James Rosario is a writer, filmmaker, and musician based in the Asheville, NC area. His record label, Bigger Boat Records, releases...
Directed by David Leitch
Reviewed by James Rosario on May 26, 2018
I hated the first act of Deadpool 2. First acts are meant as set-ups for the rest of the film (establishing characters, settings, conflicts, etc.), but Deadpool’s was so damn ham-fisted I thought I was doomed to annoying, grating mediocrity. Thankfully, once the film had established itself, it settled down (yes, Deadpoolsettled down) into a workable story with some genuine laughs and fun new characters. I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it either. In the context of current studio attitudes towards superhero and comic book movies, Deadpool 2, at the very least, offers a welcomed respite from the non-stop barrage of planet-savers and alien-fighters. For whatever that’s worth.
I tend to shy away from mentioning too much about source material when I write about movies because I believe that, as a movie critic, it’s my job to critique movies, not what they were based on. I have no intention of breaking with that now, but I will say that the Deadpool character, Cable, and X-Force comics took up a large part of my Junior High and early High School afternoons (the cover of New Mutants #87—the first appearance of Cable and the beginning of what would become the X-Force title—is seared into my mind forever). I hated Rob Liefeld’s art (and I mean hated it), but I often preferred the youthful and reckless style of X-Force over the sometimes stuffy and law-abiding X-Men. X-Force was dysfunctional, and I liked that. I’m glad they’re finally getting some film recognition, even if it is almost thirty years later.
Ryan Reynolds (who plays Deadpool) is a decent comedic actor who unfortunately tries a little too hard at times. His mouth gets in the way of a successful bit (I know that’s Deadpool’s M.O., but it doesn’t always work). I suspect the theory behind the mile-a-minute wisecracks is that if you throw enough jokes with enough frequency at enough walls, some of them are bound to stick. And some of them do stick, don’t get me wrong, but the sheer numbers are overkill. In fact, it’s possible that nearly all the jokes would work, if there weren’t so many of them. They wind up competing with one another for our attention and it’s tough to keep up.
What I’ve always found interesting about the Deadpool character is that, somehow, he knows he lives in a comic book. This revelation is a goldmine for meta humor that works better (for me at least) than the raunchy stuff. It’s smarter, plain and simple. Anyone can spout expletives and call it comedy, but to really dig into your source material and your genre with biting commentary—and be funny doing it—takes a level of commitment to your craft and to your audience (the jab at Rob Liefeld and his inability to draw feet was my favorite, even if I was the only one in the theater who laughed). It’s this type of “smart” humor that gets the film over, not the dumbed down “shock” profanity.
Deadpool 2 manages to be at its best during its action sequences, which is something I can’t say about any other comic book movie I’ve ever seen. Often, fight scenes and car chases wind up being unintelligible messes with shaky cameras and grimacing close-ups. Deadpool’s action is not only understandable and easy to follow, but unique and interesting in its execution. It’s not all property damage and cool poses (things get wrecked though, don’t worry)— it’s more Buster Keaton and less Michael Bay (wow, I just used a Buster Keaton reference in a superhero movie review).
Performance-wise, here’s the quick run-down: No one could play Deadpool better than Reynolds, even if he should lay off the adlibs from time to time. Josh Brolin nails Cable as I knew he would. Julian Dennison is the funniest young actor out there, and I hope he has a long, amazing career. Zazie Beetz is perfect as Domino. T.J. Miller—I don’t understand why he ever gets hired.
Whether or not you’ll like Deadpool 2 is something you’ve probably already decided. It’s not for everyone, that’s for damn sure, but it is fun. It has problems—especially in that first act—but they’re mostly made up for with, of all things, heart. Director David Leitch knows how to craft a competent and compelling action sequence and keep us wanting more, while not resorting to cliffhangers or manipulative tricks. I’m finding myself looking forward to the next chapter, so that must mean I liked it.
One other thing, and I think this is important. The relationship portrayed between Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played by Brianna Hilderbrand) and Yukio (played by Shioli Kutsuna) is the first openly LGBTQ one to ever appear in a Marvel film. While the Avengers are saving the world one alien menace at a time, Deadpool is doing something that matters to real people here on real Earth. Leave it to the biggest asshole in superherodom to be the most progressive.
Deadpool 2 is now playing at area Asheville theaters.
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