Well, here we are again. After surprising the entire world with his electrifying box office returns in the early weeks of 2016, the “Merc with the Mouth” is back once again to rip apart our funny bones on the big screen. The road to bring Deadpool to cinemas nationwide was not an easy one in the first place. After many years of pitches and non-starters, it seemed like no one was wiling to invest in an R-rated super hero flick with a demented sense of humor. The character himself was significantly undervalued among studio execs, who just saw him as a sideshow in a larger franchise, namely the X-Men one that was put out by Fox. As a result, Deadpool’s first ever screen appearance came in the form of a character that in no way represented what was on the page in the much maligned film X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and is often seen by comic book aficionados as the worst comic to screen translation ever. But, what arose out of this adaptation disaster was a surprising champion for the beloved character. The actor who portrayed Deadpool in the film, Ryan Reynolds, recognized that the character deserved better and he took it upon himself to fight for a movie that did justice to the source. He worked closely with screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick for years trying to craft the movie that they wanted for the character and Reynolds spent years trying to pitch the project to Fox executives, but to no avail. It wasn’t until leaked footage of a screen test made it online and got an enormous response from fans that Fox eventually relented and granted Reynolds and company a modest budget to work their magic with, and that they did. Not only did the movie please fans of the comics, but it enjoyed enormous cross-over appeal, making it one of the highest grossing comic book movies ever, and easily the biggest hit of the genre that Fox had ever seen, eclipsing their own X-Men films.
Naturally, when a movie lands as well as Deadpool did, you just know that a sequel inevitably had to follow, and the filmmakers didn’t waste a second either. This time around, they have a far more substantial budget to work with, now that Fox no longer is squeamish about R-rated super hero flicks, and seemingly unlimited free reign to do whatever they want. The one downside to getting more of what you wanted is that it might overwhelm and undermine what worked so well before. During the process of making the sequel, it seemed like the franchise was indicating very directly that they were about to go in a different direction. Director Tim Miller left the project due to creative differences, and Ryan Reynolds assumed more creative control this time around, even contributing much more of his voice to the screenplay itself. Oftentimes for franchises to survive, creative shuffling like these are mostly necessary, but sometimes too much meddling behind the scenes can mess up the formula too much and ruin the conditions that made the original such a phenomenon in the first place. Movies like Ghostbusters (1984), Ace Ventura (1994) and The Hangover (2009) have all proved that comedies are a hard thing to franchise, and that usually the only way for movies like them to work is to exist completely in untried territory. But, Deadpool is a child of two genres, and one is far more reliant on franchises than the other, and in general, it would be foolish on the filmmakers part not to take the opportunity while they have it. So, in a short 2 years since the first movie made a huge splash, Deadpool 2 arrives in theaters at a time when the genre is hitting another peak, especially on the Marvel front. Is this movie another brilliant lampoon of the super hero genre like the first movie, or does it end up like most comedy sequels and spoils the laughs by having too much of a good thing.
The movie picks up more or less where the original left off. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is enjoying the life of a mercenary, with his regenerative powers keeping him near indestructible. But when tragedy hits close to home, and he loses the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Deadpool falls into a deep depression. Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) of the X-Men reaches out to him, hoping to bring Deadpool out of his funk by making him a trainee for the super team. On one particular mission, Deadpool, Colossus and Neagsonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) arrive at a shelter for troubled and orphaned youth with mutant powers, where one volitile resident named Russell (Julian Dennison) is wrecking havoc. Deadpool recognizes that the tortured boy is lashing out at the shelter’s staff because of abuse he’s received there by them, and it causes him to loose his cool and attack the wrong people. This results in both Deadpool and Russell being sent to a maximum security prison for mutants known as the Icebox, where collars neutralize their powers, causing Deadpool’s dormant cancer to flame up again. Meanwhile, a cyborg enhanced mutant of the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) travels back in time with the intent of killing someone in the past who took everything from him. He arrives at the Icebox and pursues the boy Russell, while Deadpool tries his best to get in his way. After making it out of prison, Deadpool sets out to free Russell himself along with help from other mutants. Among them is Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), Vanisher (secret cameo), and Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose super power of luck is something that Deadpool has a hard time of conceiving. Together they form a new super team known as the X-Force, but the question remains if they are any match for the extra powerful Cable, and is Deadpool on a “death wish” crusade that not only will leave him jeopardized but many others as well?
When judging the merits of a comedy or a super hero flick, it usually differs significantly based on the rules that apply. Super hero flicks tend to be more scrutinized because there are so many expectations put on them based on the source materials that they are trying to adapt. Comedies on the other hand are judged based on how well they made us laugh. Deadpool 2 faces critical judgment based on both due to it’s bridging of both genres and considering both angles, I say that it does the job pretty well for what it set out to do. First and foremost, it is an entertaining ride. I laughed out loud many times while watching the movie, most frequently at the points in the movie where Deadpool takes knowing shots at other films in the super hero genre. But, like most of the great spoofs and parodies done on the big screen over the years, Deadpool 2 understands what genre it’s in and does it’s best to honor that tradition while at the time ripping it apart. When Mel Brooks made Blazing Saddles (1974) he put in the work to make it look and feel like an authentic Western. The team of Zucker/Abrahams likewise did the same with their Naked Gun movies. Reynolds & Co. know that their movie needed to work well as a comic book adaptation before they delved into the meaty comedic potential of it all, and that’s why this and the original Deadpool succeed so well as representations of both genres. It manages to feel like a comic book movie, but also gets to point out all the ridiculous things about the genre that you can’t help but notice after the movie makes you aware of them. In particular, the inconsistent timelines of the X-Men franchise are a continuing running joke in the Deadpool movies, and once again Wolverine is the subject of much of Deadpool’s most savage jabs. The best jokes are usually saved for breaking the fourth wall, but the movie is smart enough to know that it can’t just rely on the humor alone to carry the film.
One big change in the process of making this movie was to give it over to a different director. You have to definitely give props to original director Tim Miller for shepherding the original film to the big screen with very little precedent to guarantee that it would become a big hit. That being said, considering that he was a first time director, his style was pretty limited and was probably best suited for the small budget that they were allowed. When Fox granted the sequel more money, Ryan Reynolds knew that they need a more visionary voice to maximize the production and give it a bigger feel, and that’s why Tim Miller parted ways with the project. In his place, they got John Wick (2014) director David Leitch to helm the project. Leitch proved to be an ideal choice, because his whole style of directing is to go completely over the top ridiculous with the action scenes in his movies, which is something that really put the John Wick franchise on the map. That same absurd level of violence matches perfectly with Deadpool as well, and if there is anything in this sequel that is an improvement over the first, it’s the action set pieces. The ones in the first movie were fine, but Deadpool 2 really makes the most of the expanded budget and gives us action moments that makes the first movie look like a trial run. There is a car chase in particular that is a real standout in the movie, which expertly balances the eye-catching stunt work with fast-flying sight gags in a very complex sequence. It also doesn’t try to be showy either, as the action manages to say tightly in frame without wearing out the audience’s attention. Leitch knows when to land a hilarious moment within hard hitting action, and sometimes even uses the horrific nature of the violence to elicit a laugh, which makes his input here so valuable, because it’s exactly what the character would want his audience to see. At the same time, it stays true to the spirit of the original, by not fixing that wasn’t broken in the first place. Gags repeat from the first one, but they feel like pleasant reminders rather than desperate rehashes. For the most part, Deadpool 2 succeeds at upping the ante of the franchise and bringing out the potential in the biggest possible way.
The one downside that I found with the movie is that it tended to struggle with it’s footing early on in the movie. One thing that I had a problem with in the first Deadpool was the few times when it sunk into conventionality in between all the moments that broke away from it. I understand that an origin story has to serve a larger plot in many ways, but the original hit it’s marks better when it got that business out of the way and finally let loose with Deadpool at his zaniest. The sequel likewise struggles with tone early on, as it tries to push a plot into motion. I understand that there has to be moments that helps us build sympathy for our main antihero, but these scenes usually end up becoming the weakest in the film. In particular, the section of the film in the Icebox was a point where I was worried that the movie was going to lose me. A Deadpool without his powers ends up turning moody and lethargic, and in the process, becomes less funny. But, once it got past this point in the movie, which I can say is probably when Cable finally enters the picture, the movie finally found it’s footing and didn’t relent until the credits started to roll, and even continued beyond that. But, that shaky first act is what keeps this from becoming a perfect sequel. Overall, even despite it’s setbacks, I felt that the first Deadpool was a more balanced film, mainly due to the fact that it didn’t get sidetracked into a needlessly long period of time with the character becoming a shell of himself. Deadpool 2 also lacks the original’s novelty, which helped it to stand out upon it’s original release. But, even still, I was still having a good time watching the movie, as was the audience I was watching it with. It’s just too bad that the same cliches that hamper other films in the genre also seem to manifest in a movie like this too, even despite Deadpool’s best attempts to ridicule them.
The one thing I can’t find any fault with though is the cast. Ryan Reynolds of course proves once again that he is the best possible man for the job to bring this character to life. His snarky delivery and boyish charm brings out the demented humor of Deadpool brilliantly throughout the entire movie, and you can’t help but love his devotion to this project as well. For someone to devote nearly a decade of development towards getting a comic book faithfully translated to the big screen is a commendable achievement, and his commitment remains palatable as the movie unfolds. Thankfully he has many more fresh faces to join him in the mayhem. Chief among them is the inclusion of Josh Brolin as Cable. This fan favorite strongman from the comics makes for a perfect straight man to counterbalance the zaniness of Deadpool, and I found him to be the much needed anchor that keeps the film from going off the rails too much. It’s amazing that in the same summer (only three weeks apart no less), Brolin has managed to nail performances as two iconic Marvel comic book characters; the other of course being Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. And they are two completely different character types as well, which just shows you the incredible range that he has as an actor. He may not look too much like the original Cable (which itself is joked about in the movie), but he gets the character’s essence right, and he’s a more than welcome inclusion in this franchise. Also noteworthy is Zazie Beetz as Domino, whose use of luck makes for some really bad ass action moments, as well as some of the best visual gags. Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) also makes for a welcome addition, and his chemistry with Reynolds as Deadpool helps to shape much of the story’s emotional weight. I also love the return of Colossus and Teenage Warhead as a part of Deadpool’s circle of friends. Colossus in particular has been best served by the Deadpool franchise, because in the other X-Men movies he’s too often relegated to being a background character. Here, he gets more of the spotlight he deserves and his boy scout style personality is wonderfully contrasted against Deadpool’s. It’s all another sign that the best parodies are the ones that honor the things they are also trying to mock, and Deadpool 2 shows that perfectly in it’s characters.
So, as far as comedy sequels go, Deadpool 2 is a pretty solid one. While not perfect and maybe not as tightly made as the original, it still has plenty of moments that made it entertaining enough to warrant it’s existence. In a way, I enjoyed it in the same way that I enjoyed movies like Wayne’s World 2 (1993), or Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), in that they may not be fresh or as consistent as their predecessors, but were still a whole lot of fun, and even had some gags that stand out among the best in their selective franchises. I can tell you one thing, there was a moment in the post credits scene that made me laugh harder than anything I’ve seen in a long while. The best thing I can say about Deadpool 2 as a movie is that it delivered on what it set out to do. It didn’t try to out do itself and spoil the formula that has worked well enough for it so far. The one thing it added was a bit more scale to the proceedings, now that Fox has loosened the purse strings a little bit. The new direction by David Leitch really helps to make the action set pieces more visually effective while at the same time hilariously over the top. The movie also makes me anxious to see where Reynolds & Co. go next with this franchise, especially with Fox’s Marvel properties possibly being brought into the MCU once the Fox/Disney merger goes through (if it does). Disney CEO Bob Iger has already stated that Deadpool’s current formula will not be tampered with, because why fix something that isn’t broken, but it will be interesting to see if the “merc with the mouth” gets to cross paths with likes of the Avengers, and what kinds of mayhem may come out of those meetings. That’s still many years away, and my hope is that Ryan Reynolds holds true to keeping the movies fun as both irreverent comedies as well as faithful adaptations of the comics. He’s carved out a wonderful niche in both genres with these movies and the world is much better place with the regenerative degenerate as a matinee idol.