The Merc with a Mouth is back! And so is Deadpool!
For any regular readers who roll their eyes whenever I have one of my “Old Man Yells at Cloud” moments when it comes to excessive profanity…well, you might wonder what in the world possessed me to go see Deadpool 2 in the first place. Perplexing question, isn’t it? I am large, I contain multitudes, there are comics involved, sometimes I like to go scavenger hunting for priceless curios in landscapes that are basically alien to me, sometimes I do things that aren’t good for me, and there are other logistics involved that are too weird to go into here, even for me.
But every film I see in theaters gets its own MCC entry. I can either write about the #1 movie in America that also happens to have scenes during the end credits, or I can finish an entry for the mostly inert Pacific Rim: Uprising that I’ve been procrastinating for six weeks and counting because I get sleepy every time I return to it, and will surely be of use to lots of moviegoers when I eventually finish it because as of tonight the film is playing in [checks notes] zero theaters, having been officially yanked after May 17th.
…so. Some thoughts on Ryan Reynolds’ latest multi-million-dollar paycheck it is, then.
Short version for the unfamiliar: Our Antihero is back and as snarky as ever, trying to put his skill set to arguably better use by taking paychecks only to murder bad guys instead of chasing any old paid target. His satisfying routine experiences a number of interruptions all at once — by an unexpected tragedy that brings all one-liners to a crashing halt; by an attempted friendship with an abused teen mutant calling himself Firefist (Julian Dennison from Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople), who’s on the brink of being bullied into becoming a super-villain; and by the arrival of Cable (Josh Brolin, the busiest man in 2018 cinema), whose convoluted comic-book origin and mutant powers have been stripped away, rendering him a growly cyborg Terminator who’s come back from the future to our present so he can murder the one person who’ll one day ruin his life. In lieu of Sarah Conner, who means nothing to Cable because he doesn’t do pop culture references…his target is Firefist.
Expletives, Easter eggs, in-jokes, and high-caliber action ensue, shepherded by John Wick co-director David Leitch, the two guys who wrote the first Deadpool, and the inimitable Mr. Reynolds himself, who receives producing and co-writing credits, and will be on the next train to Edward Norton Egoville if he’s not careful.
Hey, look, it’s that one actor!: Several old friends return: Firefly‘s Morena Baccarin as the Concerned Girlfriend; the legally entangled TJ Miller as weaselly sidekick Weasel; Leslie Uggams as bitter roommate Blind Al; Other Space‘s Karan Soni as cab driver Dopinder; and Stefan Kapicic and Brianna Hildebrand as the two affordable X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
Besides big bad Brolin, leading the newcomers is Zazie Beets from Atlanta as Domino the phenomenally lucky assassin. Other recruits to Deadpool’s version of the morally compromised super-team X-Force include Old Spice pitchman Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise from It), and Lewis Tan, star of the very best Iron Fist fight scene ever. Meanwhile on the side of the badder-than-bad guys, Eddie Marsan (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) is the head of Firefist’s clichéd evil orphanage.
And naturally we have cameos galore — familiar faces from other X-films as well as A-listers hiding in plain sight, easy to miss if you blink. Sadly, no Stan Lee cameo in person this time around, though I understand there was a visual nod I missed.
Meaning or EXPLOSIONS? Morals of the story include but aren’t limited to:
* Thinking of others instead of yourself is cool, and sacrifice is the boldest, deepest way to express that
* Bullying is bad; child abuse is worse; and then there’s The Worst (implied, mostly, for the sake of added insults)
* Talking trash behind the back of someone who thinks you’re friends is uncool
* We all yearn to belong to something bigger than ourselves, but it works better if we actually bring anything worthwhile to the table
* Murder is wrong unless your victim is more evil than you are
* Any consequences of changes made while time-traveling are not your problem
* Revenge is kinda awesome
* Everyone loves F-bombs
* Yay chimichangas
The first few points are taken rather seriously, often putting the punchlines on pause whenever the grave overtones of a standard X-Men film take over. But director Leitch knows how to jazz up fight scenes and find new moments of violence we haven’t seen 1000 times before. The bloodletting isn’t pretty at times, but that’s what happens when your protagonist carries swords and you’re not watching an old Saturday morning cartoon.
Nitpicking? The language, on other other hand…yes, Super-Chicken, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. I said my piece on the subject years ago, but my experimental review of The Wolf of Wall Street is more fun for me to revisit, as soapboxes go.
What especially kills me is that both Deadpool films have tremendous strengths — their set pieces, their low-key emotional moments, their performances in general, and the majority of their jokes — that don’t need the vulgarities to win, but they have ’em anyway because allegedly everyone in the world loves them, especially Ryan Reynolds, who delights in synthesizing new takes on old profanities conjoined to new words they’re not normally paired with. Eleventy zillion Deadpool fans have voted for them with their dollars, but consumer democracy doesn’t dictate what are or aren’t my favorite things. And this part isn’t.
I gritted my teeth even harder when the villain and henchmen are hinted at being possible child molesters, and OF COURSE they spout Scripture. I mean, at least they try to find a new verse or two that previous cardboard cutout movie perverts haven’t already overused to death, but that’s not getting any more original or impressive. Fortunately Marsan and his dudes barely register a presence or rate any screen time except as cannon fodder.
So what’s to like? Apart from the largely top-notch comic-book fight-‘n’-fight-‘n’-fight, we know what to expect from Reynolds, which means his Deadpool remains solid and reliable for what he is, if not nearly as surprising since this is a sequel. Well, except for that mortifying scene in which we witness the horrors when his mutant regeneration has to deal with a most severe form of human mutilation. I’d say “surprising” describes it well.
Josh Brolin, on the other hand, digs deep to bring gravitas to Cable, a man out of time whose personal tragedies are never far from his mind, whose every grunt and punch is wholly dedicated to righting the wrongs that were inflicted on his loved ones. He’s absolutely not funny, which at times makes him the best possible foil for Deadpool to bounce off of, but at the same time reminds viewers in between their guffaws that his battle has the highest possible stakes. It’s his steely demeanor in the face of Reynolds’ stoogery that keeps Deadpool 2 from fully realizing its low aspirations of being a costumed Police Academy sequel.
I’d award even more points if the movie had had twice as much Zazie Beets. She elevates Atlanta whenever she graces it, and her resigned attitude and clever Final Destination powers bring welcome relief to so much relentless Deadpool chitchat.
How about those end credits? To answer the burning question that MCC is always happy to verify: yes, there are indeed a few extra scenes during the Deadpool 2 end credits. In fact, anyone who didn’t stay to watch them will really be confused when they sit down someday for Deadpool 3, because at least one of the extra scenes is a major plot development. Surprise!
For those who fled the theater prematurely and really want to know without seeing it a second time because they’re cheap or because they’re a prude like me…
[insert space for courtesy spoiler alert, in case anyone needs to abandon ship]
…so Negasonic Teenage Warhead and her new super-girlfriend Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) manage to recharge Cable’s used-up time-travel doohickey. Deadpool takes advantage of this discarded toy, travels back in time, and fixes a few things. To wit:
* He saves the life of his girlfriend Vanessa, effectively reversing her “fridging“, which is a thing that tends to bother comics readers more than movie-goers.
* He kills off the ill-conceived mute Deadpool tool that marred the final act of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
* He murders a young Ryan Reynolds before he can begin filming Green Lantern. That, we can agree, is the happiest ending of the year.