On Thursday night, I attended a double feature screening of Deadpool and Deadpool 2. Not only was it a fun experience, but necessary in that I could compare the two immediately.
My first thought after the screening was of Tim Miller, director of the first Deadpool. In October 2016, Miller officially left development on the sequel. He cited mutual creative differences with lead actor Ryan Reynolds during pre-production as the cause.
Miller later said that he “didn’t want to make some stylized movie that was 3 times the budget,” and wished to create the same kind of film that made the first one a success.
Well, after seeing Deadpool 2, I can confirm Miller’s thoughts. While not 3 times the budget, Deadpool 2 cost twice as much as the original and you can really feel it.
Look up the word “excess” in the dictionary and you’ll likely find the poster for Deadpool 2. Better yet, look up “sequel” and you’ll see it too.
It’s hard to top the opening title sequence from the first movie, but Deadpool 2 almost pulls it off thanks to a James Bondesque number with Celine Dion providing vocals. It’s clever, bombastic and a precursor to everything you’ll see in the sequel.
As the movie begins, our favorite foul-mouthed mercenary is enjoying life. But something happens (A bit of a twist), which forces Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) to start thinking about the idea of accepting other people in his life and perhaps being part of a family.
He comes to this realization after attempting to rescue Russell (Julian Dennison), a troubled boy with powerful mutant abilities.
But before he can save the boy so that he can save himself, Wade must deal with the time-traveling soldier, Cable (Josh Brolin), who intends to kill Russell to prevent something horrible from happening in the future. It’s kind of like a cross between The Terminator and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
It has been said and written to death at this point, but Reynolds was born to play this character. The quippy one-liners, the spontaneous fits of rage and physical gags remind us of why we fell in love with his portrayal of the character to begin with. It’s as if Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey had a baby and that person grew up to be a superhero.
This is best represented in a scene where Wade is visiting Professor X’s school. He commandeers the professor’s wheel chair to go for a stroll through the mansion. Reynolds’ energy and chemistry with fellow X-Men, Colossus, really brings out the humor in this franchise and Deadpool’s misfit personality within the entire X-Men world. The scene also features perhaps the best cameo in the entire movie. Although there’s another one later that might top it.
But the comedy can get overbearing and redundant. I mean how many times can we get the bloody violent action scene juxtaposed with a soft poppy musical ballad? Although I did enjoy Enya in an R-rated superhero movie. And remember Deadpool’s hand slowly growing back after he cut if off in the first film? This time it’s his legs!
If there was one aspect to the movie I was looking forward to the most regarding a different director behind the camera, it was the action. David Leitch previously co-directed John Wick and last year’s Atomic Blonde and he comes from a stunt performer background.
But the action in Deadpool 2 is unmemorable. Remember that terrific freeway scene from the first one? It was kinetic, creative and efficient in establishing the character of Deadpool and you could see every penny on screen. Here, we get another extended chase sequence and other than a fun scene involving Deadpool slicing through Cable’s gun fire with his sword, the set pieces came off rather bland.
Deadpool of course acknowledges that we just saw Brolin portray Thanos, a bad guy in a superhero movie, just three weeks ago. But the irony is that his performance in Avengers: Infinity War was far more effective and emotional despite him being essentially covered behind motion capture technology. Here, he’s physically acting in all his scenes, but the backstory to his character felt more like a device rather than depth or pathos.
Dennison’s performance as the young Russell is equally underserved when compared to his past work. He essentially played the same character, a boy who feels like an outcast, in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He was charming, funny and witty in that film where as here he’s just an angry pyro out for revenge.
Deadpool 2 is Deadpool on cocaine. There’s even a scene involving the drug at one point. This is to let us know that the creators are in on the joke. But just because they’re aware of it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve created something irreverently memorable. Where the first film felt new, fresh and an outsider, the sequel feels very much like more IP for the masses to consume. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. The movie is fun and consistently entertaining. It just feels like an indie band that escapes its roots in favor of something more mainstream.