Let it be known, while I look pretty closely at box office figures week to week I am not always that great at predicting what’s going to catch on and how big. That was certainly the case of the first Deadpool film, which I expected to find an audience but I never imagined it would make $132 million in its opening weekend and go on to make nearly $800 million worldwide. There might have been a little personal bias there because by 2016 I’d been pretty frustrated by the “comic book adaptation with attitude” genre as exemplified by such films as Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kingsmen: The Secret Service. As such I skipped Deadpool in theaters and when I finally caught up with the movie on Blu-ray I can’t say I particularly regretted that decision. Deadpool was a fun movie but it certainly didn’t stand out to me as any kind of zeitgeist capturing triumph. Some of its profane fourth-wall breaking antics were amusing but hardly the funniest thing I’d ever seen and ignoring the jokes it was a pretty dull origin story with a bland villain and it’s lower budget was readily apparent in its small-scale action scenes which couldn’t really compete with the giant superhero spectacles that Hollywood has been regularly churning out. And yet, I find myself more inclined to see the film’s sequel in theaters than I was for the original, which maybe has less to do with the movies themselves and more to do with the fact that Hollywood didn’t have the balls to put out anything in the two weeks following Avengers: Infinity War and I was jonesing for an action movie.
Deadpool 2 picks up a few months after the end of its predecessor and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) has embraced a life of doing mercenary work against criminals while easing into his relationship with his fiancé Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) until one day one of his enemies follows him home and kills Vanessa in front of him. Deadpool dispatches the responsible parties quickly but is overcome with guilt and tries to kill himself explosively only to have his healing powers save him once again. Seeing that Deadpool is hurting Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) try to rescue him and bring him into the X-Men fold once again. Deadpool plays along, but on his very first mission he finds himself shooting someone to save a troubled mutant teen named Firefist (Julian Dennison) and both he and his friend are arrested and placed into a special mutant prison where everyone wears collars that suppress their powers. All hope seems lost when the prison is attacked by a time traveling mutant named Cable (Josh Brolin) who seems oddly hellbent on killing Firefist.
One of my biggest problems with the original Deadpool is that is just seemed kind of, well, cheap. I got why it was cheap, the studios were clearly as skeptical as I was about how much of a mass audience the Deadpool character could draw, but given that it was competing with any number of actual blockbuster superhero films its rather meager action scenes were a problem. That has been solved in the sequel, which is perhaps to be expected given that the budget has almost doubled and one of the guys behind the “John Wick” series has been brought on to direct. It would have been a massive disappointment if the action scenes in this thing weren’t a major step up, but they are. That’s not to say that this is some kind of action movie classic but on scales of spectacle it does hold its own against most the other more conventional superhero movies and the R-ratedness of the film’s violence does give it a flavor that most of those movies don’t have.
This time it’s actually the comedy I’m a bit shaky about. Having only watched the original Deadpool in a fairly casual fashion I didn’t really have firm opinions about the comedic stylings of the series but watching this sequel it’s clear that what’s basically going on here is that the movies are taking the “throw everything at the wall” approach to comedy that movies like Airplane! took except that it’s working with a much larger budget and only one character is really allowed to break the fourth wall. As tends to be the case with this approach some jokes work and some don’t, and in this movie I’d say the ratio is maybe one in three landed jokes, which could be worse, but some of the jokes that don’t work are kind of cringey. The movie really wants to seem cool and subversive but in many ways its not as smart as it thinks it is and you can really see the way it does things that seem aimed at a very wide and frankly kind of basic audience. Like, this is a movie that feels the need to throw in parodies of the boombox scene from Say Anything and the interrogation scene from Basic Instinct as if the world didn’t already have enough of both and even feels the need to announce exactly the movie they’re referencing in the latter example. The weird thing is that every once in the blue moon the movie actually will reference something that’s a little bit more obscure like when someone casually brings up the 2005 Australian film The Proposition or when Deadpool makes the occasional inside joke about the comic books, but a lot of these jokes just seem kind of like low hanging fruit rather than subversive digs.
The constant jokes and digressions here certainly leads to some amusing moments but they also sort of undercut the occasional moments where the movie semi-ironically tries to actually play something straight. The moments in the film where it tries to fight for the soul of a child and prevent him from becoming a killer seem particularly hypocritical given the general disregard for human life that is otherwise on display in the movie. This is a movie that begs you not to take it seriously outside of its overwhelming irreverence and given that I kind of wish it had gone for the jugular even more. The film certainly isn’t making any kind of statement about society and while it does make certain digs at the comic book genre I’m not sure they’re all that biting either. Of course this isn’t to say that the movie is a complete failure or even a failure at all really. As summer entertainment goes the movie mostly succeeds and I think there is reason to say that it offers more to the viewer than some of the more cookie-cutter of the Marvel movies. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. That said I don’t really respect the movie in spite of its entertainment value. At the end of the day it’s a rather immature work and I don’t think it’s going to age we, but again, there are worse ways to spend your time.
*** out of Five