Skip to main content

Luck isn’t a superpower... And it isn't cinematic!

Deadpool 2
(2018)

(SPOILERS) Perhaps it’s because I was lukewarm on the original, but Deadpool 2 mercifully disproves the typical consequence of the "more is more" approach to making a sequel. By rights, it should plummet into the pitfall of ever more excess to diminishing returns, yet for the most part it doesn't.  Maybe that’s in part due to it still being a relatively modest undertaking, budget-wise, and also a result of being very self-aware – like duh, you might say, that’s its raison d'être – of its own positioning and expectation as a sequel; it resolutely fails to teeter over the precipice of burn out or insufferable smugness. It helps that it's frequently very funny – for the most part not in the exhaustingly repetitive fashion of its predecessor – but I think the key ingredient is that it finds sufficient room in its mirthful melee for plot and character, in order to proffer tone and contrast.


You can colour me surprised on that score, as I didn’t think the series was up to engaging on a level much beyond Naked Gun gag-ery. Which is fine up to a point – the point where its juvenile tendencies become simply tiresome – but aside from the undoubted chemistry between Monica Baccarin and Ryan Reynolds – albeit, their actual plotline was fairly leaden –  the first film didn’t seem to leave itself much of anywhere left to go; it was diminishing returns, story-wise, once Deadpool became Deadpool. I noted of that picture that I probably wasn’t the target audience; judging by the attendees' predominant ages, I wasn't the target for this one either, but I felt much more at home with the proceedings. I suspect that's because Deadpool 2 is less just one thing, and never seems to content to rest on its laurels and thus lose its edge or inventiveness; it's snappy and quickfire, not only in gags but also with plotting.


That plot is no work of art, but it meshes its derivate qualities in an engagingly forward-moving manner, cutely aware that Cable (a perfectly deadpan Josh Brolin, complete with an obligatory Thanos line aimed squarely his way) is a Terminator-rip-off and following the time-travel tinkering scenario to its (il-)logical conclusion in a mid-credits-sequence to end all pre-, mid-, and post-credits sequences (of which more shortly). But, perhaps surprisingly, not riffing on the old Grandfather Paradox to humorous ends (a going-back-to-kill-baby-Hitler scene was cut). Cable’s desire to put an end to Russell/Firefist – Julian Dennison proving that, as with The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, while his range is limited, his rapport with a more experienced co-star goes some way to making up the difference – for future crimes committed propels much of the action. As with its predecessor, this is refreshingly not about the usual apocalyptic stakes (even if Cable arrives from a wrecked world), much of the action focussing on Deadpool trying to bust Russell out of the captivity before Cable busts him.


And that comes after a first-rate first act in which the makers get away with fridging Baccarin's Vanessa – thanks to that revitalising mid-end-credits sequence – and thus providing Wade with necessary motivation, or lack thereof, before becoming refocussed on "family". If the latter element is about as unconvincing as Deadpool announces it to be (despite his being sincere but not really but really), the tonal shifts in losing her play remarkably well. The touchstone here is other superhero sequels divesting their hero of his mojo (Superman IIIron Man 2), this one accompanied by the added unwholesome spin of rekindling Wade's cancer while he's incarcerated. 


The movie's peak beats are naturally the funny ones, though, reaching their zenith with Deadpool gathering together X-Force and promptly seeing them obliterated through sheer ineptitude. His crew are the raggediest bunch of superheroes since Mystery Men, the pride of their leaping into action instantly undercut by a succession of parachuting immolations. 


There's an embarrassment of riches here, with Terry Crewes as the only instantly recognisable face doing nothing of note with his legit super skill and Lewis Tan as the most generically super-looking hero getting bluntly minced by a helicopter (which might have pleased his creator Rob Liefield, upset by the coming out of his comic strip incarnation), Bill "Pennywise" Skarsgard's Zeitgeist (asked if he has his finger on the pulse of society, he reductively replies, “No, I spit acidic vomit”) and Telford Porter/Vanisher, entirely invisible – making for a highly amusing skydiving image – until he's fried by power lines and revealed as Brad Pitt. 


And Peter (Rob Delaney) entirely normal and comfortably moustached, and an instant hit with Deadpool, unceremoniously eaten away by Zeitgeist as the latter succumbs to a grindler (Deadpool saves Peter during the credits sequence, so presumably said fuck it to the remaining X-dead). Domino survives entirely, with an effecitvely-sustained running motif based on her superskill of luck (Deadpool being initially disbelieving of its status as a superpower), although in days to come, I can see more column inches devoted to Zazie Beetz’s unfettered underarm hair than her character's prowess.


Only the end credits' succession of sight gags can equal this, including Deadpool killing off his X-Men Origins: Wolverine self (at the outset, he’s playing with a run-through Logan diorama) and assassinating Ryan Reynolds as he rejoices over receipt of the Green Lantern screenplay. There's the usual mixture of gross-out gags (inventive ways to discover how Wade pieces himself back together after decapitation and dismemberment lead to an unnerving encounter with his newly-formed baby legs and balls) and pop culture references (The Human CentipedeThe Proposition, "Martha", and who’d have thought intoning "I’m Batman" in a gravelly voice could still elicit a chortle?) and cameos (most of the First Class-era X-Men hiding behind a door in the Xavier Mansion). Perhaps the biggest surprise, given the prominent placing of Juggernaut, is that there's nary a derisive swipe at Vinnie Jones. Perhaps Ryan was chicken in a way he wasn't of Becks.


Of course, Reynolds, now garnering a co-writer credit, simply owns the material, eking himself out a level of stardom he could never have hoped for without the mask (what was it, a decade and a half trying but singularly failing?) Brolin knows just how to pitch his response, particularly in respect of charges of prejudice ("You killed Black Tom, you racist son of a bitch!") 


The supporting cast, including returnees, are good value; Negasonic (Brianna Hildebrand) arrives with an amusingly effervescent girlfriend (Shiori Kutsuna), Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) is still the butt (sometimes literally) of Deadpool's jokes, Weasel is grossly funny (whatever TJ Miller may have done), and Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and Dopinder/"Brown Panther" (Karan Soni), tread a dedicated line in stereotypical riffs. Only really Eddie Marsan gets a raw deal, assigned an entirely generic villain. Probably got paid well for it, though.


The biggest star of Deadpool 2 may be David Leitch though. Atomic Blonde received far more brickbats than it deserved – fortunately not preventing the announcement of a sequel –  perhaps due to outsized expectations, and those who appreciated his knack for giddy laughs amid the superbly-executed action (likewise in John Wick) won't be surprised that he's so adept here. I admit to having thought he'd be wasted on this one (although I'm much less sure that will be the case with the Hobbs & Shaw movie), but I’m happy to report he adds immensely to the proceedings. Tim Miller may seem to have been offered the glittering prize of a Cameron-sanctioned Terminator 6, but that could well be a kiss of death, doing similar things to his career as Alan Taylor’s with Genisys; Leitch far outguns him stylistically, and his martialling of the choreographic – even, or perhaps especially, when encumbered by over-sprayed CGI – is never less than magisterial. 


Reynolds has, probably rightly, said he can't see where Deadpool can go after this, suggesting he'll show up in Drew Goddard’s X-Force (so more of a Lector or Captain Jack in their first instances?) before there’s a whiff of a Deadpool 3. But by then, the Mouse House may own him lock and stock, and who knows how that will skew his barrel. If Deadpool 2 doesn’t outgun its predecessor at the box office, it will probably only be down to his having been positioned amid an overstuffed summer; you won't – or shouldn't – exit the picture fatigued or of the opinion he doesn't have another innings in him.



 Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Espionage isn’t a game, it’s a war.

The Avengers 3.3: The Nutshell
Philip Chambers first teleplay (of two) for the series, and Raymond Menmuir’s second (also of two) as director, The Nutshell is an effective little whodunit in which Steed (again) poses as a bad guy, and Cathy (again) appears to be at loggerheads with him. The difference here is how sustained the pretence is, though; we aren’t actually in on the details until the end, and the whole scenario is played decidedly straight.

Set mostly in a bunker (the Nutshell of the title), quarter of a mile underground and providing protection for the “all the best people” (civil servants bunk on level 43; Steed usually gets off at the 18th) in the event of a thermo-nuclear onslaught, the setting is something of a misdirection, since it is also a convenient place to store national security archives, known as Big Ben (Bilateral Infiltration Great Britain, Europe and North America). Big Ben has been stolen. Or rather, the microfilm with details of all known double agents on bot…

This is no time for puns! Even good ones.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014)
Perhaps I've done DreamWorks Animation (SKG, Inc., etc.) a slight injustice. The studio has been content to run an assembly line of pop culture raiding, broad-brush properties and so-so sequels almost since its inception, but the cracks in their method have begun to show more overtly in recent years. They’ve been looking tired, and too many of their movies haven’t done the business they would have liked. Yet both their 2014 deliveries, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Mr. Peabody & Sherman, take their standard approach but manage to add something more. Dragon 2 has a lot of heart, which one couldn’t really say about Peabody (it’s more sincere elements feel grafted on, and largely unnecessary). Peabody, however, is witty, inventive and pacey, abounding with sight gags and clever asides while offering a time travel plotline that doesn’t talk down to its family audience.

I haven’t seen the The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, from which Mr. Peabody & Sh…

Ah yes, the legendary 007 wit, or at least half of it.

The World is Not Enough (1999)
(SPOILERS) The last Bond film of the 20th century unfortunately continues the downward trend of the Brosnan era, which had looked so promising after the reinvigorated approach to Goldeneye. The World is Not Enough’s screenplay posseses a number of strong elements (from the now ever present Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and a sophomore Bruce Feirstein), some of which have been recycled in the Craig era, but they’ve been mashed together with ill-fitting standard Bond tropes that puncture any would-be substance (Bond’s last line before the new millennium is one Roger Moore would have relished). And while a structure that stop-starts doesn’t help the overall momentum any, nor does the listlessness of drama director Michael Apted, such that when the sporadic bursts of action do arrive there’s no disguising the joins between first and second unit, any prospect of thrills evidently unsalvageable in the edit.

Taking its cues from the curtailed media satire of Tomorr…

I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life is an unassailable classic, held up as an embodiment of true spirit of Christmas and a testament to all that is good and decent and indomitable in humanity. It deserves its status, even awash with unabashed sentimentality that, for once, actually seems fitting. But, with the reams of plaudits aimed at Frank Capra’s most enduring film, it is also worth playing devil’s advocate for a moment or two. One can construe a number of not nearly so life-affirming undercurrents lurking within it, both intentional and unintentional on the part of its director. And what better time to Grinch-up such a picture than when bathed in the warmth of a yuletide glow?

The film was famously not a financial success on initial release, as is the case with a number of now hallowed movies, its reputation burgeoning during television screenings throughout the 1970s. Nevertheless, It’s a Wonderful Life garnered a brace of Oscar nominations including Best Picture and…

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

Perhaps I am dead. Perhaps we’re both dead. And this is some kind of hell.

The Avengers 5.7: The Living Dead
The Living Dead occupies such archetypal Avengers territory that it feels like it must have been a more common plotline than it was; a small town is the cover for invasion/infiltration, with clandestine forces gathering underground. Its most obvious antecedent is The Town of No Return, and certain common elements would later resurface in Invasion of the Earthmen. This is a lot broader than Town, however, the studio-bound nature making it something of a cosy "haunted house" yarn, Scooby Doo style.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

What if I tell you to un-punch someone, what you do then?

Incredibles 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) Incredibles 2 may not be as fresh as the first outing – indeed, certain elements of its plotting border on the retread – but it's equally, if not more, inventive as a piece of animation, and proof that, whatever his shortcomings may be philosophically, Brad Bird is a consummately talented director. This is a movie that is consistently very funny, and which is as thrilling as your average MCU affair, but like Finding Dory, you may understandably end up wondering if it shouldn't have revolved around something a little more substantial to justify that fifteen-year gap in reaching the screen.