18 May 2018

The Deadpool 2

That'd be fun, right? Clint Eastwood.

Oh, Ryan Reynolds.

Since I'm a living, breathing asshole, I was a big fan of Deadpool (2016). I was never super super into his character, not only because the 90s Deadpool is totally a man without time (about as cultural influential as The Last Action Hero [1993], and come to think of it, the exact same thing), and not really that kid-friendly anyway. It takes a build-up of cultural understanding to see why Deadpool is even funny and on top of that you need to appreciate both a lot of X-Men / Comic Book / Hugh Jackman lore AND both extreme violence and hard-R rated comedy.

It's like a Gift from Cable
You'd think that'd be a lot, but Deadpool is the #1 X-Men movie of all time. By like $130 million. Throw in inflation, whatever, it's still on top. It hit that perfect nexus of meta-commentary on the superhero genre, a starved year for good comedy, and a sarcastic, reflexive cultural kick to the ass that is appealing to an evermore jaded youth population. I made the mistake of going to a Sunday afternoon 4:20 showing of Deadpool in an isolated college town. That theater was packed and they were INTO it.

And good for Ryan Reynolds. We had been trying to make Ryan Reynolds happen for decades now. The irony is that this movie worked in part because it had free reign to make fun of both the X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Deadpool and Green Lantern (2011). In that way, the movie puts its arm around you and says, "Hey, we know this whole thing has sucked and is kind of stupid, but WE'RE here to have fun." Ironically, this helped the film connect with audiences.

It's also a damned shame that Fox's X-Men, who were JUST cresting the really weird and bold wave with Deadpool, Logan (2017), and The New Mutants (2019) is now all Disney. Somehow they still crank out shitty X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)-kind of flicks, and in the insane world we know live in, X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) is a February release and Deadpool 2 gets mid-May. What the hell is going on.

Anyway, a sequel was a given, and here we are with Deadpool 2. Domino and Cable are welcome additions, even if it's weird to see Josh Brolin in his second huge comic book role in four weeks. #JonahHex2. It helps Deadpool because it's adding more from his comic book canon, which is plenty welcome after nerd audiences were screwed over for years, not so much in changed source material, but in the sense that producers seemed kind of ashamed of the pulpy source material. Cable's seriousness has always been a great contrast to Deadpool's cheekiness, especially since they still both like killing a lot.

With all our Donald Glover talk, we should talk about
fellow Atlanta star Zazie Beetz and how that cast
is now just taking over all movies.
Where's LaKeith Stanfield in The Incredibles 2
Deadpool 2 faces the difficulty that all comedy sequels face. They've already shot their wad on the high concept, riffed on every obvious facet of that premise, and in this case, exhausted the anticipation of seeing a proper Deadpool adaptation on the big screen. This film has the added difficulty of no longer being an underdog. The budget is far higher, the director changed, and the entire cultural conversation around the character is far more overblown. All these aspects contributed to the grimy feel of the original. Deadpool is a flexible enough character to acknowledge these changes, with plenty of room for fourth-wall breaking, but that's also difficult to sustain for an entire film.

The major issue with Deadpool was that although it commented on and made fun of many superhero tropes, it structurally didn't actually diverge that much from a superhero movie. I felt the same way with 22 Jump Street (2014), which seemed to constantly announce that it knew what tropes it was making fun of, but didn't actually shift any of those tropes to create a new narrative in a meaningful way. This is the issue with making meta movies that only exist as regurgitation making fun of pop culture. And yeah, both these films ARE really funny, and they get a pass because the jokes land more often than they should, but the core concept of inviting us behind the curtain falls flat.

Deadpool succeeds in its irreverent tone, effortless attempts at cool confidence, and the charisma of Ryan Reynolds. I am interested to see what a Deadpool 2 does with some pressure - will they double down on the things that made it ridiculous or pull back? It's still a breathtakingly rare exercise in blockbuster filmmaking. The amount of R-rated action superhero comedies are...well, Deadpool. That's it.

Now, how can Deadpool fit in with the main Marvel Cinematic Universe now that they're all under one house...he does have a storied history with Thanos... At any rate, I'd expect Deadpool 2 to unseat Infinity War (2018) this week, but it's in a tough spot between that and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). I think those nerds overlap. Right? It's still oblique possible that Solo bombs, although to be honest, the mainstream public who either doesn't know about the behind the scenes turmoil or doesn't care won't really be affected. I'm getting ahead of myself. The point is, normally these would be very different audiences, but that may not even be the case anymore.

What are you seeing this weekend?

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