A couple years ago I had a very peculiar reaction upon leaving a screening of Deadpool. I was very disappointing. This was not what I was anticipating, because I had been a huge fan of the character and had been hearing basically nothing but good things about it. And yet, it did almost nothing for me. I’ve already talked about that movie, when it first came out, so I’ll just boil things down to the fat that it wasn’t the kind of Deadpool story I was interested in. The first Deadpool was a very accurate adaptation of a very specific era of that character’s history. And that’s just not the era I’m interested in. It was saturated with 90’s cynicism instead of the whole ineffectual hero stuff that the character has been working with for the past couple decades. So, despite a massive amount of people being very gung-ho for it, I just accepted that this Deadpool movie wasn’t for me, and moved on from it, never revisiting it and basically letting it slip from my mind. But, a whole bunch of people really liked it, so of course Fox decided to pop out a sequel, despite whatever bizarre and unknowable things are going to be happening to the whole X-Verse in the coming years if the big Disney merger goes through. I wasn’t really too hopeful about Deadpool 2, figuring that the studio had succeeded with the first film and would more than likely just give us more of the same with this foray. But, surprisingly, I found myself enjoying this movie a lot more than I was expecting. I still wouldn’t say it’s a good movie, or a good Deadpool movie, but hey, it’s better than I was anticipating!
Deadpool 2 picks up after the events of the first film with assassin Wade Wilson embracing his new life as Deadpool, travelling around the world and killing all sorts of criminals, while keeping up a meaningful relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa. Which is short lived, because almost immediately Wade finds himself shattered when a vengeful mob boss finds their home and kills Vanessa. Wade falls into a deep depression, and improvises a bomb to blow himself up so that he can die and be with his love. But, after seemingly seeing her in the afterlife, he learns that he still has things to do on Earth, and heals himself in time to get a visit from the X-Man Colossus. Colossus wants to help Wade deal with his pain, and has agreed to make him a trainee X-Man. Wade is pretty against this idea, but agrees to go along with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to deal with an incident involving a young mutant. They arrive at an orphanage for mutants and find a young boy names Russell having a standoff with the police. He’s able to create blasts of flame with his hands, and manages to take down Colossus and Warhead, leaving Wade to try and talk to the kid. He does manage to calm the kid down, but in the process learns that the orphanage has been abusing him, leading Deadpool to try and kill the head of the orphanage. He fails, and ends up being arrested by a special group that place power-dampening collars around Wade and Russel, bringing them to a mutant prison. And things don’t go well there. Without his powers, Wade’s cancer starts to come back, and he starts dying. He also isn’t interested in being with Russel, trying to convince him to go find a bigger and tougher friend. And things are made worse when a time-travelling soldier named Cable arrives in their prison, deadset on killing Russel. He doesn’t explain himself, but he and Deadpool fight after Wade’s collar breaks, leading to them both falling from the mountain-side prison, leaving Russel behind.
Wade becomes convinced that his key to being with Vanessa in the afterlife is saving Russel, but he also accepts that he can’t take down Cable by himself. So, he gets together a team of mutant mercenaries to assault a bus that’s transporting Russell and the other mutants. This team then immediately all lie, except for a woman named Domino who has the ability to manipulate luck. She and Wade are able to stop Cable from killing Russell on the truck, but they aren’t able to stop Russell from escaping with his newfound protector, the Juggernaut. Juggernaut grievously wounds Wade, and while recuperating back at his base with Domino, they’re approached by Cable. He finally explains himself, and tells them that in the future Russell is one of the deadliest supervillains on Earth, and he personally killed Cable’s family. Cable is convinced that if Russell kill the headmaster of the orphanage, which is really just a place that tortures young mutants, he’ll go down the path that leads to supervillainy. Cable wants to kill him, but admits he can’t take down the Juggernaut too, and asks Wade for help. Wade agrees, but only if he’s allowed to try and reach Russell first. So Deadpool, Cable, and Domino follow Russell to the Orphanage, and begin doing battle with the Juggernaut. Things don’t go well, until Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and a mutant name Yukio arrive to help. They take down the Juggernaut while Domino saves the kids, and Deadpool and Cable follow Russel. They stop him from killing the headmaster, and Wade even proves that he cares about Russell by putting on one of those power-dampening collars and taking a bullet from Cable. Russell then is put down the right path, Cable’s future changes, and Deadpool dies. Until Cable decides to go back in time and make it so that Wade will live, at the cost of being able to return to his time. The group then decide to become a new team, the X-Force, before Deadpool uses Cable’s time-travelling device to right some wrongs in the X-Men timeline.
Deadpool 2 was kind of simultaneously everything I was anticipating, and a a pleasant surprise. I found myself enjoying it far more than I ever would have anticipated, it was much closer to the type of Deadpool story that I enjoy, it was better acted, and it featured much solider direction in its action scenes. And yet, it was also filled with lazy writing, poor use of characters, and a strange assumption that if they openly admit that the story is trite and is full of weak elements that that excuses it. Ryan Reynolds continues to put in a fun performance, clearly having quite a bit of affection for the character, which seems at odds with the fact that he’s not really acting like any version of Deadpool from the past few decades. Josh Brolin is playing Cable exactly like you’d expect him to, primarily through clenched jaws and tough-guy one-liners. The real standout for the film has to be Zazie Beetz putting in a remarkably fun performance as Domino, giving us a character that I found myself really wishing we could follow even more than we did. And it’s also bolstered by some really fun action, which gets a tad repetitive, thanks to director David Leitch, one of the co-directors of John Wick. But, as we learned last year with Atomic Blonde, Leitch has the ability to make fun action, but his plotting can be a little rough.
However, the plot of Deadpool 2 certainly does a better job at capturing the type of Deadpool story that I’m interested in than the first film. Deadpool is a character that first got me back into comics during college, and at that time the character was put in a position of trying to be an ineffectual hero. He’s been a ruthless mercenary who eschewed the idea of heroism, and now he was actively trying to get the respect of the other heroes, while actually trying his best to be a functional hero, to do the right thing for once. And that’s the Deadpool I enjoy. And this film gets him far closer to this ethos than the first one ever did. And I think the majority of this comes from Deadpool relationship with Russell, which really does become quite interesting. Famously, the Deadpool of the comics has become very interested in protecting a young mutant who is the reincarnation of Apocalypse, and Deadpool’s relationship with Russell is very similar. In both cases Deadpool comes across a mutant boy who everyone assumes is destined to be a monster, and only he, someone who is also considered a monster, believes he’s redeemable. Because no person is truly irredeemable. People can be changed, turned around, and made better. And Deadpool truly believes that of Russell. It’s a heroic impulse, to truly believe that you can save someone, that you can put them down a better path at any expense. It’s just a shame that some hackneyed writing and leftover cynicism keeps this film held down from becoming the story it seems to want to be. But, I guess earnestness isn’t cool to the demographic this film is looking for.
Deadpool 2 was written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds, directed by David Leitch, and released by 20th Century Fox, 2018.
Categories: Reel Talk