Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds (screenplay), Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza (comics)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand, T.J. Miller, Julian Dennison, Karan Soni
One of the most commonly heard complaints regarding the original Deadpool is that, like Kick-Ass six years prior, it promised to deliver a different kind of superhero movie but, by the end, it was simply another one in an ever-growing bunch. Kick-Ass, in fact, was something of a subpar entry in the subgenre even before our ordinary Joe protagonist was comfortably manning a jetpack and shooting missiles at bad guys. But the fact is Deadpool was never born out of a desire to deconstruct anything; it promised to offer simply another superhero movie and yet by the end it had delivered something so undeniably and satisfyingly different that it became the pop culture milestone it is now, like it or not.
When it opened on Valentine’s Day weekend, two years ago, it was obviously aiming at capitalizing on counterprogramming but what the vast majority of onlookers never counted on was that it would, in fact, legitimately work as a date movie on its own right. There is a real love story breathing in there and whether it works or not is irrelevant; the filmmakers cared and put every effort in making sure that it would. And they succeeded: Morena Baccarin, although saddled with the de rigueur revealing outfits and the titillating decision to make her a stripper excels at selling us her character as way more than just flesh. When things start going sour for the couple it is a lot easier to actually feel invested. Chief among the many reasons for the original Deadpool‘s unexpected success was the fact that, hidden but latent in the midst of its grotesquely violent profanity, there was genuine heart.
Alone as the single reason for the sequel’s disappointing unveiling is the fact that there is genuine heart to be found all over it, hidden no more, permeating most of it most of the time. The filmmakers ask us, not unreasonably, to care about these characters and I still do. However, the intimacy of these people’s love (sentimental if not sexual), previously delicately depicted, is now hammered home as bluntly as possible. Their ultimately inevitable emotional payoff is now not merely forcing itself on us but actively trying to rape its way into our hearts. Big mistake.
A lot has been said about how original director Tim Miller’s departure meant the loss of the real driving creative force behind the project but that’s hardly the case. Replacement helmer David Leitch, coming off of uncredited work in John Wick and Atomic Blonde, his first official directorial credit, makes sure the action unfolds appropriately kinetically and clearly shot. He also expands from the scant two locations seen in the first film and skillfully manages the twofold increased budget, rightfully poising himself as an A-list player following this and the upcoming Fast & Furious spin-off.
No, the stone cold core of this series was and still is the writing by the duo of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, now joined by producer and star Reynolds. The expected fourth-wall breaking and pop culture references abound and their apparently augmented amount (I didn’t count but they came at a breakneck pace that would make Abrahams and the Zuckers proud) vainly tries to make up for their also increased hit-or-miss nature. It is in the screenplay where the fault lies. Following an unexpectedly somber beginning that doesn’t resemble the perenially ludic tone established a couple years ago, the movie at last picks up when Josh Brolin’s Cable shows up.
From then on we are treated to the sequel that most of the moviegoing audiences were already entertaining in their heads in some way or other: extreme violence (lots of it Looney Toones-inspired), endless ADR comedic enhancement, cameos (both from fictional and real life people), and gags upon gags. That is until the end when, once again, the screenplay asks me to hit the brakes and take the climax seriously, in the most blatantly shameless ’90s sitcom manner. Saying that such attempt fails is a gigantic understatement, particularly when it comes to what is, presumably, its most heart-wrenching moment, a disastrously timed scene that goes on and on endlessly, failing spectacularly at being either honestly affecting or truly funny. The most flummoxing aspect of it all is that the peak of all of this unexpected misery becomes null once the end credits start rolling (if you stick around that long).
Reynolds, however, remains great at the schtick he’s been perfecting ever since his Van Wilder days with the usual blend of leading Alpha male and teenage low-brow humor if you like that kind of thing (I do) and Brolin infuses some (probably as unnecessary as welcome) pathos to Rob Liefeld’s feetless and pouch-plagued fever dream. Zazie Beetz as Domino, the most important addition to the universe, gets the biggest share of lines granted to the newcomers and makes the best of them but Terry Crews’ contribution is barely more than a glorified walk-on. The rest of the supporting cast is just as good and therefore heartbreaking in the scarcity of their screen time.
This is a disappointing Deadpool sequel which, in the end, still is a way better and more satisfying movie (comic book-based or otherwise) than most average summer blockbuster offerings. However, it is pretty depressing having to admit that the filmmakers forgot what they themselves had already so boldly understood. That audiences are, in fact, able to infer, understand and most importantly feel without anyone having to force us to. — Eloy Ricardo Balderas Salazar