Deadpool occupies a weird place in the comics world. On one hand, the character is representative of the basest impulses of comics: catchphrases, insane violence, blatant theft of intellectual property. On the other, he’s become an avatar for self-awareness, breaking the fourth wall, and for being as ‘comic book-y’ as possible. Those two elements don’t always make for the most natural of bedfellows, but somehow 2016’s Deadpool got the balance pretty much correct.
Ryan Reynolds, showcasing a permanent wink (even under a mask), was affable enough to sell the truly despicable actions of
Slade Wade Wilson, while giving the character more heart and purpose than at any point in recent history. Deadpool 2 attempts to do the same, with going even deeper on both counts: more skin in the game, more silliness and references to…well, everything. Keep reading for our spoiler-free review.
Like how it would be nearly impossible to enjoy Avengers: Infinity War without having seen at least a couple MCU films, it seems like Deadpool 2 might be totally indecipherable to anyone without a basic knowledge of comic books, the last forty years of pop culture, and having seen Deadpool. I don’t necessarily mean that as a critique, though it’s hard to not read some criticism into that statement. There is not one scene in the film without the loudest subtext imaginable challenging what you’re actually seeing.
For example, there’s a cameo about halfway through that is inspired and fun; the theater erupted when it happened. However, kids in 2040 might miss the joke completely, as it requires you to know who the person is, and if you don’t, it’s not a joke at all. Now, that’s not unique to Deadpool 2; so much comedy is predicated on playing with what the audience knows. But the amount of references per scene means that either you’re going to miss some of them, or while you’re taking in a joke, you’re missing something else.
That’s not to say that the jokes don’t serve a purpose, because they do. If not for the humor, this would be one of the most ghastly films I’ve ever watched. Wade murders with abandon, finding truly horrifying ways to kill thugs. When you lose count of the decapitations that happen, you know something is up. The violence feels cartoonish and over the top at times, but there are a few moments that, even when padded by humor, still shake the audience due to their gore.
But the most affecting scene of violence is very subdued and seems almost like it comes from another film. The scene, which happens ten or so minutes into the film, sets the purpose for the film, and gives it a reason to exist for more than ‘let’s see Deadpool gruesomely disembowel someone.’ Much like how Wade’s cancer diagnosis was the driver for the first film, this scene grounds the motivations of the film, allowing it to do some insane things without losing its tether.
While the film features a strong supporting cast, including Josh Brolin as Cable and Zazie Beetz as Domino, the film is built entirely around Reynolds. That’s not to take anything away from anyone else in the film. Beetz, in particular, is great. She brings an effortlessness to everything she does, and because of that you can’t take your eyes off of her. Due to the character’s trait – “My superpower is luck” – everything she does is graceful and confident.
Brolin brings an intensity to the role that allows him to be the straight man to the joke a minute Reynolds. Brolin gets a few choice lines himself – listen for his discussions of one specific musical genre – but more or less is there to remind the audience of the gravity of the situation. Brolin’s Cable is the second element of the film that grounds it, because he represents how the elements of today effect tomorrow.
But the heart of the film is Russell, an angry, misunderstood teenage mutant. In the wrong hands, this brings the film into Iron Man 3 territory (sorry Alice and Vince). But instead, Russell’s motivations are clear and the stakes, due to Cable, are real. It lets the sillier stuff take root, because the combination of Russell, Cable, and the aforementioned spoiler-y first scene are more than enough counterbalance to the yuks.Continued below
Like most sequels, this is likely overstuffed, under conceived, and a bit over the top. But that’s the point. From the amazing references to “Deadpool” writers and artists to injokes about the various Marvel films, to the absolutely amazing and cannot be missed mid-credits sequence, Deadpool 2 just wants to give you more of what you liked the first time around. It won’t win any converts, but it will likely make you laugh and cringe at people’s spines being contorted and hands being chopped off.
And what else do you expect from a fuckin’ Deadpool movie?