Weaker than the first and less consistent, but also funnier and with more heart, this sequel is a contradictory gumbo. If you were a fan of the first, go see it. Otherwise, wait for streaming.
The Good: Even funnier than the first and with a lot more to say, but still carried by the undeniable charisma of Ryan Reynolds.
The first Deadpool rode a tidal wave of profanity, charm, and fourth-wall breaking to record-setting success. Underlying all of that? Nothing. That was the magic of Deadpool. It was nothing more than it appeared to be.
Enter Deadpool 2, which by the trailers, might look like more of the same. Instead, it provides a surprisingly deep story about conversion therapy, trauma, school shootings, and the justification of violence.
No, this is not a joke. While it still delivers over-the-top violence and jokes aimed at Wolverine and the DC films, these are not the core of the film.
That honor goes to the relationship between Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool and Julian Dennison’s (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) Firefist. Dennison continues to prove both his comedic and dramatic chops, giving an emotional performance as a boy looking for a single friend. The two actors do a fantastic job playing off of each other, despite the often ridiculous surroundings.
While Josh Brolin delivers a surprisingly nuanced turn as cybernetic time-traveling killer Cable, it is Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) that truly steals the show as the probability-altering mercenary Domino. She has an undeniable charisma and screen presence that demands to be liked. It helps that some of the most creative scenes of the film revolve around her “I’m lucky” based powers.
The Bad: It’s hard to emotionally connect with living parody.
There is a balancing act that Deadpool 2 has to accomplish, and it’s not clear that it pulls it off.
Deadpool is a very likable character. He is funny, first and foremost, but how that plays out varies: he can be crass, sweet, fourth-wall breaking, physical, etc., to the same effect.
But just because he is likable, doesn’t make him a character that is easy to connect to. Beyond having powers that make him essentially immortal, and thereby eliminating any tension as to “will he survive?”, the sheer level of his parody makes it difficult to take anything seriously.
This all serves to make him a very enjoyable character to watch but also renders his emotional stakes meaningless. He doesn’t take his own death seriously, nor the death of anyone around him, or really anything. So why should you?
Thus the balance problem. To differ from Deadpool, the sequel attempts to inject a semblance of an emotional stake, to really try to get the audience to feel for its character – but then laughs at the same attempts.
The Ugly: A romantic relationship between two women isn’t played for laughs, men’s sexual interest, or drama – and it’s astounding.
It really is one of the strangest and most wonderful parts of Deadpool 2. Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead returns, and this time, with Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), her new girlfriend, by her side.
And that’s it. It’s just presented. Deadpool is exciting for her, and immediately has a strange bonding with Yukio that is easily one of the funniest parts of the film.
But the relationship itself is presented as so completely normal, it’s actually shocking. Romantic relationships between two women are almost always played as:
1. for the sexual intrigue of the men characters or audience 2. laughs or 3. a heavily dramatic story about their hardships.
Not so for Deadpool 2. In a now $600 million blockbuster, there is a perfectly normal to the point of mundanity romantic relationship between two teenage women.
Why is this the first significant time in the history of the genre that a queer relationship has been shown on screen, especially when Fox’s X-Men franchise began as a parable for the AIDS crisis and the persecution of LGBTQ folks?
One can only hope that this isn’t a unicorn. Looking at you especially, Marvel – it’s time to step up your game.
“After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Miami’s hottest bartender, while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor – finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World’s Best Lover.” – Rotten Tomatoes