When Rob Liefield and Fabian Nicieza created Deadpool back in 1991, he was a humorless Deathstroke copycat who was the main antagonist of the Triangle Feet Pouch Club (a.k.a. X-Force). But since he was a product of the 90s, his x-treme ‘tude quickly became less cool than the comedic stylings of Pauly Shore.
Sometime around the early 2000s it was wisely decided to have him break the fourth wall and the mercenary named Wade Wilson eventually went from the Merc with the Mouth to the Merc with the Mouth … who was funny.
Having Deadpool constantly acknowledge the fact he was in a comic book, gave writers free reign to skewer any topic or target they wanted and license to create any insane scenario. Mixed with the fact that he was essentially nigh unkillable, Deadpool could, for example, kill the entire Marvel universe or battle Nazi zombie dinosaurs without fear of harm. They basically created a jokester God who could do anything; oh and that first example is real. He killed the entire Marvel Universe … twice.
That change transitioned him from a relic of the worst time in comics into a pop culture phenomenon. Which is kind of insane, if you think about it. That’s like the Lobo rip-off Bloodwulf becoming more popular than Wolverine.
His omnipresence in comics meant a film was inevitable. After the “what the fuck were they thinking?” extended cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool would eventually get his own movie— eight fucking years later. Whether it was being saddled with the stank of Wolverine or the studio being afraid of an R-rated superhero film, the film languished in development hell for damn near a decade.
It wouldn’t be until somebody *cough* Ryan Reynolds *cough* leaked some test footage, and the overwhelming fan reaction to it, that the film would finally be greenlit. Directed by Tim Miller, Deadpool was a perfectly serviceable meat and potatoes film. All it needed to do was be funny and have a good amount of action and, in large part, it succeeds at both. Due to its minuscule budget and amazing ad campaign (and the popularity of Deadpool himself), the movie made what professional money men refer to as “a fuck ton of money.”
Which meant the inevitability of a sequel was, as they say, “easier to catch crabs than a Russian street walking seagull with a fisherman’s license.”
Different countries, different idioms.
Since one of the unbreakable cardinal rules of cinema states that all sequels have to be bigger and more expensive than the previous film, Miller decided to opt out (he was in favor of a lower budget like the first one) and in his place, as he’s referred to in the film “….One of the Guys Who Killed the Dog in John Wick.”
Director David Leitch brings with him the action know how of the John Wick films and is, on paper, a fantastic replacement for Miller. He knows how to stage a kickass action set piece and while the film isn’t lacking in action, the comedy is unfortunately hit or miss and the emotional core of the film falls completely flat.
It feels as though returning writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick left their Stretch Armstrong outside for too long and it became misshapen by the heat of the sun. Some parts are far too long, others are way too short and the whole thing feels overstuffed.
The film opens with a clearly despondent Wade Wilson/Deadpool laying on a stockpile of gasoline with a lit cigarette while informing the audience that Wolverine isn’t the only hero that’s going to die in these films. “Guess what, Wolvy: In this one, I’m dying too.”
His rants about Logan stealing his R-rating are funny but the film shoots itself in the foot by giving away the reason he wants to kill himself and is ultimately pointless because you know he’s not going to die. The flashback structure serves no purpose to the film. It’s not shocking or funny enough to justify its existence and it undermines what is supposed to be a shocking moment. That time could’ve been better spent fleshing out the relationships of certain characters instead of some more Logan jokes.
That’s essentially one of the biggest problems with the film: it’s story is in service of either the gag or the action instead of creating a solid structure. It feels scattershot, with far too many scenes feeling either drawn out, superfluous or flat out pointless.
There’s a much larger cast than the first film but this is definitely a case of quantity over quality. Most of them are either woefully underwritten, inconsequential or just painfully uninteresting. Nobody was clamoring for more Colossus and yet a large portion of the film is dedicated to him and ironically, the stand out star of the first one, Negasonic Teenage Warhead is barely a cameo in this. Which doesn’t give me hope that the sequel will do anything interesting with Domino, who might be too cool for this film.
And the worst offender of them all is Russell, played by Julian Dennison (The Hunt for the Wilderpeople). He’s front and center in this film and, while I’m not blaming his performance specifically, his character is never more than obnoxious or annoying. They say the more you dislike an actor in a role, the better they’re doing and based on that logic, Dennison is the new Day-Lewis. I’m almost positive he spends more than 90% of this film screaming and it’s as pleasant as it sounds.
But they’re not all terrible. Besides Domino and the amazing X-Force (Shatterstar is a fucking cut up), Cable damn near steals the show. Josh Brolin once again proves he’s one of the best in the biz and while I don’t like this villain as much as his previous heel turn this year as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, he’s an undeniable bad-ass and he and Domino are the reason I’m excited for the third one.
Speaking of the third one, I think and get ready to clutch them pearls for this radical hot take: they need to reboot the series. I’m not saying replace the cast or director but these films are barely skimming the surface of their potential. The main character can break the fourth wall but the bulk of the comedy consists of outdated pop culture references and potshots at Ryan Reynolds‘ previous superhero disasters. The first film gets a pass because it barely had a budget and the opening credit shot was clever but the sequel has far more money to work with and with the exception of the X-Force bit, there’s not a single element of this film that takes advantage of Deadpool’s ability to break the fourth wall.
Movies like Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Freaked, Black Dynamite and the early filmography of Savage Steve Holland all incorporate some degree of meta humor. Whether it’s the obvious stunt man gag in Black Dynamite, the College exams bit in How I Got into College or the Gremlins literally demolishing the fourth wall in Gremlins 2, they all had a level of subversion. Hell, even Woody Allen plays with visual comedy in more interesting ways. It’s as Deadpool himself says, “That’s just lazy writing.”
I believe the Deadpool franchise has the potential to make the greatest action comedy of all time. All the elements are there, they just need someone pull them together. Just cut Edgar Wright a blank check and tell him he’s allowed to make as many Ant-Man jokes as he wants.