When Kanye West released his album The Life of Pablo in 2016, there was brief track called “I Love Kanye,” an a cappella interlude reflecting on his changing public image. It was simultaneously self-aware, egotistical, hilarious, and utterly ridiculous. A sample:
See, I invented Kanye, there wasn’t any Kanyes
And now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes
I used to love Kanye, I used to love Kanye
I even had the pink polo, I thought I WAS Kanye
What if Kanye made a song about Kanye
Called “I Miss The Old Kanye”? Man, that’d be so Kanye
That’s all it was Kanye, we still love Kanye
And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye
I mention it only because this mixed-bag level of meta is exactly what Deadpool 2 serves up.I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Deadpool, which I know puts me in the minority. 1), I wasn’t sold on Ryan Reynolds as actually funny, 2) I was sick of superheroes, and 3) I had viewed enough hyper-masculine raunch to last me a lifetime. Going into Deadpool 2, I was only slightly more convinced that Ryan Reynolds could be funny (thanks, Twitter!), even more sick of superheroes, and literally DONE with comedy by men and for men. So my expectations were low. Very low. Pretty much the only thing I was excited about was Zazie Beetz as new character Domino, and the prospect of getting to trash the movie in a review.
I was wrong. And I hate being wrong, except when it comes to movies exceeding my expectations, which is exactly what Deadpool 2 did. Deadpool 2 is like a snarky balm for so many social/political/media trends we didn’t even realize we needed relief from. If you’re suffering from super-hero fatigue, or political correctness fatigue, or take-yourself-too-seriously fatigue, or just everything-is-a-derivative-cliché fatigue, then this movie is the catharsis you’ve been waiting for.
We pick up with anti-hero Wade Wilson/Deadpool two years after the first film; by day he travels the world killing high-ranking criminals, and at night returns home to girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Refresher: Deadpool is a disfigured mutant whose superpower is that he has accelerated healing, meaning he can recover from just about any injury, including regenerating lost limbs (a hilarious scene features the adult torso of Ryan Reynolds on the legs of a toddler). There’s an awful lot of plot in Deadpool 2. Suffice it to say that wtuff goes wrong, and Wade ends up in a mutant prison, where everyone is forced to wear collars that render their abilities useless. (In one of his many amusing lines, Deadpool quips “Ooh, I wonder what prison gang I’ll be in! Is there a Sorting Hat?)At some point, time-traveling mutant Cable (“It’s the Time Traveling Wife’s Husband!”) (Josh Brolin) shows up, who is bad (but maybe also good?) and seems to be trying to kill Deadpool. With help from his buddy Weasel (a too brief TJ Miller), Deadpool scrapes together Team X-Force, a crew that includes mutants Domino, Bedlam, Shatterstar, Zeitgeist, Vanisher, and Peter (a normal human, played by comedian Rob Delaney). Together they try to stop Cable and save a young mutant Russell (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison) from turning evil.
Honestly though, none of this plot stuff is really that important (thank god), because this is a showcase for great writing, taking hits at everything from Jared Kushner to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and poking fun at how overblown the Marvel Universe has become. When Deadpool first meets Russell, he jokes, “Great! You’re tough, morally flexible, and young enough to carry this franchise for 10-12 years.” (Which young Dennison could certainly do; he’s hilarious, and also responsible for any heart and sincerity the film has.)
This film effortlessly gets so many things right that it’s almost tough to think of them all. The cast has great chemistry, behaving as squabbling siblings who would definitely fart on each other’s pillows but just as certainly take a bullet for each other if the need arose. Brolin and Reynolds have an unexpectedly amusing buddy cop rapport, Kapicic’s Colossus is the straight man who tirelessly endures Deadpool’s monologues, and the brief cameos from surly teen Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and her girlfriend Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) are actually delightful as opposed to peskily inserted. Newcomer Domino is not only an engaging addition with a memorable aesthetic (afro, leather vest, thigh holsters) and creative superpower (she’s lucky, meaning she quite literally always lands on her feet, hits everything she shoots at, and always guesses correctly), but is perfectly embodied by the hyper-chill Beetz. (Take notice, because I’m guessing this unknown actress is about to blow up).The filmmakers (director David Leitch and writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds) brilliantly pre-empt any potential criticism (be that use of CGI, excessive superhero fights, off-color jokes) by addressing it in-film, making the end result almost impervious to naysayers. Ultimately, what they do so well (director David Leitch and writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds) is commit—to the raunch, the campy, over-the-top violence, the pervasive self-referentiality, and all of Deadpool’s excesses. These days, so many films or shows present a subversive premise or conceit and then fumble its execution by treading too lightly. The world is a nasty place right now, and I think we can all handle some pretty pointed digs sans any prevarication.
And yet Deadpool 2 resists doing another thing I hate—giving an opinion on some hot-button topic just to prove its “relevance.” The writers mercifully avoid many of the issues that have already been discussed ad nauseam in countless thinkpieces/open letters/sketches (#MeToo, the Kardashians, TRUMP), and instead go for more zany/random fare. Deadpool 2 is for laughs and entertainment, plain and simple, and it delivers a large package of both.