Deadpool 2: Silly Sequel is Surprisingly Dark, Relentlessly Juvenile

2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is overall bad)

Deadpool 2 poster
Image from http://collider.com/

Deadpool 2 is the first disappointment of 2018.  With a genius marketing campaign, hilarious trailers, and the prospect of seeing our favorite foul-mouthed antihero again, I was ready to dive head-on into this Pool.  Sadly, Deadpool 2 is a needlessly darker and sophomoric outing that emphasizes violent action over clever wit, making for a film that will satisfy action junkies, but leave those who enjoyed the cleverness of its predecessor yearning for more.

The mess of a plot involves Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) mourning over the death of his girlfriend (Morena Baccarin), joining the X-Men, and attempting to save an annoying teenager (Julian Dennison) from, brace yourself, a cyborg from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin).  Wade will sort of go on a journey to discover his inner hero and learn to move on from the death of his loved one, while still cracking jokes to the camera.

Deadpool 2 could have been a savage satire on how sequels always darken, but falls into that trap instead.  While still charismatic, Ryan Reynolds isn’t as likable here, overdoing Wade’s depression in the opening act and attempting to make out-of-place statements on sexism, racism, and other topics Deadpool should not discuss. Brolin acts like he’s in a completely different movie, but has good chemistry with Reynolds when onscreen with him.  The plentiful action sequences are well-done yet sadly unmemorable, and Dennison alternates between unlikable and annoying rather than menacing.  Lastly, the supposed emotional punch of an ending rings hollow.  I came here to laugh hysterically, not think about character drama.  It’s a sad state of affairs that should hopefully be remedied with the upcoming 3rd installment.

Deadpool 2 has more than enough action, but the plot and tone meander without much logic, the characters aren’t as endearing, and the writing is surprisingly juvenile rather than clever or witty.  While it certainly isn’t the worst X-Men film, Deadpool 2 is only slightly above X-Men Origins:Wolverine in terms of quality enjoyment.  I am sad to report that, of the three films I’ve seen this week, Book Club was the funniest one, not this.

Rated R for Strong Violence And Language Throughout, Sexual References, And Brief Drug Material.  Sorry, DP, but X is not gonna give this one to ya.

Deadpool: Dark Romance/Action/Comedy Slices Superhero Tropes in Half

4.5 out of 5 stars (Nearly Perfect)

Deadpool poster
Image from https://www.amazon.com/

You are either going to love or hate Deadpool.  After years and years of being stuck in development hell (that place films go when they will likely never get made), the “Merc with a Mouth” (extreme emphasis on the “Mouth” part) is currently taking the world by storm for its pitch black humor, brutally gory action sequences, and a career-best performance by Ryan ReynoldsDeadpool is a comic book movie for people who are sick and tired of comic book movies and those simply searching for a bloody fun time.  My expectations were extremely high for this film, and it completely delivered, with nonstop wit, glorious action, and a surprising romance element that has nearly been left out of the marketing (which, in this case, was a good thing).  This movie will likely be regarded as a classic in the coming years for its unique take on the superhero movie.  That said, if you don’t have a stomach for bloody violence and endless profanity (however witty it is), then skip this film and go see Zoolander 2.  Not because it’s any good, but because it needs the money.

The story follows ex-special forces man Wade Wilson (Reynolds completely disappearing into the role within his first frame), a dude with a brutal sense of humor and a no-nonsense attitude. Wade spends his days doing one of two things: being a gun for hire, or making sweet love to prostitute girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin providing great work).  They are two crazy people in love with each other, and life couldn’t be better.

That life comes to a screeching halt when Wade discovers he has terminal cancer.  Though Vanessa remains optimistic, and his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) constantly offer support, Wade is concerned with the effect his death will have on Vanessa.  However, luck seemingly knocks when a mysterious man offers Wade a cure for his cancer, as well as new superhuman abilities.  He accepts, only to discover that the man behind the operation, Ajax (Ed Skrein providing a memorable villain) uses the patients as lab rats to see if they have mutant genes.  After a great deal of torture, Wade escapes within an inch of his life, blowing the place up in the process.  Despite his face now making Fred Kruger look attractive as a result of the torture, he declares vengeance on Ajax, as well as finding Vanessa again.

I cannot tell you more of the plot without spoiling it, but there are many unexpected turns here. Ryan Reynolds has never been better, utilizing every bit of his charm and likable demeanor to make us laugh when he’s splitting bad guys in half with his swords.  He also nails the more dramatic scenes (yes, there is a bit of drama here), showing layers I never knew he had.  Reynolds makes you feel Wade’s pain over his disease and understand his eventual decision to undergo treatment.  The film is a dark comedy overall, but the dramatic scenes give the movie unexpected weight and significance.  I want Wade and Vanessa to be together, and route for Wade to make that happen.

From an action standpoint, Deadpool is an absolute blast. Director Tim Miller uses the relatively small budget ($58 million) to the fullest, providing exquisite sequences that are perfectly timed, extremely well-shot, and very memorable.  The opening action sequence is one of the best I’ve seen in a comic book film, and the climax is very entertaining, with a refreshingly spare use of CGI.  I don’t know how many practical effects are here,, but almost all the action looks like it’s really happening right in front of you, not some cheap CG trick.  Also, Deadpool talks to the audience (known as breaking the fourth wall), but Wade Wilson does not.  This was a welcome surprise for me, because I didn’t want someone talking to me during the entire movie, I wanted to watch a fun movie.  If I wanted someone to talk to me, I would go to a restaurant, not a movie theater.  The fourth-wall breaks work because they unexpectedly and never go on too long.  It’s an interesting technique that I look forward to seeing again in the sequel (and yes, a sequel has been greenlit).

The villain in this movie is very intimidating. Ed Skrein is perfectly cast, providing a memorable villain who you love to hate, but still see his point of view.  While Marvel villains in the Avenger’s movies have mostly been one-note, this one is scary, soulless, and downright evil.  He is a perfect foil to Wade because he is as serious as Wade is snarky.

The writing in this film is amazingly witty, sometimes reminiscent of a Buffy episode, but with a ton of F-bombs.  The film’s balance of raunchy comedy and character drama is perfect, keeping a suitably darkly comedic tone throughout the proceedings.  The actors are also completely devoted to their characters, making me feel like I’m watching real people (in an exaggerated sense).  This is more than a darkly comic action film.  It has real drama, palpable romance, and relatable characters that you actively care about.  That is very rare for an action film nowadays, and I was very happy to see it here.

The romance in this movie is extremely well-done.  As I said above, I want Wade and Vanessa to be together and feel Wade’s sadness and fear of rejection after his face is altered.  All men want to be loved by someone, and their biggest fear afterwards is losing it.  This is the best romance I’ve seen in a Marvel movie thus far, beating out the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts.

Deadpool is violent, extremely profane, and will not please everyone. If you don’t like the F-word or over-the-top violence then go elsewhere (help support the financially floundering Zoolander 2, maybe).  If you want a well-written, witty raunch-fest with bloody good action and a sweet romance plot, then Deadpool will be the perfect sword to slice with.

(Rightly) Rated R for Strong Violence and Language Throughout, Sexual Content, and (very) Graphic Nudity (I hope you think Ryan Reynolds is attractive, because you see him in full at various points throughout the film. I guess I can cross that off my cinematic bucket list).