“Move or die.” ~ Cable
“When’s the last time you saw a plus size superhero? Never.” ~ Russell
“With training, you can be X-Men.” ~ Colossus
“Kiss me like you miss me, Red.” ~ Vanessa
“Tell me they got that in slow motion.” ~ Deadpool
After the success of the first Deadpool film in 2016, it was inevitable that the R-rated entry in the X-Men franchise would get a sequel and the Merc With A Mouth would return for more mayhem and breaking the fourth wall. And so Ryan Reynolds returns as the wisecracking, healing factor possessing lunatic in this follow up feature that finds him carrying on his romance with the woman in his life, forming a posse, and facing a time travelling soldier with a mission of his own in a violent but hilarious film that matches the tone of its predecessor.
Two years after the events of the last film, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a mercenary working his trade around the world as Deadpool, the masked man with a motor-mouth who simply can’t be killed. He has a good thing going with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) until things go awry. At loose ends, Wade finds himself drawn into the X-Men (courtesy of returning mutants Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) and a mission involving a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison) and a time traveling cybernetic mutant soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin).
Reynolds is part of the writing team (and in fact provides more than one character performance), providing input with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The script fits the demented tone of the character, weaving together the violence and the humour of in the right way. There’s a lot of in-jokes in the script that are both tied to the X-Men cinematic world and far beyond it, wrecking gleeful havoc with popular culture in the form of meta gags as it goes along. It incorporates themes and elements common to comic books- time travel, misunderstandings, enemies turned allies- with human elements like selflessness versus carelessness, doing right for the sake of doing right… and bantering with your buddies.
The story narrative does show growth in the characters- Deadpool’s responses to events suggest he’s moved past the self-absorbed buffoon we first met at the beginning of the first film, even while he has his moments of immaturity mixed in with his despair. Personal growth is also seen in Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who’s still got something of the punk we saw in the first film, but has grown and matured as well. The writing introduces new characters like Cable (whose entire history in the comics is the ultimate example of convoluted) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) in ways that feel true to their roots.
Director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) has already established a good reputation for the mayhem of action films, and he has the right touch for that here. He deftly paces the action as things go along, and yet amid all of the action, he maintains a hold on the foundation of the story- the characters, particularly the dynamic often seen in comics of two protagonists taking shots at each other and then settling their differences and working together. His style, coupled with CGI that meshes well with the physical, results in a film that has the gleefully anarchic energy it needs, with the right touches of humanity and even self-sacrifice. The meshing of CGI and the physical probably presents itself best in the Juggernaut- a combination of Ryan Reynolds doing stop motion capture and voice for the villain (another double duty for the actor) with the CGI enhancements; it works well for the Hulk over in the MCU and works for this behemoth far better than his previous X-Men cinematic universe appearance during X-Men The Last Stand. A lot of the action sequences, done in a way that is smooth even among all the chaos, is physical as opposed to CGI, and the director deftly films things in ways that don’t get the viewer lost in the chaos.
The cast are all well selected. Julian Dennison plays Russell, the boy mutant who appears as one thing initially- someone who must be protected- but goes off in a different direction as the story requires, becoming a threat in a distant future. The actor plays the role with different nuances- a typical teenager at first with the requisite attitude and snark that might make you want to strangle him just on principle, but he’s got grudges, deeply felt pain, and legitimate grievances- the sort of grudges that are meant to grow over time and make him problematic.
Morena Baccarin appears less than she did in the first film, with something of a different capacity, let’s just put it at that, this time out. Vanessa’s chemistry with Wade feels real, and the two characters are likable together, even if one of them looks like they had their face sandpapered (hint: it’s not her). She acts as Wade’s conscience, aside from being his lover, and that plays itself out as the film goes along, and the actress plays to that, as well as investing the character with a dry sense of humour.
Stefan Kapicic returns to voice the X-Man Colossus once again, the mountain of organic steel from the first film. The character is more CGI than physical presence, but that CGI renders him fully meshed into the scene, and Kapicic’s vocal take gives the character a steady strength and more warmth than you expect out of the comics character. Colossus is an experienced member of his team who works to make Wade a better person, and the actor’s take gives him a sense of optimism. Brianna Hildebrand’s return as the weirdly codenamed mutant teen Negasonic Teenage Warhead (complete with her adorably perky girlfriend/ classmate Yukio) is fun- she still has the punk screw you attitude the actress gave her in the first film, but she’s matured, and the actress plays that quality too.
Domino is a character I like from the comics, and this happens to be the first time she’s ever appeared in the movies. The character’s mutant ability involves manipulating luck in her favour, and aside from that is a formidable fighter. Zazie Beetz gives the role a fun, snarky energy, and gets in more than her share of wisecracks. She also shows the character’s resourceful, tenacious side, and makes a serious impression in her debut of this character. I’m looking forward to more of what she can do with the character, and other roles.
Josh Brolin, who recently spent time as the villain Thanos in Avengers Infinity War, gets to play a very different character as Cable. The character, a partially cybernetic warrior from the future, is older and gruff, an experienced soldier with mutant abilities and next to no sense of humour. He has good reason to come back in time, not to mention target an unlikely subject like Russell for death, and the actor plays Cable as gritty, tough, and not terribly talkative. At first the character is a man of mystery and an antagonist, but when we see and understand his motives, there are more nuances to him, and so as the film develops, he goes from one capacity to another, and makes the character compelling to watch. Even if he can barely crack a smile.
Ryan Reynolds seems to be having a blast throughout the film (even when his character is in the midst of despair) as Wade, wisecracking and tweaking the conventions of the superhero genre once again. He’s still full of snark, despite the despair, and when he finds himself having a purpose, it gives him a sense of growth that we’d have never seen in the character as he originally appeared (even if he tempers that growth with endless amounts of being a wiseass). Wade takes a stand on both principle and bitter experience, even if it sets him against those he’s worked with before, and even if it puts him in the crosshairs of a very grumpy soldier from the future. The actor plays that mix of sympathetic and snark and despair, and runs wild with the meta gag quality of what makes Deadpool work, skewering everything from fanny packs to Disney to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes to even himself as an actor, and seems to be having a ball doing so. He makes Deadpool hilarious but human throughout, and a protagonist we can root for, even if he is a violent, foul mouthed lunatic at times.
Deadpool 2 serves up more of the mayhem, carnage, and laughs of the original film, building on and expanding the X-Men universe in a way that deserves its R-rating. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of language, and a lot of bloodshed. This is not a comic book film that you take a young child to. But it is a comic book adaptation that is uproariously funny (stay for the credits sequences and be mindful of some blink and you’ll miss it cameos) and emotionally human and even poignant. I want to see more of the Merc With A Mouth on the big screen- I just wouldn’t want to know him in real life.