Ensign Lestat's Film Log, 22/05/2018
Deadpool 2 Review
DAVID LEITCH (DIRECTOR), RHETT REESE, PAUL WERNICK, RYAN REYNOLDS (WRITERS), JOSH BROLIN, RYAN REYNOLDS, MORENA BACCARIN AND ZAZIE BEETZ (CAST)
RELEASED MAY 18 2018
The Merc with the Mouth returns to the big screen and this time he’s out for vengeance. Oh wait, that was the first film. Anyway, this time Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is out for vengeance because his hopes for a happy future are snatched away by trigger-happy bad guys, and then Cable (Josh Brolin) shows up raving about a future in peril because of a young boy’s murderous rage.
This review contains some spoilers for the film.
Said boy is Russell Collins (Julian Dennison from Hunt for the Wilderpeople), a mutant going by the name Firefist. Deadpool meets this boy on his first mission as a ‘trainee’ X-Man, except things go wildly out of hand and both Russell and Deadpool end up in prison. Just as Deadpool has made his peace with the inevitability of mortality, Cable comes crashing in attempting to kill the boy. Why? Because Russell will soon kill his abusive headmaster at Essex House and begin a downward spiral that will result in the deaths of Cable’s wife and child. No never mind that without Cable, Russell would never have got out of prison and begun killing in the first place – it is best to ignore the semantics of quantum mechanics when watching superhero films.
Deadpool foils Cable’s efforts but then must put together a team to help him take down the time-traveller. This plan goes terribly awry and Deadpool ends up joining forces with Cable in the hopes of talking Russell out of killing. Many CGI fight scenes later, the day is saved and so are our heroes. Well, not without the help of some more time travelling, that is.
Deadpool 2 is, expectedly hilarious, but it is also inconsistent. Going into this film, one expected jokes, puns and gags at the expense of everyone and everything, and it doesn’t fail on that account. There is also plenty of bawdy humour and gory violence. Unfortunately, the film never seems to gain enough momentum from these moments because it keeps missing the beats and singing off key.
For example, in the first Deadpool film, the contradictory mix of Angel of the Morning by Juice Newton for the gruesome opening credits was a novel approach; but it fit with the film’s core idea of being an unconventional romance. This film tries a little too hard to emulate that organic success and instead loses its sense of originality. After a shocking death, the film segues into Céline Dion’s ballad, Ashes, playing over James Bond-style opening credits. This is meant as a reference to the first film where Juice Newton’s plaintive Angel of the Morning accompanied the opening credits, but it doesn’t seem as funny second time around. It is even less amusing when the same gag is used twice - Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 feels utterly incongruous and out of sync when it is played during a blood-spattered fight scene; some Dubstep would have done nicely then to foreshadow a later conversation.
The film also foregoes its female characters for the sake of Deadpool’s development. The entire plot hinges on the murder of Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa, which takes place within the first fifteen minutes of the film. It was bad enough that she was reduced to a damsel in distress in the first film but her only arc in Deadpool 2 is to provide a family for Deadpool before being killed off to inspire his arc as the anti-hero with a heart of gold. Sadly, Vanessa’s death is not even the only case of fridging in the film; Cable’s wife and daughter follow a similar fate with nary a line of dialogue between them.
Despite all the novelty that the Deadpool films bring, these are the kind of tropes that reduce the film’s impact. Vanessa’s death on screen feels especially insulting given that she is a superhero in her own right in the comics. Her comic book alter ego Copycat is a shapeshifter and chances are that we could possibly still see her re-emerge in Deadpool 3, but the films have failed to acknowledge her powers thus far.
Another OG favourite, Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead, gets short shrift as well. Negasonic was a revelation in the first film – precocious but unflappable in a fight - and most fans were looking forward to her character’s further development in this film. She does see some minor growth - she is given a girlfriend (yay for representation, finally!), the bubbly Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) - but that’s it. We also learn nothing about Yukio and, while she is engaging and a character we would love to meet again, she feels like a token inclusion so that the creators can seem more ‘woke’.
For most of the film, Negasonic is missing in action, which makes for frustrating viewing because there is only so much CG-Colossus we can put up with before it gets eye-rollingly boring. Negasonic and Yukio’s introduction to the final fight with Juggernaut would have halved the length of that scene while upping the entertainment value. It would have also given us a chance to see the girlfriends interact with each other, an aspect that is woefully missing from the film. It felt like the director and writers just… forgot these characters were even in the film. As soon as the girls show up to the fight, it finishes in no time – in the words of Okoye from Avengers: Infinity War, ‘What was she doing up there this whole time?’
The only female character who gets any valuable screen time is Zazie Beetz’s Domino. I love that they changed up the comic book character to give us a hilarious, African-American mutant who is as smart as she is formidable. The writers and director make her intangible power of luck visually appealing using domino effects and quick thinking. The biggest issue is that Domino doesn’t show up till partway through the film. She is the sole surviving member of Deadpool’s first X-Force team but doesn’t get more than two action scenes and very little character development. By the end of the film, we know Domino is great in a fight but we know nothing else about her.
In the opening credits, Ryan Reynolds is credited as ‘a guy who doesn’t like sharing the spotlight’, and the ensuing film seems to prove that tongue-in-cheek observation correct. Deadpool’s angst, faux-trauma, punny jokes and elaborate fight scenes take up so much on-screen time that the rest of the characters are left by the wayside. None of the characters of colour get much screen-time, aside from Domino and Russell. Karan Soni’s Dopinder is still a cabbie, but this time, he spends an inordinate amount of time fangirling over Deadpool (can’t blame him there) while also mopping up after him. The spectacular Terry Crews and Lewis Tan feature in a couple of scenes before they die quick deaths along with the rest of X-Force, a waste of two talented actors for the sake of shock value. Granted, the rest of X-Force, made up of Rob Delaney, Bill Skarsgård and Brad Pitt also have curtailed roles, but they’re not representing minority communities, too unused to seeing themselves on screen. For a film that includes plenty of on-the-nose preaching about racial tolerance, it forgets to represent those same races in the actual filmic text. Show, don’t tell was definitely not this film’s motto.
Deadpool 2 is funny and engaging, but it fails to capitalise on the extraordinary characters it has, especially its cast of diverse characters. Sequels are always bigger with higher stakes and larger casts – but the story has to do justice to their inclusion. By focusing only on Deadpool and his journey – something we have already seen in the first film - the pacing becomes staccato and the plot dull. Far too many incredible characters are sidelined in lieu of overwrought angst, which confuses the tone of a genuinely uproarious film. Perhaps the change in director and too much enthusiastic direction from star Reynolds has put paid to all of Tim Miller’s achievements with the first film. The brilliance of Deadpool 2 is in its characters and the handling of some of its jokes, but the rest feels like a poor imitation of a great original.