For Better or Worse, ‘Deadpool 2’ Offers More of the Same (FILM REVIEW)

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The whole Deadpool phenomenon has largely baffled me. I never understood why the original 2016 movie was seen as some sort of groundbreaking effort that pushed forward the superhero genre, as many fans and critics claim. It was a rote exploration of superheroes that was supposedly made different by its use of blood, sex, and the word fuck.

Sorry, but genius it was not. It was fun, I guess, and there’s something to be said about a movie that unabashedly revels in its own entertainment value. Those kinds of movies are good for what they are–essentially a way to kill a couple of hours without having to use your brain. It was something of a surprise to the powers that be when Deadpool became a massive hit. Massive hits, of course, breed sequels almost by necessity.

Recognizing that my distaste for the original Deadpool is, quite possibly, the result of my slowly increasing status as a grumpy curmudgeon, I can only acknowledge that how you felt about Deadpool will ultimately determine how you feel about Deadpool 2. As unimpressed as I was with the original, its sequel left me even slightly more unimpressed. If you loved the original, I imagine you’ll probably have a good time.

That being said, it’s worth noting that Deadpool 2 does suffer a bit from sequelitis. Part of what fueled Deadpool’s ascension into the upper echelons of pop culture chic was its surprise. It was ruthless in its presentation, shocking audiences with how far it was willing to go for its joke. There was certainly an element of “holy shit, it’s like that?!” to the original movie, which worked largely because we weren’t expecting how far it would go.

In doing so, it established a formula for itself, and it’s one that’s largely stuck to here. Deadpool 2 offers nothing new to its franchise, just more of the same. The devoted will be pleased to hear that, and for them I offer my humble blessings and genuine joy at their impending pleasure. Just because a movie ain’t for me doesn’t mean I’ll lambast those who get what they desire. But I do wish they had been given more.

Deadpool 2 is largely a rehash, taking what “works” from the original and repackaging it here, almost as if ticking off a list of checkmarks mandated by the studio. Director David Leitch (John WickAtomic Blonde) revels in the movie’s action sequences (several of which are pretty decent, but never reaching the kind of frenetic intensity seen in his previous efforts), while Ryan Reynolds continues to enjoy being, well, Ryan Reynolds.

However, for all the attention paid to the action and the star, so little is paid to the actual story. Like so many sequels, much of Deadpool 2 feels like a series of scenes and lines that serve only to remind you of what you liked best about its forebear rather than an attempt to push things into new directions. The inclusion of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Stefan Kapicic and Brianna Hildebrand), for example, is largely unnecessary. Neither of them have much of anything to do, and they feel included only because they were so popular the first time around.

So it is with much of Deadpool 2. Even the much-touted introduction of the X-Force is played off as little more than a joke that ultimately adds little to the overall narrative. Fans of Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), Bedlam (Terry Crews), and Shatterstar (Lewis Tan) would do well to temper their expectations here; getting them too high will lead only to disappointment.

Still, there is one very bright spot to be found here in Domino (Zazie Beetz). Her addition to the roster is arguably the best part of Deadpool 2, and Beetz portrays the hero with an effortless cool that leaves audiences hungry for more. It would be great to see her in future films, whether as a part of a team or in her own starring role, and she is the centerpiece of one of the movie’s most mesmerizing set pieces that only hints at the potential this character has for the future.

Josh Brolin, playing the time traveling mutant Cable, also brings something special to the movie, even if he’s given precious too little to actually do. While billed as the antagonist of the film, comic fans know that the problem with that is Cable is not a villain. They’re right of course, and the more well-versed comic fans should know who to expect long before the Big Reveal.

What this all adds up to is a movie that is little more than fine. I’m sure that most of those who loved the original will at the very least enjoy Deadpool 2, even if it feels somewhat lacking from its predecessor. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe familiarity is what we crave in our movies, and the rehashed jokes and tones will suffice. For me, I just wish there was something there that justified the hype and adoration.

Nothing can really change the fact that it’s just a superhero movie. Nothing can change the fact that it doesn’t aspire to be something more. Even though fans will surely get a kick at the potshots taken at Wolverine and Logan, nothing can change the fact that that movie proved the form can be elevated. Deadpool 2, meanwhile, feels like a regression.

Deadpool 2 hits theaters everywhere on May 18.

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