Monday, 21 May 2018

Deadpool 2 (2018) - Movie Review

The plot: Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), in-between killing anyone he sets his sights on, is contemplating starting a family. Whatever domestic roles may be involved will have to wait, however, as his reconnection with the X-Men leads to him to a young boy named Russell (Julian Dennison), a powerful mutant with the potential for great disaster. As he connects with the young mutant, time-travelling mercenary Cable (Josh Brolin) has arrived in the present to hunt down the one responsible for the death of his family. With multiple threats on his life and others and his anti-social tendencies making his want to start his own superhero team a bit wonky, it's just another day in the life of everyone's favorite Merc.

Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool. It’s not even a matter of him giving a performance anymore; he just straight-up is the character and between how much dedication he’s put into getting that character right and the increased creative freedom Reynolds got as a producer this time around, he still pulls through as that lovable, immortal asshole that we have all come to adore. Morena Baccarin, even in a decidedly reduced role this time around, still works very nicely as the perfect romantic match for someone like Wade Wilson, which makes her importance to the plot actually resonate pretty well.
Miller as Weasel… yeah, kind of a good thing in hindsight that he isn’t in this movie that much, but he works out just well enough. Stefan Kapičić as Colossus still works very well opposite Reynolds while also getting a boosted role in the fight scenes, and for reasons I’ll get into further down, they work far better than they should. Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead is little more than a cameo here, but she gets some good verbal barbs in, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al follows the same pattern, and Karan Soni as Dopinder… man, he has gone straight psycho by this point, and weirdly enough, the character turns out the better for it.

And now, the newcomers. Brolin as Cable not only nails the overbearing 90’s aesthetic of the character but also serves as a near-perfect team-up with Deadpool. Given the two characters’ comic book history, that should be a no-brainer, but he seriously impresses here in how well he plays off of the Merc With A Mouth. Dennison of Hunt For The Wilderpeople fame as Russell AKA Firefist, apart from doing exceptionally well with the dialogue, actually makes for a seriously compelling character in his own right. His physical performance is great, treating his powers in a way you would definitely expect a teenager to wield them, and when he’s called upon to get emotional (yes, emotions in a Deadpool movie; we’ll get to that further down as well), he absolutely delivers.

Zazie Beetz as Domino not only works solely because of how well the character’s powers are realized on-screen but her rather dry sense of humour makes for a nice counterbalance to the filthiness of the rest of the comedy. For a film that emphasizes the superhero team, it’s nice that they made her feel like an essential part of that team. Terry Crews, Lewis Tan, Bill Skarsgård and Rob Delaney as members of the X-Force team work out as well as can be expected and… okay, I don’t want to give all of the surprises away but those of us who were disappointed by the lack of recognizable X-Men characters in the first film are in for a real treat with what this film has in store.

The first film’s director, Tim Miller, is out of the picture. In his place, we have John Wick co-director and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch along with his now-recurring DOP Jonathan Sela. This was a definite change for the better in a number of ways, not the least of which being Miller’s reasons for leaving the production (creative differences with Deadp… I mean Ryan Reynolds). Miller’s inexperience in the director’s chair definitely showed the first time around, and while I admit to being entertained with that first effort, it still felt like more could have been done. Now, while some problems persist from the other film, namely the extremely wonky CGI work, Leitch and Sela definitely had the right approach when it comes to the fight scenes.

They benefit from the vibrant colour palette that the duo brought with them from Atomic Blonde, but they also show a masterful approach to the staging of the punches thrown. This is where Deadpool and Cable’s ideal team-up yields some of its biggest results, as Deadpool’s very acrobatic high-flash fighting style compliments Cable’s economical low-flash fighting style brilliantly. To add to that, the use of mutant powers is given more consideration during the action beats, resulting in stellar and eye-catching brawls. Also, the use of Domino and her luck powers during one of the fight scenes might actually rival the extended fight scene in Atomic Blonde for sheer, tightly-constructed spectacle. Hell of an achievement there.

But enough about the guns; what about the dick jokes? Well, this definitely matches the first film as far as “we could not give less of a fuck” humour. We got the fourth-wall breaks, which occasionally slips into the tedium of “hey, this is lazy writing; let’s acknowledge it as such and just move on” but mostly stay on target, especially with how cutting some of the jabs at other comic book movies can get. Bonus points for the end credits scenes, which take two notable jokes from the first film about Reynolds’ past acting roles and pushes them right over the edge, making for some rather… cathartic moments. We got the incredibly filthy one-liners, which range from the more-than-deserved like the descriptions of the workers at the orphanage where we first meet Firefist, to the straight-up bizarre like a scene where Deadpool has to regenerate his legs that truly needs to be seen to be believed. I can’t remember the last time I hurt myself this much just from laughing at a movie, but that’s the effect all of this has.
We also have a return of the anarchist’s kitchen sink of a soundtrack, which combines some of the pop culture character themes of the first with some pretty solid new picks (dated or not dated, that dubstep running gag still works really damn well) and even a few original bits of music: A solid rap song for the ending credits and easily one of the funniest pieces of operatic music you’re likely to hear in a movie all year.

The best part about this film’s sense of humour, though? It in no way clashes with this film’s more serious moments, and it’s here where the film genuinely began to impress me. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, while keeping things nice and irreverent as far as references to other superhero films, also manage to incorporate rather vital parts of the X-Men formula into this story. It takes the concepts of prejudice and mistreatment that have run through pretty much all of the X-Men films to date and give it that renegade Deadpool spin while still making it resonate. Firefist’s character works so goddamn well because he truly feels like a character from that same universe, echoing quite a few of the moral dilemmas that films like Days Of Future Past made bank on. This combined with what we see of Firefist’s time at the orphanage, under an incredibly creepy headmaster played by Eddie Marsan, ends up making Deadpool feel like less of an anomaly in this world and more like a very tongue-in-cheek part of it.
And then there’s Deadpool himself, who as a character really gets put through the wringer to turn what is ostensibly a joke about this film’s family-friendly cred into a precursor for some of the most unexpected feels I’ve gotten from a comic book flick. It taps into the age-old superhero trope of the ‘super family’ and, again while keeping the tone nice and balanced, turns the unlikely hero themes of the first film into a look at not a mercenary, not a gun-for-hire, not even a cocky arsehole, but a genuine hero.

All in all… I am quite stunned by this. This is the Deadpool movie I have been waiting for; it is essentially everything I wanted to get out of the first film, while surprising me with things I didn’t even realize I wanted. The acting is phenomenal, with Reynolds expertly leading the pack of new and returning faces, the action scenes show that director David Leitch has not even begun to slow down yet, the comedy is still nice and vulgar while doubling-down on the cultural references to great effect, and it even manages to aim at true-blue drama and hit the target dead-on. What’s more, the deliciously offensive content never ends up rubbing up against the more tender moments to any real detriment, meaning that we get to have the best of both worlds without everything just falling apart. Oh, and on top of all of this, this film also perfectly legitimises Deadpool’s place in the X-Men canon, reinforcing the tried-and-true societal commentary of those films while still keeping its own bombastic identity. Even coming from a casting as perfect as Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, and the director behind some of the best action flicks of the last few years, I never would have expected this to be as good as it is.

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