'Deadpool 2': The critic's blatantly self-aware review of a blatantly self-aware movie
It’s difficult to criticize a movie that’s not only aware of its flaws, but points them out to us. In “Deadpool 2,” Ryan Reynolds, in the titular role, turns directly to the camera after a pedantic and arbitrary plot point is revealed and says, “That’s some sloppy writing.”
Reacting to the scene, the film critic jots in his notepad, “Bullseye.” He then feels rather pedantic himself, because he has laughed quite a bit at the movie thus far, and marveled at the dynamically directed action, including a long, single-shot sequence in which the camera stays on one bad guy running in the foreground as Deadpool flips in and out of the frame, mercilessly taking out a bunch of other thugs. The direction is an upgrade, for sure, courtesy David Leitch, who made “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde” vital modern action-genre pieces, the critic writes, mercilessly showing off the breadth of his contextual knowledge.
Does it really matter that “Deadpool 2” suffers from erratic pacing, shows little interest in developing a couple of key characters and feels about 20 minutes too long? Hmm, the critic ponders, debating in his mind whether it deserves a slightly generous three-star rating, or a slightly nitpicky two-and-a-half. Hmm.
The critic thinks back. He gave the first “Deadpool,” a fresh, no-holds-barred, very R-rated meta-spoof of superhero movies, three stars. “Deadpool 2” is pretty good, laden with snickering, crude one-liners, over-the-top cartoonish violence and a typically quippy and charismatic Reynolds performance. But it’s not as good as its predecessor. Two-and-half stars it is. The critic nods smugly. “That’ll do, pig,” he says to himself, quoting a 23-year-old movie, as he’s wont to do, clueless to the fact that it probably annoys other people. “That’ll do.”
“Now what?” the critic thinks, pondering his next sentence. “Oh, right. I haven’t described the plot yet with enough vagueness to avoid spoilers, but enough specificity to overcome the insecurity I felt when I got a C-minus on a book report in junior high.” The sequel opens with Deadpool, real name Wade Wilson, opening the gas lines on the stove, laying atop several barrels of highly flammable fuel, and lighting a match.
Why is he suicidal? Because - well, that would be a spoiler, even though it happens early in the movie. Superhero-movie fans are touchy as hell about spoilers, and the critic would know, because he’s sort of one of them. Sort of: he’d probably try too hard to be all jejune about his fandom by saying he enjoys watching documentary films when he isn’t waxing pseudo-scholarly about popular entertainment. He’d also use the word “jejune” loosely, and with great pretension.
As established in the first movie, Deadpool has no qualms about killing people he thinks deserve it, although he’s a very sensitive and thoughtful partner to his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When the thing that happens that probably cannot be mentioned happens, Deadpool finds himself in personal upheaval. He stumbles into a plot involving a powerful and troubled kid mutant (Julian Dennison), and even ends up in super-mutant prison for a while.
One subplot involves his superpowered pals introduced in the first movie, when metallic man Colossus (a CGI character voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and literally explosive teen Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) attempt to recruit him to the X-Men. Deadpool’s resistance to the idea is a metaphorical commentary on the trend in which modern superhero films are endless serial properties instead of self-contained narratives, because that’s what’s commercially successful now, astronomically so.
Ha! The critic smiles at his laptop. He found some subtext among all the dismemberment and dick jokes. How ironic is it that the “Deadpool” movies very much want to self-identify as outsiders, placing themselves above pervasive genre tropes, while simultaneously adhering to those tropes? Oh ho ho, how rich! The critic types with a smirk, noting that a comedic plot in which Deadpool assembles his own team of misfits just adds further layers of jokey self-analysis, and is one of the movie’s funniest elements, even though it seems dropped in a bit haphazardly.
“Deadpool 2” wedges in some characters from the “Deadpool” and “X-Force” comic books to stimulate fanpersons who enjoy pointing out to their less geekish friends that they recognize said characters from their reading pursuits in the source material. One of those characters is Cable, a gun-and-grenade-toting time-traveling cyborg/terminator type from the future, played by Josh Brolin, who also plays the villain Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, something “Deadpool 2” makes direct reference to, because there’s nothing the movie likes to do more than smash the fourth wall with its elbow, and remind you that if there was such a thing as a fifth wall, it would kick that down, and wish there was a sixth one it could headbutt.
The critic pauses. His previous sentence was 84 words long. He turns to his readers. That’s some sloppy writing, he writes.
MPAA rating: R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand
Director: David Leitch
Run time: 119 minutes
Photos courtesy Twentieth Century Fox