Deadpool 2’s sassy anarchy plays it way too safe

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Deadpool 2
Now playing
3 out of 5

When Deadpool first hit cinemas in 2016, the overlooked Marvel property was a foulmouthed underdog worth rooting for. The antihero ruthlessly mocked the self-seriousness of extended cinematic universes and  ridiculed continuity. Even the fact Deadpool’s budget was fantastically less than any other X-Men flick played to the movie’s strengths.

Having money and people paying attention to his antics is the worst thing that could happen to Deadpool.

Don’t get me wrong, the merc with a mouth is still hilarious and one could argue his anarchic spirit is still there. The problem is the movie tries to have it both ways: a quippy asshole with superpowers who’s nevertheless a family man at heart. God forbid a major studio like Fox (soon to become a Disney division) would pony up $110 million for a nihilistic comedy that undermines its meal ticket.

Last time we saw Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds in the role he was born to play), he had achieved domestic bliss alongside Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and made peace with his hideously scarred face. His regenerative superpowers gave him a sense of purpose — not the pursuit of justice, but the joy of hacking criminals and degenerates to bits without facing any consequences.

For a sequel to work, any sense of contentment must be wiped out within the movie’s first 15 minutes of the movie, and let’s just say the mutant pays dearly for his cavalier behavior. Rudderless, Deadpool ends up as X-Men trainee. A thankless mission gets him in touch with an angry teen mutant (Julian Dennison, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople) who happens to be the target of a killer soldier from the future, the no-nonsense Cable (Josh Brolin). The stage is set for a clash between the two superheroes, going at it for all the wrong reasons.

The story arc is standard, a mix of protecting “the chosen one” and “killing baby Hitler” (shades of Terminator are all over the place). It’s coherent but too mawkish, and that doesn’t mesh with the true spirit of the franchise. Every demonstration of “heart” stops the movie dead in its tracks.

That said, Deadpool 2’s strength is character and crackling dialogue, and that saves the movie. The film’s finest moment is a clearly expensive set piece that mocks the superhero team-up trope. It’s the equivalent of setting a pile of money on fire in front of our eyes, for laughs. Beautiful.

Of all the new additions, the only one who registers is Julian Dennison (that kid is a force of nature). Josh Brolin’s Cable is muted, far from the genocidal soulfulness of Brolin’s Thanos. The lack of chemistry between the comic book frenemies could prove troublesome along the way. You get a lot more juice from Colossus and Deadpool.

The most subversive thing Deadpool 2 does is the way it uses the most hackneyed element of blockbuster movies: the celebrity cameo. There are a plethora of them, but about a second long or less. Some, you don’t discover until watching the movie for a second time or checking IMDb. They leave an impression.

The law of diminishing returns suggests a third Deadpool or X-Force film will probably be disappointing. The Ryan Reynolds-fueled venture has been fun, but the stitches are showing. They’ll have to come up with more than maximum effort: it needs new tricks.