I’ve been pulling for Ryan Reynolds since I first saw Waiting in 2005. His peculiar blend of sweetness, arrogance, and anarchic wit has always played for me, and I genuinely consider him one of the finest comic actors working today. The problem was that he never quite got a movie that utilized his full potential…until Deadpool. I think the reason that movie works, despite it’s paint-by-numbers plot, is its embrace of everything that makes Ryan Reynolds so great. He’s clever and cocky, but also good-natured and vulnerable. When Deadpool wears a stapled-on Hugh Jackman cutout to hide his scarred face from his girlfriend, we can laugh at the absurdity of it, but also feel the insecurity and pain that drives this lovable lunatic. Thankfully, Deadpool 2 continues to be a showcase for Reynolds’ abilities; the cookie cutter plot, however, is a little less forgivable this time around.
WARNING: the following plot description contains mild spoilers for Deadpool 2
Deadpool 2 continues the first film’s unfortunate tradition of having no idea what to do with Vanessa. While Deadpool succumbs to the tired cliche of the girlfriend getting kidnapped by the bad guy, Deadpool 2 gives in to a worse trope: “fridging”. Within the first 15 minutes, Vanessa is murdered by an anonymous bad guy, which sets in motion the typical lazy arc of the hero having nothing left to live for, and then, well, finding something. Deadpool 2 tries to poke fun at this contrivance with an overdramatic title sequence (featuring a surprisingly good Celine Dion original song) and credits that comment on how shocking what just happened was, but this only serves to highlight just how lazy the story is. At their worst, the Deadpool movies try to have it both ways – they are a send-up of how uninspired superhero movies can be, while simultaneously embracing the very hackneyed and boilerplate storytelling they mock. Later in the film Deadpool turns to the camera to comment on a particularly obvious piece of foreshadowing. This is shallow humour – a much better gag would be if the foreshadowing he mentioned was never paid off. My disappointment with these movies is their unwillingness to fully make use of the blank slate they’ve been given. Deadpool exists in a separate universe from the other X-Men, one where the fourth wall is broken so often it scarcely exists – why remain beholden to such traditional narratives?
All this sounds like I didn’t like the movie very much, but I honestly did. It’s hard to begrudge a film that tries so wholeheartedly to entertain. About half the jokes don’t work, but the ones that do work tremendously. Yes, a lot of the humour relies too heavily on movie references, but the film usually finds a way to subvert them in hilariously demented ways. The Basic Instinct legs-uncrossing scene is quoted, but how they get there is so ludicrously insane that the moment is well earned. Same goes for nods to Say Anything, Logan, and most of Ryan Reynolds’ filmography. There are bizarre cameos by A-listers, the funniest end credits scene of all time, and some wonderful chemistry between Reynolds and just about everyone in the film. Whether it’s his shy friendship with Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s new girlfriend Yukio or the will they/won’t they dynamic he shares with Colossus, the movie puts a good deal of effort into fleshing out these character moments as much as possible. Sadly, the same can’t be said for what should have been the core relationship of the film: the bond between Deadpool and Firefist, played perfectly by Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison. Helping Firefist is supposed to drive the entire plot, but the he and Deadpool barely speak to each other during their brief time together. This worked in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, because the entire film was devoted to the growing friendship between Dennison and Sam Neill. Here, it falls completely flat, because the two are separated before they have a chance to have any real connection.
What he do get to see from Firefist is a lot of fun though, and the other new characters mostly work as well. We get the introduction of Domino, played by Zazie Beetz, who’s only superpower is being lucky. This starts as a joke, but ends up being one the most entertaining mutant powers in all the X-Men movies. Josh Brolin plays Cable, a cybernetic soldier from the future. He spends too much of the movie as a generic tough, but once he’s given the chance to lighten up a little, actually becomes quite entertaining. The members of X-Force, a new team recruited by Deadpool, are all varying degrees of delightful, especially Rob Delaney as Peter, who has no powers, but thought the job looked fun. The returning players are all good, especially Karan Soni as Dopinder, who now dreams of being a contract killer instead of a cab driver. The direction by John Wick co-director David Leitch is also good, and demonstrates a real flair for comic timing and goofy action. The score by Tyler Bates is fine, but the best musical moments come from pop songs, including the aforementioned Celine Dion original, Ashes.
Deadpool 2 is far from perfect, and I’d probably rank it a little below the first film, if only because it doesn’t have the newness factor. You won’t remember the story, but I can guarantee you’ll laugh, especially at the end credits scene, which is worth the price of admission alone. The scene is so inspired that it made me wish the script writers had let their imagination run as wild for the rest of the movie. Here’s hoping Deadpool 3 goes father, ‘cause I’ll probably be there opening day.