Here’s a Tip for the Pool Boy
A Film Review of Deadpool 2
Everyone who is a fan of movies and well versed in Hollywood’s business culture should be happy that a film like Deadpool exists. In such a cynical world of formulaic, profit predictive, pre-release audience tested, social agenda subversive, superhero and visual effect obsessive products being cranked out of the studio machine; Ryan Reynolds’ love letter to the world sealed with a kiss on Cancer riddled lips is a much welcomed change of pace. With a film and main character as self-aware as Deadpool, everything in and around Hollywood gets lampooned. The result is absolute hilarity, but its creativity and efficiency burst through in a story that delivers plot, character and commentary in simultaneous satisfaction.
[Oh wait. This isn’t the first film? They actually gave the pool boy a sequel? The Merc with a Mouth has officially been franchised. Wow. The very notion of such a thing feels beyond fifty shades of anti-Fight Club, and I don’t quite know what to do with those feelings although I imagine a unicorn plushy may be helpful at some point.]
Deadpool 2 delivers more Ryan Reynolds as the Crimson Crusader quipping about pop culture, breaking the fourth wall about superhero shenanigans and making light of the potential gravitas of contemporary superhero stories while still retaining a sincere glimmer of heart and charm. One can also appreciate the increased budget to this production over the first in terms of much fancier visual effects applied to Cable and his abilities, more dynamic set pieces, more incredible cameos, larger stunts and let’s not forget bigger, longer and more brutal action sequences. In almost every way, this sequel is an audio/visual upgrade to everything we were treated to in the origin story.
[Yeah, except for the fact that the shoehorned “morality tale” of this story is a pathetic excuse to simply give us more DP. Seriously, why are they trying to package all his violence, self-loathing, self-obsessing and cavalier attitude about everything into some hermetically sealed, alt-Captain America type who is ultimately good and trying to do right by the world? The first one was a love story, and this one’s a story about family? Yeah right; whatever helps you sleep at night. Just give me more off-the-cusp, awkward comedy and brutal, gory action please!]
As fun as this film is overall, I will say that the story wasn’t nearly as focused as the first film. Origin stories have an inherent ability to force structure on characters even as bombastic as Deadpool. Yet, now that he’s been given a chance to spread his wings, the audience realizes that DP has no real mission or ultimate end outside of having murderous fun, being with girlfriend Vanessa and trolling the X-Men every chance he gets. Combining this with his actual adventure that collides with Cable, inspires X-Force and puts him on the path to family is all over the map as the forces of chaos and order play tug of war with a script desperately held together by the threads of coincidence, convenience and plot devices.
[Sounds like a long winded version of saying “the story is BS” and should really be about the clown prince of self conscious anarchy doing his thing without the burden of faking classic superhero tropes.]
Be nice now. This is supposed to be a fair and balanced review.
Action junkies will be satiated with the glorious amalgam of car chases, stunt work, explosions, combat, and mutant powers lighting up the screen like the fourth of July.
With so much going on, it would be tempting for the cinematography to cheat some of the action with tighter angles and jarring, hand-held tracking, but this film keeps a relatively steady and well scaled frame to allow the audience to appreciate all of energy being displayed onscreen.
“And now I’m better at doing whatever it is Wolverine does!” – Deadpool in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game). A great quote that encapsulates Ryan Reynolds’ dedication to Deadpool not just as a role, but as a persona that extends beyond the screen, into the marketing and promotion of the production and perhaps even his real, actual life. That aside, Wade Wilson could never ask for any other man made flesh to more perfectly echo his character off the pages of his comic books.
[But he ought to be jealous of Reynolds’ superior charisma and natural good looks that don’t get sullied in the least by the prosthetic makeup.]
Playing the straight man in a goofball comedy isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off, but Josh Brolin plays a no-nonsense, hard-nosed, edgy anti-hero to perfection in this film and he never breaks from that discipline for the duration. Zazie Beetz provides a nice comedic counter point to Deadpool’s relentless sarcastic assault. Leslie Uggams, Morena Baccarin, Karan Soni, and Brianna Hildebrand return as Blind Al, Vanessa, Dopinder and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. They are criminally underused in this film as they were all sacrificed to accommodate a slew of fresh characters. Their lack of presence and diminished relevance is a gut check to this production.
[Kudos for Julian Dennison for not being “Hollywood beautiful” and still hang in the production of a superhero blockbuster, but I wasn’t particularly moved by his interpretation of Firefist as a Kevin McCallister meets cookie-cutter villain turns whiny-little-bitch. I mean, his IMDB profile pic says it all. Right?]
Another decent selection of 80s-90s pop tracks fuel the thunder of the emotional moments in this film. Celine Dion’s original song, Ashes is not only as profound as this Diva’s career, but equally significant for an artist of her caliber to let loose a bit by collaborating with, let’s just say, a lower art IP like Deadpool. I still wished they could come up with orchestrated theme music for DP outside of the “Deadpool/X-Force” rap, but oh well.
High grade work overall, but I was particularly taken with the sound tied to Cable, his metallic parts and his tech effects. They seem to have been given an extra bit of TLC over all other sound effects.
“Moving” = 27/33
Visual effects were a bit inconsistent for me. When they work, they look simply incredible and this always works well for any Cable-centric action and combat. Other effects come off as a bit bland like Firefist’s abilities for instance.
[Throwaway characters get throwaway efforts for their visual effects begging the question: why have them at all?]
A much better effort was made regarding the practical effects of pyro, wire-work and stunt work. Set destruction and combat impacts feel visceral and satisfying.
There’s Cable and Deadpool … and then there’s everyone else who were allowed to pick out some choice selections at Hot Topic.
[Lolz! Good one!]
Hair & Makeup
This department does a good job at maintaining continuity of the ever increasing combat damage to characters from start to finish, but there are two things I wished they would have stepped up their games in regards to: 1) Deadpool’s ground beef face still doesn’t scream “Cancer” to me more than “regularly torched with a flame thrower.” And 2) Domino’s facial birthmark doesn’t have nearly enough contrast with the actress’ skin tone to make it unique for her visual design.
Effectively chosen to always pull focus to the action and characters featured in the foreground.
[Translation: exteriors were bland and don’t have the level of detail we get spoiled by in an MCU film. Sorry Fox.]
The audience gets to take a spin through the X-Mansion which looks as great as we remember it from X-Films of yesteryear. Mutant prison looks like regular prison, but swapping bars for plexiglass, thus not producing an effective illusion for containing dangerous mutants.
“Picture” = 19/33
Deadpool being Deadpool isn’t enough as he must be coerced into having a desire for family because superheroes need a pure motive to justify what they do.
[Because it worked for Thanos.]
External conflict is a combination of tried and true Mutant Xenophobia with generic plot obstructions inconveniently placed in Deadpool’s way. When a character as self-aware as Deadpool doesn’t call out his own obviously fabricated internal conflict to desire for meaning via reaching out to the concept of family, he literally sells himself short for doing the same thing every other superhero does.
[But doesn’t a 4th wall breaking, unpredictable character doing something predictable make him more unpredictable?]
Technically yes, but unpredictability alone doesn’t make his internal conflict interesting or rewarding unless it reveals something new about his character in the form of growth.
[DP grows! He shows he cares about others and willing to self-sacrifice.]
We already know this from the very first moments of the first film even before Wade Wilson becomes Deadpool. It is a fundamental virtue of the cinematic interpretation of this character, making him unique from the person he is in comic books.
Everything wraps up in a way that makes sense even if it does so with varying degrees of satisfaction for each character. The matter-of-fact nature of resolution for every other character versus the awkward and drawn out nature Deadpool is typical, but still a bit pleasing.
The banter! The gloriously sarcastic banter! This is such a joy to hear as the plot trudges on because wonderful character moments keep the audience engaged. While DP has nuggets of joy with just about every character, his back and forth with Cable is the stuff of nerd-gasmy, cinematic bliss.
The information we need to get us up to speed in Deadpool’s life along with the details of this particular plot are presented via efficient flashbacks while snapping back to the present as quickly as possible.
[This works out perfectly fine because the audience gets a totally neutered version of Cable’s back story that is totally cat-fished from what it was in the comic books.]
Deadpool as a character is the very definition of unique, but the introduction of Cable forces DP to enhance his own self-awareness to survive the superior opposition. Cable himself, is more unique than the standard, straight talking tough guy because the manner in which he dresses down Deadpool is far blunter than what his harshest critics would casually say in public.
Relatability requires sympathy and empathy from the audience and in order to get that, a film needs a dedication to character development that presents dramatic vulnerability to create that connection.
[I’ll just say it. This film just doesn’t go there. But a lot of people can identify with being bullied or isolated the way Firefist is.]
“Story” = 23/34
Overall MPS Rating: 69/100
[Yep. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate number to sum up this movie.]
Deadpool 2 is a significant upgrade from its predecessor in every way. Ryan Reynolds and his production team are clearly comfortable with this character, but also the overall strategy in presenting his kind of stories in this age of superhero, cinematic blockbusters. This creates just enough separation to be admired for its unique spin, but not admonished for being a shill or poser to the gold standard of the MCU. It all boils down to execution and despite this film’s flaws, the entertaining goodies outshine the bad.
However, I will warn this production team to be wary of the waters they are beginning to tread if we are to see the continuation of this franchise in not only the evolution of X-Force as its own entity, but in the evolution of Deadpool as a character beyond sarcasm, comedy, action and gore.
--Slight Spoilers Ahead--
Deadpool 2 draws direct inspiration from the events of Rick Remender and Esad Ribic’s Uncanny X-Force #4 and #5 from 2011 in which the black ops team of X-Force assassinates an adolescent version of the resurrected Apocalypse whose name is Genesis. Deadpool uncharacteristically voices extreme opposition of this turn of events clearly suggesting that even for the morally scrupulous, there must be lines that should never be crossed. That line is at kids, even if they may be negatively influenced by opportunists, fascists, racists or misanthropes and who they grow up to be may threaten the planet. It’s the age old, sci-fi conundrum of time traveling to kill baby Hitler.
Deadpool 2 hints at a similar level of character development for someone who clearly comes off as morally devoid or morally not applicable, but it can be a significant and rewarding elevation of this character from all the frivolous smokescreens of poop jokes and pop culture mockery. If you want to go there with Deadpool, then you better go all the way by keeping his 4th wall self-awareness and parking the nonsensical BS temporarily to send a message that penetrates.
Half-assing that kind of moment the way Deadpool 2 does during its climax makes a farce of its potential gravitas and would be a dire mistake to repeat in a sequel with higher stakes hanging in the balance. The alternative is to keep things light and funny and filled with bullet holes, but I suspect Ryan Reynolds is a professional with layers of depth beneath his jovial crassness and up for this kind of challenge.
Here’s a tip: if Wade Wilson is to have this quantum leap in character evolution for a sequel then that moment better not sell out. In fact, that moment should be the Alpha and Omega of every bit of plot, every line of dialogue and every bit of character that fills the script. Anything less would defile the entire production and countermand all the conscious decisions that created this particular manifestation of Deadpool.
[Or … just don’t be so serious, you wanna-be, emo bastards!]