With Deadpool 2, the deconstruction becomes the norm. That’s not necessarily a bad thing given how bloated and redundant the X-Men franchise has become, and how terrifically its predecessor broke every taboo while delivering a solid film with a real story of its own. But how do you skewer yourself when you’ve become the new template? The merc with a mouth sure tries, with a level of self-referential jokes, moments of breaking the fourth wall and meta commentary on an unprecedented level for a movie of this scale—a lot of it is truly hilarious stuff. But no matter how anarchic it may seem or merciless it is against other franchises, the thrill of having no idea what might happen is deadened when it becomes a surprisingly standard setup for its sequel, the forthcoming X-Factor.
(If I may have a meta moment of my own: Does this sound too negative? It’s not supposed to, but that’s what happens when something you love is followed by something you only like.)
R, 120 minutes
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, Violet Crown Cinema
Deadpool 2 opens with Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), unable to be killed by conventional means, attempting to blow himself to pieces after suffering an unspeakable tragedy in what has already been a difficult life. When this fails, he is taken in by Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and given a new lease on life as an X-Men trainee. Disaster after disaster follows before he discovers what he must do to truly move on while potentially sacrificing his own future.
Russell (Julian Dennison) is a troubled and abused teen whose ability to shoot fire aid him in his goal of revenge, but Wade struggles to put him on the right path, away from a life of killing before it’s too late. Along the way, Wade enlists the help of Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose mutant power of being incredibly lucky is at first dubious until it is invaluable. They are also joined by Cable (Josh Brolin), a soldier from the future who wants to prevent an impending tragedy by any means necessary.
Taking over for Tim Miller is David Leitch, a director with serious credentials when it comes to negotiating different tones while delivering a solid action experience (Atomic Blonde, John Wick). His visual flair and reverence for every set piece is on full display, which is one way Deadpool 2 is superior to the first film. The jokes are spread farther apart but land with no less impact. The writing is clever, and the pathology of Wade’s reliance on humor as a coping mechanism—the trait that first brought him and Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) together so effectively—remains the character’s best feature.
Deadpool’s love of decidedly unmacho music like Wham!, Pat Benatar and Celine Dion still lands in the space between irony and sincerity that only Reynolds can capture. The supporting cast is terrific—Beetz’s take on Domino is a lot of fun, and Brolin’s Cable shows a continued determination to bring heart to what might have been one-note comic antiheroes after his turn as Thanos. Dennison is a promising young talent depicting a character with an emotionally resonant arc, and it wouldn’t be a Deadpool movie without ambiguity as to the feelings between him and Colossus.
The two things that Deadpool 2 can’t overcome in the end are the excessive reliance on meta jokes—the initial mention of how much money the first one made is fine, but it’s not an endless gold mine—and it feels engineered to set up the next installment. The former is frustrating, as the ratio of original to meta gags approaches half; the latter is forgivable but indicative of the fact that this is ultimately a conventional movie with anarchic tendencies that is preceded by one that truly tore up every rule in its way. Still good, still worth your time, but probably not worth a rewatch.
Playing this week
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056
Avengers: Infinity War, Book Club, Life of the Party, RBG
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213
A Quiet Place, Avengers: Infinity War, Breaking In, Book Club, Life of the Party, Overboard, Pope Francis-A Man of His Word, Rampage, Show Dogs
Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000
A Quiet Place, Avengers: Infinity War, Book Club, Breaking In, Disobedience, Isle of Dogs, Life of the Party, RBG, Show Dogs, Tully, You Were Never Really Here