood and puts him in the crosshairs of gunslinging bad guy Cable (Josh Brolin, doing double supervillain duty this summer between this and Avengers: Infinity War). Cable is a pissed-off cyborg soldier from the future who’s come back in time to assassinate Russell, whom he believes will turn evil and usher in an apocalyptic world of tomorrow. (Don’t worry, Deadpool is quick on the draw with the Terminator jokes.)
In order to save young Russell, Deadpool assembles his own super team, which he dubs “X-Force.” The standout member is star-in-the-making Zazie Beetz (from FX’s “Atlanta”), who plays Domino, a mutant with the power of fantastical good luck. Despite being “a little derivative” (as one character points out), the gang (including the above-named dollar bin action figure Shatterstar) head out to fuck some shit up.
Admittedly, the first Deadpool film—for all its irreverence—felt like more of a traditional superhero movie. Like its main character, Deadpool 2 has a difficult time sticking to the script. Of course, the plot here isn’t nearly as important as the hijinks. Reynolds still seems to be having a grand old time, goofing it up like some blood-soaked member of The Three Stooges. He’s surrounded by a lot of very game co-stars, including T.J. Miller, still improving it up, and a whole bunch of surprising cameos. One blink-
In the end Deadpool 2 may be more of a manic string of insider jokes, Easter eggs and snarky references than a carefully constructed follow-up to a surprise hit. But then again, it’s hard to expect any less from Deadpool.