Sunday, May 20, 2018

Deadpool 2


The Merc with a Mouth is back and better than ever. Who says sequels aren't a good idea? While the first one felt like a dirty, joyless slog, this one finds its feet and a healthy relationship with the comics to produce a blast of a romp of a joyride that is what I've always hoped and envisioned a Deadpool movie could be.

Suddenly I'm not so tired of superhero movies anymore!

This time there's actually a plot, as Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) sets out to protect a troubled young mutant Russell, aka Firefist (Julian Dennison) from Cable (Josh Brolin) a time-traveler from the future looking to kill the kid. It's The Terminator, it's Back to the Future, it's X-Men: Days of Future Past -- only it goes about it such a confident and straight-forward way, that though you may call it cliched, in my eyes it became a main reason the film worked so well.

As an action-comedy, plot originality and complexity shouldn't be all that high on the priority list. This plot serves the movies genre. Action; comedy. The time-travel element particularly lends itself to some exceptional hilarity, and the solid action beats it calls for are fundamental and easy to follow. On that level its basic, straightforward entertainment. But then, it builds on that, with character arcs, complete with depth, emotion, empathy, morals and themes; all woven together seamlessly, complementing and working with the plot. This isn't a character piece, but they are far from neglected.

Directed by David Leitch, who didn't direct the first one, and that makes a lot of sense.

I knew avocado-faced Wade had it in him to be an empathetic character, and I knew Reynolds could play drama and not have it come out dumb and cheesy, and I'm so glad they didn't spend the whole film relentlessly cracking jokes. The ebb and flow between humor and drama here is nearly indistinguishable, and at times played simultaneously, neither interfering, but actually enhancing each other. It is a comedy, so laugh-out-loud punch lines are as common as the CGI, but the movie doesn't force loud humor into where it doesn't belong, and strangely for R-rated fare, there's plenty of soft, warm-hearted and subtle humor too.

The humor is often not appropriate, but it is used appropriately. Ironically, the ruder the jokes got, the more likely to be forced they seemed to be. Like the priority of jokes tended more toward being "R" than fitting the moment, and sometimes they just weren't funny but were used because of how "R" they were. That seemed to happen with the F-words too. Jokes can be funny with, and even enhanced by foul language, but adding random words to an awkwardly-delivered F-bomb doesn't automatically make it hilarious.

That's just f---tastically stupid.

The dirty rudeness was the low point for me, but at the same time, they delivered so much humor that did hit, with such joy and aplomb, that I felt it would've been extremely ungrateful of me to not grant them a little room for potty-mouth fans. Forgiving their indulgence was, I found, super easy. Even as one particular joke dragged on for minutes that I wasn't finding all that funny, I couldn't help but smile, because it was clear that those involved were having a blast with it, and the good-humored fun was contagious even when the jokes didn't land.

I'm trying my hardest not to directly compare this film with Infinity War, but I'm pausing now to say that though the plot was basic, and humor was the main goal, Deadpool still involved me more, made it easy to care, and I wish Disney/Marvel could get back to being this gleefully entertaining. Also, there was one death scene that was miles better than anything Infinity War failed to contrive. And that leads me to Josh Brolin, because he was in both these movies -- as a villain -- who's meant to be sympathetic.

What a legend.

An absolute legend.

I don't suppose it was his fault that Cable beats Thanos with a stick. A ripped, scarred old man with a Winter Solider arm is automatically better than a grape with a chin, but even with half the time devoted, Cable practically bursts with nuance and gritty sympathy. And he's just cool. There's no other way to describe it. Then Wade is all goof and charm, and the mixture is a goldmine of epic fan moments. The banter; the chemistry; the fights. It's enough to make you giddy as the entertainment level leaps off the chart.

Julian Dennison as Russell was a great addition, proving it wasn't at all a fluke how funny and dramatic he could be in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Morena Baccarin returns as Vanessa, and was lovely and charming, and the romance in this movie was so much better than it had any right to be. I'd try to tell Deadpool that he can't possibly do everything well and should pick a genre, but clearly, I would be the wrong party in that argument. I was sad to see so little of Bill Skarsgård, but hey, it was Bill Skarsgård. And Zazie Beetz as Domino. Such a cinematic superpower, my goodness. And her cheerfully sassy personality fit right in.

Hardcore, awesome, super lucky -- what's not to be cheerful about?

It was nice that references were topical -- mentions of debated issues such as cultural appropriation -- but remained apolitical about it all. Never setting out to take sides or genuinely insult, but to poke fun at modern culture in general. This movie is all-inclusive. Deadpool even insists that it's a family film, and it is about family, in a genuine and heartfelt way. Though if he wanted kids to see it, he should've rethought all those expletives and that all-out gory violence.

And thank your lucky stars (or maybe Domino?) for those fourth-wall breaks. From "Look guys, I'm breaking the fourth wall! Aren't I funny?" in the last movie, to actually, really breaking the fourth wall, and in clever and nuanced ways. It's so casual and underplayed it never jolts you out of the movie experience, but instead it's like the real-world is drawn into the film. And the film is funnier and more wide-open for it.

Obviously this movie knows how to have fun.

If anything holds Deadpool back, it's its R-rating. An R-rating is natural, but there's a sense of strict obligation here that could be done without. It did away with the superhero obligation that Disney/Marvel has created; each new superhero flick needing to build on top of the last one for bigger, better, fresher; more, more, more! It's gotten so bad that now, this normal superhero flick, that doesn't feel like it's holding back when it never destroys an entire city, is the one that's breaking the mold.

Even with its irreverence, and its carefree attitude, this film focuses small and intimate, letting us get to know and care for its characters. It delivers clear-cut battles with brutal glee, wildly entertaining choreography, and an extra-large side of comic violence. It takes time to set up jokes; it slows down for moments of real drama; and it comes out the other side with a strikingly positive message for a movie about anti-heroes.

It hits you right on the X.

I can only conclude that Deadpool must actually care about being a great, fun, entertaining film. And no matter where or how it might misstep, that is the greatest complement I can give any movie of its kind. It puts in the effort. The maximum effort.

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