Thursday, May 24, 2018

Deader, Pooler

Year: 2018
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin
Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Hollywood is really hoping the world's refractory period for superhero movies is a short one, because Deadpool 2 arrives just three weeks after the massive, universe-shattering blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, which came just two months after the box office juggernaut Black Panther. But even the shadow of Avengers can't quite obscure Deadpool 2, which is the followup to a film that was a massive hit exactly because it was a nasty-minded R-rated comedy sandwiched into the superheroic genre elements that have become so pervasive in movie theaters over the past decade.

Unfortunately, that means that Deadpool 2 isn't a superhero sequel but a comedy sequel, and those are quite a bit harder to pull off. All of Marvel's sequels have done better than their previous entries, because sequels don't have to worry about setting up their characters and conflicts, and just get to relax into a new adventure. Comedy sequels have to appease the audience by repeating their favorite jokes, only without the necessary element of surprise. Let's see how that went, shall we?

So far so consistent.

Warning: this plot synopsis and subsequent review contain SPOILERS for the first act of Deadpool 2; one major plot point that I couldn't care less about, and one minor reveal that I found way more interesting. But this really isn't a movie where the plot matters one whit, so I'm not bothered about it.

Deadpool 2 sees the return of its indestructible red-clad merc Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) just as his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) gets blown away by gangsters after a hit gone wrong. His mourning process (they were going to have a family, which is not a terrible idea for these people apparently) involves him couch-surfing at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters as a trainee member of the X-Men alongside returning D-list members Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who now has a girlfriend (Shioli Kutsuna) in one of those Hollywood stabs at LGBT diversity where gay people don't kiss or touch or talk, but just kind of stand next to each other.

His first mission involves defusing a situation involving a young mutant with anger issues and the ability to shoot flames out of his hand, the self-proclaimed Firefist (Julian Dennison of the terrific Hunt for the Wilderpeople). Deadpool's irreverent humor drives the kid away, just in time for the time-traveling terminator Cable (Josh Brolin) to arrive from the future with an eye on destroying the kid to prevent crimes he commits as an adult. Does Deadpool learn to overcome his grief and become the father he was always meant to be? Well, you'll just have to see, won't you?

Father, X-Man, friend to all gays... What can't this man do?

We would do well to sit down with the question that is all-important to comedy sequels: Is this schtick still funny? Obviously comedy is in the funny bone of the beholder, but my answer is a qualified yes. I've always loved meta humor in general, and the way it combines with pretty incisive analysis of superhero clich├ęs continues to be satisfying (some times more than others - the movie really drops the ball with its obligatory Thanos joke). And there's plenty of new bits on hand here, including a delightful gross-out recurring gag with a pen, that are just solid examples of comedy writing, comic book movie or not. Sure, some jokes thud to the floor (there's a recurring bit about dubstep that I'm not certain is or was ever funny in any universe), but this is one of those modern movies that throw so much at the wall that most of sticks and you can ignore the rest.

Unfortunately, "the rest" includes most of the jokes that are picked up from the previous film. The biggest one of these being T.J. Miller's comic relief presence. It doesn't help that in the time between the previous movie and now, it has been revealed that the man himself is pretty much an unmitigated asshole, but his jokes have always felt like the blooper reel of a Judd Apatow movie, and they suck out all the air from the film every time he makes an appearance. And although the opening credits sequence is still quite fun, they're almost too shy to repeat the joke from the original movie and cut them short just as they're getting started.

All in all, however, I'm gonna put the humor in the plus column. The scales are tipped especially when you add the weight of new recruits Zazie Beetz and Julian Dennison, who own every scene they are in. Wilderpeople proved that Dennison has the chops and I'm glad he's gotten a bigger platform for his unique brand of Kiwi bluster, but as someone who doesn't watch Atlanta, Beetz is a new encounter for me, and it has been excessively pleasant. Her colossal confidence and screen presence will superglue your eyes to the screen, and her action sequences, which involve the superpower of "luck" creating a series of Rube Goldberg Final Destination deaths around her as she struts by, are truly something to behold.

She's basically what would happen if we put 70's Pam Grier in a superhero movie, and that's the highest praise I can give to any human being.

And though Domino's action is clearly the best, Deadpool 2 doesn't disgrace director David Leitch's history with John Wick and Atomic Blonde at any point. Deadpool's indestructibility allows him to soar through the tropes of action cinema just as easily as superhero movies, circumventing traditional fight setpieces in his own idiosyncratic fashion. Probably the best example (and the one shown in the trailers) is the part where it seems like he's deflecting all the bullets Cable shoots at him by hitting them aside with his katanas, only to reveal that most of them have hit their mark because it's, like, super hard to hit a bullet with a sword. By lowering the personal stakes as to his health and well-being, Deadpool 2 has opened the floodgates to a cartoony sense of fun that keeps these scenes buoyant and propulsive throughout.

So, the comedy and action are present, which is really all you need. Unfortunately, Deadpool has two hours to fill and what it chooses to sandwich in between the fun parts is more than a bit irksome. There's repeated use of a ridiculous heaven-esque dreamscape that delivers foreshadowing and character insight on a silver platter without actually having to earn it, and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the movie's more dramatic sequences. Ryan Reynolds sells Deadpool's emotional arc, because he really is a solid actor, but the drama here is much too maudlin and self-serious to pair well with the fratty comedy the rest of the movie delivers. There's no foundation for this type of scene in the Deadpool universe, and we get a lot of them here to crumble around us.

Also, sweet baby Jesus, there are so many random soundtrack needle drops in this movie. In the climactic third act sequence it feels like we get a dozen ironic pop songs jammed into our ears, to the point that I'm legitimately surprised we didn't get a joke comparing that scene to Suicide Squad. Some of these juxtapositions of bubblegum pop and action work quite well, but the movie is too flooded with them for the few great moments to actually have any potency.

Neither of these flaws are film-ruining, but they certainly drag this sequel to a lower level than its predecessor, in spite of quite a few things that are working even better than before. I can't wait to see the story continue with the exciting new characters it has added, it's satisfying to see what a Deadpool movie can do with an actual budget, and I had fun. That's really all I need, but there's just those niggling problems that refuse to go away.

TL;DR: Deadpool 2 is a satisfying, fun hunk of diminishing returns.
Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 1359
Reviews In This Series
Deadpool (Miller, 2016)
Deadpool 2 (Leitch, 2018)

3 comments:

  1. "All of Marvel's sequels have done better than their previous entries"

    Eh, I dunno. Thor's still my favorite Thor, GotG is better than GotGvol2, and if those are just me thinking that, I suggest just about everybody still agrees the first Iron Man is still the best Iron Man movie, and either the best movie Iron Man's been in or very close to it. And there's none of the mini-franchises that have a genuine upward trend (maybe Ant-Man and the Wasp will prove me wrong, and I have some faith it might).

    Anyway, Deadpool 2 is fun and annoying, which is what I expected and I suppose what I wanted, though in no sense whatsoever did I (or anyone else) *ever* want it to be a Film About Loss. And if it was going to be, maybe not so much of one, huh?

    It's David Leitch's least ambitious movie by far, too, which is a pity; other than the Domino car chase, you can really tell he's barely trying.

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    1. To clarify, I ONLY meant better financially. I am in no state to judge the sequels qualitatively, because I honestly still need to catch up on those middle entries. Mini-marathon coming soon? Maybe? If I can muster the energy.

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    2. I feel that. I'm trying to decide if I have anything worthwhile to say about any Star Wars film other than Return of the Jedi. I mean, I've got opinions, but otherwise they're the same opinions.

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