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So, lightning does strike twice in the same place.  This is what I discovered watching DEADPOOL 2, the follow-up to the wildly successful box-office smash from 2016.

The original film – a revamp of the character first seen in WOLVERINE: ORIGINS in a baffling, unrecognisable version of his later self -- had the grace of low expectations going in.  That DEADPOOL, so gleefully vulgar and obscene, reveling in torrents of outlandish CGI violence and bombast that seemed utterly taboo, was a refreshing cold blast through the slightly musty, family-friendly world of superhero franchise films.  This interpretation captured the wild, unrestrained id that had endeared the comic book character to his fans, while giving him a sentimental plot that made him more hero than the anti-hero his mercenary past might’ve inferred.

The other component of DEADPOOL’s success was its laughs; self-aware, often fourth-wall breaking, and delivered at whiplash-quick speed by actor Ryan Reynolds.  Reynolds’ depiction of the character whether in wit or in action, embodied Deadpool’s pet phrase, “maximum effort;” he truly put his all into every scene.  DEADPOOL was made solely for the adults in the room, and for that risk, it reaped rewards and another chapter.

The opening of DEADPOOL 2 would not give the impression that all has been successful in Wade Wilson’s life.  We begin with Wade laying across a bed of gas drums, lethargically sparking a lighter and blowing himself into literal pieces.  What has brought our quasi-hero to such a low ebb?  Well, settle in, cos he’s gonna tell us.

Life has carried on as we left it in Wade’s world; he’s still a killer for hire, using his superhuman abilities to wipe out entire squadrons of bad guys that have no prayer against his mutant speed, strength, healing ability, or cheerful psychosis.  This time, Wade’s ramshackle methods leave one target alive and that error comes home to roost and obliterate Wade’s reason for living.

Not everyone is as willing to give up on the world: The X-Men’s ever-optimistic Colossus, who gave Wade a big assist in the first film, aided by the somewhat less enthusiastic Negasonic Teenage Warhead, gathers the shattered bits of their exploded comrade and brings him to the Xavier Mansion, where he can heal and find a new life purpose among the famous X-Men.  As the newest X-Men trainee (Denoted by the word “Trainee” etched across his fetching neon yellow cropped football jersey, and the constant verbal reminders of anyone within earshot), Deadpool accompanies Colossus and NTW to an urgent call where a young mutant is cornered by the authorities.  The agitated boy wields his flaming fists at anyone who threatens him, incoherent in his apparent rage at the headmaster of his somewhat less Xaverian school for young mutants.  Forgoing Colossus’ patient attempts to talk the kid down, Deadpool opts for a more direct approach, which ends up destroying property and endangering the public and finds both mutants arrested and on their way to the “Icebox,” a specially-secured mutant jail.  However, no prison is safe enough from a time-traveler from the future who’s got the fire-wielding Russell in his sights.

The one-eyed, metal-armed, gun-toting Cable has come to the past to destroy the young boy before he can grow up to become Firefist, the villain who murders Cable’s wife and daughter.  While Wade thwarts Cable’s break-in to the Iceberg, Russell has seen fit to make friends with the biggest mutant in the cell block.  While Russell makes dangerous enemies and even more precarious new friends, Wade creates a team of his own to save the boy from both.  Sadly, Wade’s new group, X-Force, isn’t quite at the same level of his previous “X” affiliation, and it is a young lady called Domino, whose power of luck might receive a side-eye from Wade, but makes her the only survivor of X-Force’s first mission.  The sudden reduction of members and Russell’s imminent danger finds Wade forcing an uneasy truce with Cable and crawling back to the X-Mansion to prove to Colossus that he’s had a change of heart about his true desire to save Russell, and what it means to be a hero.  

The biggest difference between DEADPOOL senior and junior is in the younger edition’s discipline.  DEADPOOL 2 has much more structure and a far more linear storyline than the first film, whose wild and wooly, out-of-bounds zaniness benefited from being barely penned in by the thinnest outline of an origin story.  Sensing perhaps that that kind of insanity can grow tiresome in a second helping, the filmmakers opt for some character development, including the forging of family ties for our antihero.  It is the tragedy that occurs after Wade and Vanessa decide to start their own family that throws Wade off his already tenuous balance.  It is again Vanessa, acting as Wade’s better angel, who puts him back on course to find a different kind of family and another reason to live.

This is not to say that this new conformity has dulled DEADPOOL 2’s madcap instincts.  We miss none of the fourth-wall breaking laughs, including and especially at itself and the entire cinematic superhero universe.  Cable’s mournful mission and grave demeanour causes Deadpool to exclaim, “So dark… Are you sure you’re not from the DC Universe?”  Alternately, Deadpool wonders at the futuristic newcomer’s cybernetic limb, nicknames him Winter Soldier, and whether metal arms are still a thing with audiences in the future.  Fans will get a big kick out of Deadpool’s short, wheelchair-commandeering visit to the Xavier Mansion, which seems to be suspiciously empty.  Deadpool’s hilarious, long-standing animus toward a certain sharp-nailed Canadian is evident from the opening, only to be addressed again, or rather redressed in an ingenious device that undoes a prior wrong.

The advent of a bigger cast and closer compadres gives Deadpool great straight men to bounce his craziness off, while allowing the character to actually grow up a little.  His interaction with young Russell runs from antagonism and active refusal to care for the boy, to becoming his protector from his enemies and himself.  It’s ironic when one considers how much of Deadpool is powered by id.  As in the first film, Ryan Reynolds gives Maximum Effort™ as the scarred mercenary Wade Wilson and his alter-ego the second time around, keeping up the machine-gun pacing of the comedy patter, and in the over-the-top action sequences.  His kinetic performance plays nicely against the very different energies of HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE’s Julian Dennison as Russell/Firefist (BTW, HFTW was directed by THOR: RAGNAROK’s Taika Waititi, if you’re playing Six Degrees of MCU), and Zazie Beetz as new hero, Domino.  

Playing opposite the manic main character, Beetz’s Domino is a steadying moment of calm in the sea of insanity; charming and blithe in the face of the most dangerous and ridiculous situations because of her lucky power.  She’s also excellent in her action scenes; punching and kicking away completely convincingly, so much so that when Deadpool refers to her as the “black Black Widow,” one can’t help but think, ‘if only.’ 

As Cable in his second of two Marvel 2018 blockbusters, Josh Brolin’s casting greed knows no bounds: Being the main heavy of AVENGERS: INFINTY WARS clearly wasn’t enough for him (And there was no way Deadpool was gonna let that fact go by without calling Cable Thanos at least once).  As the tortured time-traveler, Brolin has the chops to give Cable sympathy, but strangely, is more impressive and nuanced in his computer-generated portrayal as The Mad Titan.  

Then again, the redemption-through-child-endangerment plot isn’t exactly complex or innovative.  Still, it’s enough to introduce new characters, while giving us the hilarity and surprises we expect from our returning guard, as well as giving those characters a bit more depth, so the audience cares.  It’s clear the focus is on Deadpool’s innate craziness, which is here in spades with tankloads of clever in-jokes, meta references, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos.  They don’t skimp on the action set pieces either, or the outrageousness of writing for a character who is more or less indestructible.  It’s still not really meant for small kids, but sometimes it’s nice for the grown-ups to have some stuff.

It’s hard to see how the folks behind the franchise can keep up this level of energy, wit, fun, and excitement, but DEADPOOL 2 is so entertaining, I’d really like to see them try.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 17th, 2018

 

 

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