#9 in my ranking of the X-Men franchise.
They made a mistake regarding Deadpool as a real character. In the first film, we had a barebones story told out of order in order to help provide the skeletal structure on which to hang the character’s attitude and fourth wall-breaking antics. In the sequel, they try to give him an emotional arc, which goes against the how the character works as entertainment, and then throw in two other stories at it without ever making anything all that satisfying.
The movie begins with Deadpool failing to save his girlfriend, Vanessa, from being killed in a house invasion by the men of a bad guy that Deadpool failed to kill on a contract. This bad guy is never mentioned again, by the way. Deadpool is despondent at his loss and tries to kill himself by blowing himself up, unsuccessfully, of course. Reassembled by the X-Men (well, just Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead), they bring him on as a trainee. His first mission takes him (along with the other two) to a children’s home for mutants where a young Kiwi mutant, Russell, is blowing up the space in front of the school with his fire powers on his hands. The school administrators are abusing the mutants, Deadpool kills one, and then the two get carted off by police to the Ice Box, a prison for mutants. In this prison they wear collars that prevent mutant powers, including Deadpool’s immortality which brings back his cancer.
And this is one of two major points in the movie where the filmmakers are trying to elicit emotional attachment to a deeply ironic and sarcastic character that does so much fourth wall breaking that he’s barely actually part of the movie on any emotional level. So, seeing him bemoan his station of dying but also wanting to die to join Vanessa, interspersed with jokes, undercuts any attempt at actual emotional connection and, eventually, catharsis.
This is also where the next major plot develops. Cable, a mutant from the future, travels back in time to kill Russell in the prison. He busts in, causes havoc, and, in the process, breaks Deadpool’s collar so he gets his powers back. The two fight, end up on the snowy slopes under the prison, separate, and then Deadpool pretty much instantly gets back to the city while Cable goes as well. Why Cable doesn’t go back to the prison is unclear. And then Deadpool decides that he needs a team, the X-Force. This is probably where the movie works best, offering up the same kind of irreverent humor and knowingness with the right light tone to keep things moving.
Most of the team don’t matter because they die in funny ways moments later, helping to highlight the film’s humor, it’s main strength. The most important are Domino, who’s supremely lucky, and Peter (who dies), but Peter has no powers and is just amusing to watch as the pudgy regular guy jumps out of an airplane with the rest of the super powered freaks. Their objective is to get to Russell during the transportation of all mutant prisoners to a new prison before Cable does. Another fight breaks out where they accidentally release the Juggernaut, the giant mutant of incredible strength. This is overall an amusing sequence with humor abounding and a lot of well done action.
The finale of the film fails rather spectacularly though. This is the last big emotional “payoff”, and the lack of buildup to the actual antagonist ends up working against the film. For most of the film the main antagonist was Cable, but he turns good-ish and we’re suddenly faced with the real bad guy, the administrator of the mutant school that Russell wanted to kill in the beginning. None of this stuff is developed in the least, and it doesn’t help that the school disappears for most of the film’s runtime. It’s made even more laughable when Domino says, right before the attack is to begin, that she went to that school. Nothing ever comes of it, of course, because this script is completely uninterested in actually building towards any kind of emotional catharsis despite filling the movie with moments that need it in order to work.
Deadpool sacrificing himself and the movie lingering far too long on his death in order to save Russell from becoming the monster that Cable expects him to be lands flat. It’s the awful combination of emotional intent and Deadpool’s disconnected personality and humor. They really approached him wrong, and most of the movie wrong in this regard.
In the end, the movie is really carried by its humor and middle section dealing with the X-Force. It’s not enough to raise the film to the first movie’s entertaining heights, but it’s enough to keep it from being a complete drag of a film. Of course, the sequences in the credits undercut the emotional efforts completely by having Deadpool save Vanessa, invalidating everything, but at least Peter ends up living. He was a good guy.
This is a sequel largely gone wrong but keeping enough of what made the first one work to keep the second one afloat. Deadpool is not an emotionally engaging character, and any film with him at the center probably needs to remain ironic through and through in order to work best. The first one had the barest of emotionality to string the movie along, but the appeal of it was always the humor of Deadpool not Wade Wilson’s desire to be with Vanessa. This sequel leans far too heavily in the wrong direction while also telling a fractured story that doesn’t really hold together. Thank Ryan Reynolds for this movie working at all, because he’s pretty much the epicenter of this film’s strengths.
Originally published here.