Let’s just start by acknowledging that I really enjoyed the original Deadpool and have found the comic book character a guilty pleasure for some time. I had hopes for this movie but tried to temper them because sequels are almost always plagued with problems associated with picking up a finished story and leaving the ending open for another to continue more smoothly. Thankfully the last story barely had any plot and Deadpool 2 seems to try and tie up loose ends even beyond this movie before the credits finished rolling. I still feel like over all it is a lesser experience than the first film. It is still enjoyable but instead of story issues weighing it down it feels like the weight is more of a padding around the edges. The jokes are still as meta and raunchy as the first one but it is like some of the gags are there just because they can be and others have an air of obligation to call back to jokes or references in the first film instead of coming about in a more genuine way. The mix of good, new material with these other two categories make me imagine an editor or director holding everything a little too precious and not willing to cut the fat. I would have loved to see some of these scenes as extras on the inevitable Blu-ray release but they just don’t add enough to justify their inclusion in the final cut for me.
But Deadpool isn’t all jokes and gags. The first film dealt with ideas about terminal illness, depression, bitter vengeance and what I’ll call clinical vanity. This new film deals with loss, family, child abuse, predestination and sacrifice. Don’t worry the sobering reality of each of these is washed away by quips and script choices leaving just the topic of family as the only unsullied talking point to take with you as you leave the theater.
Then there is everything else. The action is good but if you’ve seen any of David Leitch’s recent works, John Wick and Atomic Blonde, you wouldn’t worry about that. Really: the music choices, the sight gags, the gross out moments and the dialogue all feel very grounded to the first Deadpool, but at times it just feels like the beginnings of becoming formulaic or derivative even if it isn’t a straight copy. And other times I felt like they could have steered closer to the original and come out with a bigger laugh. For those that skipped the first one on warnings of gratuitous sex and female nudity there is a beacon of sophomoric hope for you in this second chapter. The only nudity in this is of brief male butts, both CGI’d and a brief glimpse of, more CGI in the form of, prepubescent male frontal nudity used for laughs. With all that in mind, I believe there was an overall choice to try and make the material have more broad appeal which has weakened the experience. Deadpool is a movie made for a niche audience that loved the character from the comics and set a solid tone of understanding the character and not compromising. Deadpool 2 feels more like a movie made for the people who heard about Deadpool being a good movie and trying to not scare them away, too much. So I rate it a “laughing quietly to myself” vs. it’s predecessor’s laughing out loud.
SPOILER DISCUSSION TO FOLLOW
First I want to go into more specifics about my criticisms before the spoiler warning. I was super happy with some of the things that referenced Deadpool. The moment you see the little Logan music box figure was great! But the opening credits felt like a rip-off of the original title sequence to me. Not that it wasn’t fun, it just wasn’t funny to me. I know it may sound lopsided but I can only let you know the feeling I get from each. The bigger gripe I have is with the cameos. Having a cameo is not instantly funny. Stan Lee playing a strip club DJ in the original is funny because he’s a nice old man and not even an actor and you imagine that that’s about as much filming as he could survive at his age. But using Terry Crews to play a one-off B-list superhero just felt like a huge waste. It wasn’t funny at all to me. Terry is hilarious. Check out any of his previous work. A better idea would to have him try out for the team as Terry Crews shouting some line about using the power of Old Spice and hypnotizing Deadpool and Weasel with his rhythmic pecs bouncing. And having Brad Pitt “play” Vanisher was surprising but didn’t make me laugh. Now if the character had some mannerisms or something that were clues to who was under the invisible mask that all of a sudden made sense after the reveal I’d at least have given them a chuckle or a full guffaw if it was done well.
The next biggest let down was the Xavier Mansion scenes. This is the part that really screamed, “Look what we can do!” The whole part with closing the door full of mutants they couldn’t afford was a little too much for me, a groaner instead of a tickle. Then I liked half the scene with Wade wearing Cerebro. Him saying things as Colossus was saying them was pitch perfect. But the “oops I broke this important prop” bit at the end felt like it could have been cut. And all these gripes add up to the whole movie feeling padded where the first one felt lean.
But it is still a good movie and you could discuss any of the topics I referenced before the spoiler warning but the best thing about Deadpool as a character is that he is a great topic on his own separate of any story line or continuity you drop him in and out of. He is what would most likely happen if people escaped their greatest fear; death. But as we find out in all his stories, that is not the fantasy we make it out to be. He still experiences physical and emotional pain. He is anything but free from loss. And it quickly turns into a “grass is greener” scenario where all he wants to do is die. But he quickly learns that isn’t an option for him. His self-destructive plans lead no where because he just heals and regenerates all over again. So we get to see what a better option looks like through no real choice of our pitiable clown of a protagonist. We can see a way to move on after losing a loved one even if that loved one is your only one. Of course all the air is taken out of the stakes and drama as Deadpool gets a hold of Cable’s time travel device and can save his love in the past. But that’s what Deadpool is supposed to do. Let you work through really tough topics knowing that we can still find a way to smile after all the heart ache and maybe per chance to laugh.