‘Deadpool 2’ Aims Low And Hits A Bullseye
Marvel’s ‘Merc With a Mouth’ scores another win
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Ryan Reynolds has said that it took him 11 years and 47 rejections before studio executives finally let him assume his dream role of Deadpool. Now he not only returns as the flippant, foul-mouthed mutant hero but also as one of the co-writers.
Reynolds did get a shot at playing Deadpool/Wade Wilson back in 2009 in the wholly forgettable "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." For some inexplicable reason, the film decided to take an actor and character both known for their fast-talking prowess and make them mute. Deadpool literally has his mouth — the mouth of the Merc with a Mouth — sewn shut. Plus, the film dispensed with the iconic suit.
Maybe all that just added fuel to Reynolds' fire to bring Deadpool to the screen in the right way to satisfy both fans and himself.
In 2016, with Tim Miller directing, Reynolds finally got to bring Wade Wilson/Deadpool to the screen in an R-rated, foul-mouthed, bloody action comedy that captured what the character was about. He is Marvel's super anti-hero or perhaps an anti-superhero. He's no morally upstanding Captain America, nor is he the smart, rich Tony Stark/Iron Man. He's pissed off, disrespectful, morally flexible and prone to violence. And that's what makes him so appealing. He gives the finger to the superhero establishment and lets us mock the conventions and make fun of their values.
With "Deadpool 2," Reynolds and the film settle into the character and tone that made the first film a success. And I have to give Reynolds credit, he has the character down pat.
Reynolds inhabits the character like a second skin and turns his snarky irreverence into a brand he milks until it's dry, then mocks himself for the crass exploitation. He’s fearless in making fun of himself, and the result is a sequel that’s better than the original. It seems more relaxed and comfortable in the way it both skewers the superhero formula and then completely succumbs to it. Then has no trouble pointing out what a sellout it is.
This time out, Wade/Deadpool tries to assemble a ragtag X-Force team to fight the time-traveling Cable (Josh Brolin taking on another Marvel character and delivering the goods again) and keep him from killing Russell (an impressive Julian Dennison), a mutant kid with control issues. The trailer alludes to the X-Force team members including Bedlam (Terry Crews), Domino (Zazie Beetz who proves luck is indeed a superpower) and Peter (Rob Delaney), the unlikeliest of superheroes. But I won't give away anything else even though there are not so much spoilers to reveal as jokes to give away. So I won't ruin any punchlines here.
I will say that Brolin nails another comic book character and manages to give the film its only inkling of genuine emotion. He's the only straight man in a world where everyone seems to be looking to deliver a punchline. It's a contrast in tone that the film desperately needs.
David Leitch (or as the credits identify him, "one of the guys who killed the dog in 'John Wick'") directs the film well. He's hot off the success of "Atomic Blonde" and enjoys this jokier style of action while his stunt company partner Chad Stahelski (the other guy who killed the dog in "John Wick") favors the grittier, harder-edged action. Leitch keeps the film moving fast but smartly does not over-cut the action. The fights and violence are handled with an outrageous, over-the-top sense of fun while avoiding shakycam and fast cuts.
The only problem he has, and this marred "Atomic Blonde" as well, is that his flippant, gleeful tone makes it difficult to ever convey any real emotion. So in "Deadpool 2" when we are meant to feel some of the loss Wade and Cable feel or empathize with Russell, we feel like he's making a joke and wait for the punchline that never arrives. We like all the characters, but there are a few moments when the film seems to want us to really care for them and feel a sense of family, and those moments never really materialize.
The only other criticism is that the character of Dopinder (Karan Soni) seems just one step above Apu in "The Simpsons" in terms of stereotypes. At least Apu has the excuse of being animated, which can partially explain why he is cartoonish. But at a time when Wes Anderson is accused of cultural appropriation and some critics are raising complaints about African American characters in "Han Solo," it should be pointed out that Dopinder is at the very least culturally insensitive. Granted, Deadpool is all about being insensitive and even makes self-aware jokes about Cable being racist (when it's really Deadpool being inappropriate), but that doesn't give the a free pass to do anything and not be held accountable.
For a film that gets the comedy right on every other point, it just seems a shame that it couldn't have improved Dopinder just a little.
That said, "Deadpool 2" is that rare sequel that improves on its predecessor. It's crude, bloody fun and depending on how you feel about the latest official Marvel Universe outing it might be the perfect counterpoint or antidote to the somber tones of "Infinity War."
Plus it has hands down the best post-credit sequence of any Marvel film as Reynolds seeks to correct all the wrongs in the Reynolds-universe. Kudos to the actor for knowing what vehicle would best suit his talents and pursuing it with unrelenting determination.
With "Infinity War" still in theaters, "Deadpool 2" opening this week and "Han Solo" opening next week, pop culture geeks have a lot to choose from and argue over at the movies these days.
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