Bruce Steele: So, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is back, all his arch sarcasm and comic-book gore intact, despite repeated dismemberments. Can nothing stop this ridiculous less-than-super non-hero?
Edwin Arnaudin: Maybe rewatchability? As with 2016’s surprise hit series starter — which I’ve still just seen once — I laughed a lot and likewise got caught up in the expertly-staged action sequences, but am not confident the material will hold up well on repeat viewings. Were you not entertained?
Bruce: For the most part, I was not entertained. I find the Deadpool movies to be overloaded, out-of-control vehicles designed exclusively to deliver gore, CG battles and crashes, and a large haul of snark. They’re largely devoid of humanity, flippant about character, and, this one especially, thin on plot. We’ll get to the few things I liked, but please explain: Why is this contrived irreverence so appealing? The gaggle of teen and college-age boys I navigated to leave the theater clearly loved it.
Edwin: People — myself included — enjoy this writing team’s brand of twisted pop culture references and other postmodern riffing on established goods. It's like a nastier, less visually-dependent version of Ready Player One. Two-and-a-half years ago, it was refreshing to see a foul-mouthed, self-referential comic book movie right when the MCU was getting a bit stale and just before the DC Universe proved it has no clue what it’s doing. Wash, rinse, repeat with new players and Round 2 is likewise a success for those on its wavelength. Were there any standout gags that worked for you?
Bruce: I didn’t come away imprinted with any gags I liked, just those I found especially stupid or indulgent. I’m fine with nasty riffing and self-referential humor, but humor needs a structure to hang from, to give it resonance beyond the wink, and the Deadpool movies just don’t have any humanity or narrative substance to them. Even this one, with its relentless focus on Deadpool’s relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, TV's Gotham), didn’t convince me these are people I should care about. He’s just a standup act with more props than most, and his shtick gets old fast. Did you find an emotional pull to this movie?
Edwin: Just the romantic relationship, the film’s lone connection of any sort with anything resembling heart — largely because it’s the only one where Deadpool shows any vulnerability, which I found refreshing. Otherwise, along with the subconscious irk of the plot ripping of Rian Johnson's Looper, I wasn’t overly invested in Deadpool protecting teenage fire-hurling mutant Russell (Julian Dennison, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) from time-traveling assassin Cable (Josh “Didn’t We Just See You?” Brolin). It made me wonder if the portly New Zealand comedian needs Taika Waititi to realize his potential.
Bruce: Dennison seems underused because his character, who throws fire and calls himself Firefist, is barely developed. He's a combination punching bag and plot point, but with no nuance, no background and no reason to care about him except that the plot turns on whether he can be saved from Cable. Cable, on the other hand, was one of two new characters that I liked. Partly because he's played by Brolin, he's got some gravitas and depth of personality, and he's really the only character in either Deadpool movie with an actual story arc. I will look forward to the forthcoming sequel, X-Force, just to see more of him.
Edwin: I agree with you on Brolin’s appealing presence and character development, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you also fell for Domino (Zazie Beetz, TV’s Atlanta). Rooted in superhero-strength luck, her powers grant the rag-tag rescue mission’s chaos a sense of professionalism, plus her low tolerance for Deadpool’s mouthy shenanigans lead to comparably funny quips that keep the material from tipping into full immaturity. May I uncross those digits?
Bruce: You may. I love Domino, both as portrayed by the magnetic Ms. Beetz and as conceived by Marvel. Why shouldn't good luck be a superpower? I'll confess the gags attached to Domino's blessed fortune made me smile. The movie's time-travel twists towards the end, however, soured whatever slight goodwill Cable and Domino built up. Writers who can't think through the consequences and rules of time travel are among the worst hacks in my book. But it's consistent with everything the Deadpool team touches: They can't leave well enough alone. It's got to be dumber, sillier and more caustic at every turn.
Edwin: Wade’s schtick did grow a bit thin toward the end, especially in a would-be emotional moment, but beyond those pauses there’s so much happening at any given moment that it’s difficult to feel bored — unless the busy approach comes off as more tiring than a gleeful surplus of insanity. I still say it’s a welcome diversion from the usual MCU and X-Men formula films, much as those typically work for me and despite their DNA remaining prevalent in the plotting of Marvel's “rebel” films. Wouldn’t you rather have the occasional Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok and Deadpool movie sprinkled in to shake things up?
Bruce: I'm a fan of Ragnarok and the Guardians movies, but the Deadpool movies leave me cold. It's the difference between the clever, popular guys you grew up with who could charm you with intricate tales and also weave in some really funny jokes, and that aggressive idiot in the lunchroom who thinks he's funny because he spews a nonstop foul tirade — the guy who thinks cheerleaders rolling their eyes means they like him. I realize I'm in the minority, but Deadpool is just a tiresome loser to me. In deference to his much cooler new sidekicks, I'll give Deadpool 2 a D-plus.
Edwin: So be it. Back to the concept of rewatchability, it’s worth nothing that while I’ve seen each X-Men film multiple times (Apocalypse, which I really enjoyed but still feel like I just saw, to one side), the only MCU installments I’ve revisited are the original Iron Man and the first Guardians flick. Unlike the usual “I got it, I’m good” feeling of its brethren’s initial views, the overflowing easter egg nature of Deadpool 2 makes me want to give it another go, primarily out of the sense that there’s a significant amount of details I missed the first time through. Considering how much I laughed and was entertained on Round 1, I take that as an encouraging sign. Yes, there were more dead stretches in the film than I’d like, but it’s so sharp elsewhere that I consider it as good as its predecessor and therefore warranting of a B-plus.
Grade: C-plus. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photos: Twentieth Century Fox)