by Thom Yee
Deadpool’s never really been my kind of comicbook hero. He’s dangerous, unhinged from reality and doesn’t take life seriously, but not in a frightening, Joker kind of way. Deadpool’s more of an annoying, won’t-shut-up, Spider-Man type, only, unlike Spider-Man, he’s not masking his own insecurities or expressing himself in a way he can’t in real life. No, Deadpool’s just annoying, and he constantly f*cks with people because that’s who he is on the inside, and I don’t really like that kind of character (or person). For a long time that was fine too, the only type of person that liked Deadpool was a certain type of comicbook nerd, a subset of a group of people nobody in reality cared about or wanted to spend any time around anyway, but then, all of a sudden, Deadpool was, like, the biggest deal in the world, the titular lead character of his own titular action-comedy movie, and played by one of the most comically handsome and spastically charming men in the world. And by the end of all of that, I didn’t really like Deadpool much more.
The movie was okay though. And right now he seems to be more popular than the rest of the X-Men.
You see, the essential idea being explored with the X-Men is one of bigotry and hatred, encompassing our fears of the other, the unknown, the weird, the powerful, and the primal fear we have of being replaced by our tormentors/rivals. Encompassed in the struggle between the inclusive, pro-mutant philosophies of Professor Xavier and the extremist, anti-human beliefs of Magneto are all of the reasons why we, as a species capable of discrimination (which isn’t, by definition, necessarily a bad thing), don’t get along and may never get along, and it’s this reflection of the civil rights battles we’ve faced and continue to face as a society and a world that gives the X-Men concept its salience. And Deadpool doesn’t represent any of that. He’s not a hero. He’s not really a villain. He’s not even a real mutant. He’s just a f*ckup. An unkillable, annoying, fourth-wall-breaking f*ckup.
Turns out that’s all most people are looking for though — intentionally dumb, raucous stuff almost intentionally divorced from essential meaning — because the first Deadpool movie made a hell of a lot more money than any of the other X-Men movies. Opening to an impressive 132 million dollars and eventually earning over $783 million worldwide, Deadpool currently stands as the tenth highest-grossing Marvel movie property, and that’s especially impressive when you consider it was an R-rated movie that most kids couldn’t go to and even more impressive when you remember that, as an X-Men property, Deadpool didn’t benefit from the same serialized, shared-universe storytelling that movies like Ant-Man or Doctor Strange did. In fact, if not for the appearances of X-Men character in Deadpool, neither of whom really appeared in any X-Men movies before (not in that form anyway for Colossus and not at all for Negasonic Teenage Warhead), Deadpool is barely an X-Men movie, and, if anything, it’s Deadpool that pulls the rest of the X-Men up more than the other way around.
If I’m being honest, though, there’s a big part of me that considered skipping Deadpool 2, the same way I never bothered with a John Wick 2 review despite previously reviewing its predecessor somewhat favourably or Grace never bothered reviewing Pitch Perfect 3 despite her favourable reviews of the original and its sequel, because I just wasn’t that into the idea of a Deadpool sequel. Sure, I would probably see it eventually, and sure, I would probably have some sort of opinion on it, but I wasn’t really looking forward to Deadpool 2. We all here at GOO Reviews decided to see it on Thursday opening night anyway though, and I’m actually really glad we did. And you all know how rare it is for me to be I’m glad about anything.
What’s it about?
When the fiery young mutant, Firefist, attempts to escape his human captors, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) must gather a team of mutant mercenaries, Bedlam, Shatterstar, Zeitgeist, to free the young man and—gaaah! Those codenames! They’re so ‘90s! I don’t know how much longer I can take this!
Anyway, Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) show up too and they’re really cool, Colossus gets a bigger part but Negasonic Teenage Warhead doesn’t get much to do, and those are all of the parts of the movie I cared about.
I find Deadpool pretty boring actually. And if you’re like me and you don’t find him funny, that’s probably not a surprise. So he heals, big whoop! He doesn’t have exotic powers like Cable or Deadpool, both of whom make a very big impression in Deadpool 2. In terms of origins, all three characters first appeared in a comicbook called The New Mutants, Cable first in #87 as a strange, gun-toting old man with a metal arm who would gradually take over leadership of the team of titular new mutants (and that’s the third time so far I’ve used the word ‘titular’ in this review [which, if you were paying attention, confirms that my second use of the word wasn’t a typo])!. It wasn’t until New Mutants #98 that Deadpool and Domino would show up, Domino joining the team as a former compatriot of Cable’s while Deadpool was more categorically a villain in those early days.
This was the very early ‘90s mind you, and I was a really young kid back then (still single digits in age), but even then I recognized the changing of the guard that these characters represented as we shifted away from spandex-clad superheroes to a lot of guns and pouches and shoulder pads and characters drawn severely out of proportion. If you’ve ever heard about the grim and gritty days of ‘90s comicbooks that long-time readers/nerds like me talk about mostly disparagingly, it’s comics like the latter-day New Mutants, which would eventually be relaunched as X-Force, that most of us are thinking of. It’s comics like that, that we all recognize were pretty bad in retrospect, that Deadpool, Cable, and Domino came from. But it’s a loving bad, a fully self-aware nostalgia, so if it ever strikes you as odd that comicbook nerds tend to take the MCU movies more seriously while the Deadpool movies are clearly a joke, it’s because we all knew the comics with Deadpool, Cable, and Domino were never very good.
Is it any Good?
If you’re some dumb folks looking for cheap laughs, I have just the show for you. Last week’s hottest movie was Deadpool 2. This movie has everything. Time travel. Swords. Male nudity. Some guy named Peter.
Deadpool movies (and it does feel a little weird now referring to them as plural) are like all of those little “What if…?” moments you used to have when you were 13 or 14, watching movies, mashing them up with things that happened in other movies, and generally thinking about how stupid it is that all of these so-called filmmakers seem so concerned with keeping their movies “relatable” or “sane” or “coherent”. In the wider sense of movies as stories, stories as fables, and fables as reflections on what it is to be human, Deadpool 2 isn’t a great movie. But it works really well on a few different levels.
Last time I wrote a Deadpool review, I pointed out the movie’s appeals come down to three different, fairly disconnected aspects — comedy, action, and broader thematic meaning — and while that’s still very much true in Deadpool 2, those three elements aren’t quite as disconnected this time. And it makes a huge difference even if the two movies are, in most ways, the same thing. To be clear, I liked Deadpool, but only just enough to say that I liked it, but with Deadpool 2, I actually liked the movie.
The first Deadpool had some impressive action moments, but Deadpool 2 is a really good action movie. I think even if you don’t care for or hate the other aspects of the movie, Deadpool 2 can stand alone just on its action. It’s all still fairly out-there, comicbook stuff, with people doing clearly superhuman things and even regular people surviving blows no normal person could withstand, and that’s not always convincing, but the action’s a little more intricate this time, a lot more varied in its portrayal of different powers and abilities, and there’s just a lot more of it this time. Where something like the John Wick movies (which I keep bringing up partially because Deadpool 2 is directed by John Wick’s co-director, David Leitch) are mostly just the same close-quarters “Gun-Fu” over and over again, Deadpool 2 has a bunch of different things going on, from parachute jumps in high winds to sword fights in Japanese bath houses to exotic uses of futuristic technology and esoteric powers like “luck”, and there’s enough variation in settings and power sets in Deadpool 2 that the action is always intriguing.
Comedically, Deadpool 2 is a perfect tonal match for the first Deadpool, but where that unfocused and scattershot style was mostly a turn off for me in the first one, there’s just a shred of difference in the sequel that made the humour a lot more effective for me this time. The humour in Deadpool 2 is of the same style as the original, but this time I got a much stronger sense of connection between the humour and what was actually happening in the movie. There’s a scene mid-movie where the camera takes an ass-first shot of Deadpool standing on the hood of a moving vehicle, and while the joke there is obvious (bending over for the camera), it also makes sense because he’d just landed on the hood, had just killed the driver, and was trying to steer the vehicle through the windshield while controlling the car’s acceleration with the end of his sword pushing on the gas. It’s still a dumb joke that I don’t find funny, but because there’s more of a connection between the humour and the events of the movie in Deadpool 2, more of the humour at least meant something. There’s even an ongoing joke between Deadpool and Cable that came up when they first meet, when they confront each other later, and when they meet up again at the end that gave me a real, audible laugh. It was still kind of dumb and of the Deadpool style, but it was earned. They put the work in this time.
Last time around, though, the central theme of Deadpool, buried deep underneath all of the ultraviolence and gross-out comedy, was love story, and this time around, believe it or not, Deadpool 2 is about grief. And unlike the love story in Deadpool, Deadpool 2’s story of grief was surprisingly good. It still wasn’t great, but there are themes of loss and responsibility and how those things can affect your future and the future in Deadpool 2 that are surprisingly well done in this one rather than hollow or superficial or more dominated by other things going on because all anyone can remember in that scene was the pegging. Deadpool 2 just feels little more careful than the first, a little more concerned with tying all of its elements together rather than letting them run free on their own to distract from the main story. And where Deadpool was, probably rightly, mostly the Deadpool show, new characters like Cable and Domino and returning X-Men like Colossus add a lot of dimensionality to Deadpool 2’s world.
So should I see it?
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you here: I think there’s something fundamentally poisonous about Deadpool. I would never advocate censorship or editorial mandates or moral obligation over talented people telling the stories they want to tell, but I feel, and I’m pretty sure you do to if you’re aware of who you are and what people are like on the inside, that a big part of Deadpool’s appeal is that he says “F*ck you!” to so many things. “F*ck you!” to conventional storytelling. “F*ck you!” to essential meaning. “F*ck you!” to even having a point. I think often the people who like Deadpool the most are the same type of people who come out of watching a movie like Fight Club badly wanting to start fight clubs of their own. There’s a danger to the character’s basic appeals that I think is capable of steering a lot of people the wrong way.
But let’s be honest, those people suck, they always will suck, there are way too many of them and not nearly enough of us, and there’s probably not much we can ever do about that. So why not enjoy our time here on Earth watching movies we like, even if all of those idiots will never get it?
If you didn’t like the original Deadpool, Deadpool 2 isn’t the movie to convince you otherwise, at least not stylistically. For me, though, someone who’s not a big fan of the original, I detected just a hint of added effort on the part of the sequel’s creators. Maybe not maximum effort, but effort nonetheless to have a wider range of cool sh*t going on, cooler characters to make up Deadpool’s extended family, and more time connecting the humour of the movie to the movie’s actual goings on.
Thom’s Deadpool 2 final score
On the Edge
- I don’t think we’re giving the designers enough credit for how genuinely clever and smart Zazi Beats’ Domino colour inversion is.
- The kid from Hunt for the Wilderpeople!
- Aaughh!! Juggernaut vs. Colossus! And it’s not even like it’s a big deal in this movie! That’s the kind of onscreen fight nerds like me have been waiting our entire lives for!
- If you’re wondering who that “Gideon” guy is on that New Mutants cover next to Deadpool and Domino, don’t worry. He’s nobody.