In a world filled with increasingly bland superhero reboots and cross-overs and re-reboots, Deadpool promises fun. With its combination of R-rated humor, gratuitous violence, adult situations and a nigh-unkillable character who breaks the fourth wall at every opportunity, Deadpool is a profane yet light-hearted take on the superhero genre. Deadpool 2 offers more of the same.
Which is both its strongest and weakest points.
The Comedy Cornerstone
Wade Wilson, alias Deadpool, is a wise-cracking irreverent mercenary who targets the scum of the world (or so he claims). His main superpower, aside from being functionally unkillable, is his awareness of the fourth wall — and his geeky obsession with pop culture.
In Deadpool 2, a majority of the jokes Deadpool cracks on-screen references something from pop culture and consciousness: Disney’s Frozen, the Terminator, DC comics, cultural appropriation, Jared Kushner, and of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And Deadpool is always cracking a joke.
The constant drip-feed of humor keeps the tone of the movie light, save for a few rare sequences of drama. In the opening act of Deadpool 2, Wade and his girlfriend Vanessa plan to start a family when assassins break into his home. Wade dispatches all of them, but the last one kills Vanessa. Overcome with grief, Deadpool spirals into depression.
Even so, the movie still made jokes about his situation. From him being planted at the barstool for days on end without leaving even to urinate, to having a sight gag of the death of Wolverine, to his irreverent attempt at suicide (which, naturally, fails). The jokes Deadpool drops may be appropriate to his character, but with so many of them it’s difficult to buy into the moments of (alleged) high drama.
When the rest of the movie kicks in, the humor kicks up a notch. Which is both a good and bad thing. If you’re as much of a geek as Deadpool is, you might find plenty to smile about. But if you’re not–and I’m not–many of the jokes will fly over your head.
MCU films of late have tried to inject zaniness and humour into scenes whenever possible. Most of the time, they merely come off as draggy or flat or merely unfunny. Deadpool 2 is the exception to the rule, insofar as many more jokes are expertly delivered versus the average MCU film. Unfortunately, Deadpool 2 also suffers from Excess Joke Syndrome, slowing the pace of the film and undercutting key emotional beats in exchange for unfunny dialogue and dated pop-culture references.
Worst of all, if you take away Deadpool’s jokes, there’s precious little left of the film.
Deadpool 2 is the story of how Wade Wilson finds a family of choice — or at least, tries to. To cope with his grief after losing Vanessa, Deadpool joins the X-Men. This plan quickly falls apart on his first mission to contain an out-of-control mutant named Firefist at a ‘Mutant Reeducation Center’, when Deadpool decides to assassinate the school staff.
Deadpool and Firefist are quickly thrown into a maximum-security prison named the Icebox and fitted with collars to negate their powers. Without his healing factor, Deadpool is now a walking bag of cancer covered in burn scars, and for the first time ever he is reduced to a depressed, dying husk. Even his sense of humour is (mostly) gone.
All this changes when cyborg soldier Cable travels back in time to kill Firefist in a bid to prevent Firefist from killing his family. In the ensuing chaos, Deadpool regains his powers and forms a team to stop Cable from killing Firefist.
After that point, the plot becomes utterly predictable. There are moments of situational comedy, but there are no plot twists or surprises, barely any character development, and no breaks from the relentless stream of wisecracks. The only memorable action scenes were those with Deadpool present, and only because those scenes were shot with the intent of maximising humor. The rest were completely forgettable.
Indeed, aside from Deadpool himself, the only other character who consistently stood on his own feet was the primary antagonist, Cable. Carrying an air of pathos and dignity, he stands in sharp contrast to Deadpool’s zaniness. The other characters barely left a mark on me; they were defined simply by their powers and how their powers have influenced their worldviews. Take away their desires and their powers and you’ll find little more than cardboard cutouts.
Like an addict on crack, *Deadpool 2″‘s reliance on comedy is its greatest flaw: take away the jokes, the stabs at irreverent humor and the constant stream of metahumor, and all that is left is a shallow husk.
One Trick Pony
Deadpool is the Merc with a Mouth, and the franchise’s marketing efforts have consistently played up his brand of adult humour. But it also reveals the fundamental emptiness of Deadpool 2. The film is a one-trick pony, with little to offer beyond the constant assaults on the fourth wall.
Most creative works rest on the pillars of plot, character and drama. Deadpool 2 just has one: humour. At its best, it’s a fun movie with killer jokes, but take away the humour and there is nothing left for it to stand on.
While I enjoy humour as much as the next person, I make sure keep the beats tight and the story focused on plot, character and action. You can see it for yourself with my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.