Spoilers ahead, of course.
Hey, it’s me, that Unlikable Leading Character who’s here to shit on the things you like, but, like, in a way that’s full of cursing and dick jokes so you’re not allowed to get uptight about it. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s right, it’s time to take a look at Deadpool 2.
I hated the first Deadpool movie and I make no bones about that. For all it dressed up as different, Deadpool was just the same as any fucking origin story superhero movies have given us these last few years. But, after the run of solid superhero flicks we’ve been on (Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and then the excellent Infinity War), I was up to believe that maybe they could have gotten a handle on their meta-commentary and turned it into something remotely interesting. But, just like Deadpool 2, I’m going to spoil the end for you right here at the start: they don’t, and this film is smug, tittering fuck-all.
I’m going to run down the story with as much care as they do: Wade Wilson/Deadpool’s girlfriend is shot in front of him after they decide to start a family together, and he heads off to go bond with a mutant super-kid who’s a matter of days away from blowing off the rails. Oh, and
Thanos Josh Brolin is there as Cable, sent from the future to take out Wade’s new charge.
I mean, let’s start with the nuts and bolts of this movie: the pacing is a mess, with Cable (Josh Brolin) never really given the weight he deserves and long asides taken for gags that leave Deadpool 2 at a flabby two hours that fails to deliver on any of the remotely interesting stuff it set forward (the Julian Dennison plot, regarding a young mutant destined for evil after the abuse he suffered at the hands of the man trying to cure him, is grossly underserved and only really kept afloat by MVP Dennison’s excellent performance). The film wants to have it’s cake and eat it too, with Wade as an unlikable star and as someone we root for and hope for the best for (even when he does stuff like, you know, making people touch his dick without their consent). The ending seems to take up half of the movie, the beats labouring so much I’m surprised they hadn’t given birth by the time the credits rolled. Deadpool 2 takes a swipe at the original Human Centipede movie, which is pretty bold since that film has more creativity and better focus in it’s single digestive system than Deadpool 2 displays over it’s entire story. I get that Deadpool is meant to be a meta-commentary on the genre, but so is Scream and it’s an excellent movie in it’s own right, so Deadpool really has no excuse for being so damn boring for so much of it’s runtime.
In fact, let’s delve a little deeper into that notion. The whole point of Deadpool as a character and as a franchise is to offer an alternative to what’s out there in the market right now. It intends to act as a commentary on those superhero movies that have dominated the mainstream for the last ten years plus, and in some ways, it does that. Well, if you consider Ryan Reynolds yelping about how dark the DC movies are “commentary”. What makes up the actual bulk of the critique of the genre is stuff less funny that what you and your friends came up with down the pub after you walked out of Justice League – it’s just pointing at an aspect of the superhero genre and saying “that”, so that the audience can chuckle and slap their knees and go “yes, that!” without any further critical thought. I’m not expecting highbrow cinematic analysis here, but saying that the climax to Batman versus Superman was silly isn’t a take, it’s just a fact, and stating it isn’t a joke, it’s pandering. As I wrote about with Family Guy before, a pop culture reference in and of itself isn’t a gag, but Deadpool 2 is guilty of delivering way too many “a man walks into a bar…superheroes” jokes to be considered a remotely cogent commentary.
And then, of course, you’ve got all the fucking tropes that it slops up in front of you without an ounce of critique because lest we not forget that where Infinity War tried to push the superhero genre forward, Deadpool is here to chug it straight back. For a movie that prides itself on waving it’s arms around and knowing it’s tropes, they sure as fuck fridged three separate women characters to provide motivation for the hero and the villain without so much as a nod to the egregious overuse of that trope. And hey, wouldn’t it be hot if the movie required you to have done your homework and watched the last X-Men movie to understand who the big bad was, even as it tries to take the piss out of franchising in superhero movies? Wouldn’t it be great if this was yet another movie about a couple of straight white guys (oh right – Deadpool is actually canonically pansexual, but the movie only goes near that in a collection of homophobic middle-school garbage about men hugging)? Wouldn’t it be neat if the only significant female character (no shade to the excellent Zazie Beets, who is great in everything else I’ve seen her in) was stuck in a push-up sheer corset? Hey, hey, Deadpool, get this: how about I read the real-life accusations of violent rape, corroborated by five people, against one of your stars TJ Miller, and you can paste it over the scenes of Wade groping his friends and cracking jokes about the oral rape of a child? Wouldn’t that be meta? Wouldn’t that be edgy? I’m not saying I wrote the book on Rape Jokes, but…
The biggest question that Deadpool 2 fails to answer is why the fuck we need a movie like this. In a film where everything is a quip-heavy joke at it’s own expense, what is there to get invested in? Everything the film does try to do with a straight face has been done way better elsewhere: couching a story about abuse and trauma in the superhero genre? Hey, Guardians of the Galaxy got there first and did it better, twice. Deconstructing the superhero? Kick-Ass, Mystery Men, and Super had you covered twenty years ago. Giving Ryan Reynolds the stardom he so clearly needs to live? We tried that a dozen times over and proved we don’t need it. You could argue it exists purely for entertainment, but that doesn’t explain how boring it is for long stretches. Deadpool 2 is an aggravatingly pointless movie, one that tries to play it’s irreverence as a feature instead of a bug and lands as a hopeless, toneless pile of fuckery by the end-up. After Infinity War earnestly changed the game, Deadpool 2 is back to snidely poke fun at that game without actually offering up a decent alternative to that game. For all Deadpool plays at anarchic, it’s staid, stupid, and a fucking waste of your time.
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By Louise MacGregor
(header image courtesy of 20th Century Fox)