Of the Big Two comic publishers, Marvel has always been the funny one. Its heroes crack jokes and have the same troubles with work, school, and relationships the rest of us do. Marvel couldn’t be satisfied, though, with Spiderman’s wisecracks and the Hulk’s unreliable powers. They needed a hero who would find the line and then cross it. That hero is Deadpool.
Deadpool is Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces soldier who contracts terminal cancer. As the result of an extreme and painful experimental treatment, he beats the disease and becomes invincible. After a stint with the X-Men, he goes it alone as a vigilante, killing bad guys without hesitation. He’s also a jester – a loud, crude, ridiculous character. His over-the-top attitude made him a Marvel favorite. Fan art and costumed impersonators were popping up at every comic and sci-fi convention.
Fans were clamoring for a Deadpool movie, so not surprisingly, the first one was a hit. Like its protagonist, the movie is a rule-breaker, with Deadpool frequently breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. Ryan Reynolds, himself a Deadpool fan, did a great job making this over-the-top anti-hero engaging. The movie is an irreverent, semi-obscene, violent satire that mocks the entertainment industry. One of my favorite gags was a phony credit sequence with joke captions like “Screenplay by Two Douchebags.”
The Deadpool sequel was more of the same, and that’s the problem. Once you’ve broken the taboos, where can you go? Do you work on a better story and character development? Perish the thought! You invest in special effects for even more outrageous fantasy violence.
Deadpool 2 begins with the familiar trope of the murder of a loved one driving the protagonist bonkers, though Deadpool is more-or-less there already. Because he’s indestructible, his dramatic suicide attempt fails. He rejoins the X-men, though (in a joke continued from the previous movie) none of the A-list heroes are ever around. His team’s first mission is a standoff in which juvenile-delinquent mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison) threatens to burn down his reform school. The place is the stereotypical torture den run by hateful bigots, though perhaps the writers are mocking this trope. Things become (more) disturbing when Deadpool intentionally kills one of the evil staff members, and he and Firefist are sent to a prison for mutants. Here the inmates wear collars that suppress their powers, but the guards otherwise let them run rampant.
For Deadpool to lose his powers means that cancer is once again killing him, and he can barely stand, much less defend the obnoxious Firefist, for whom he feels responsible. The threats include Cable (Josh Brolin) a cyborg assassin from the future. Yet somehow Deadpool survives on brashness, luck, and the help of his friends. It’s all over-the-top violence, cringey sexual humor, crazy plot twists, and time travel convolutions. The anarchic rule-breaking ending is surprisingly predictable.
Unlike the first movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I found this one to be a letdown, not nearly as funny. To be fair, though, the friends I went with were laughing their heads off. Not having kept up completely with the Marvel universe, many of the gags sailed over my head. I did appreciate some of the random jokes, including a shot at Reynolds’ failed project Green Lantern. Deadpool 2 is a good choice for edgy Marvel fans but more traditional DC types will probably find it dumb and/or offensive. Sadly, once you’ve crossed the line, the second time is never as much fun. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.