Deadpool is the Mountain Dew of superheroes.
Marketing would have you believe that Deadpool, like Mountain Dew, is extreme, loud, in your face, and hip to the tastes of today. Other superheroes aren’t in on the joke the way Deadpool is, just as other sodas aren’t as intense as Mountain Dew. This dude just jumped out of a plane cracking jokes to an intense soundtrack. Am I describing a Mountain Dew commercial or the newest Deadpool movie?
Fortunately for Mountain Deadpool, much of the abrasiveness of a character designed to push so many buttons at once for viewers has been softened a bit. Don’t get me wrong; Deadpool 2 is still leaps and bounds away the most violent and vulgar Marvel movie yet. But here, our hero doesn’t have to try so hard to let you know how wacky and insane he is. He’s given room to breathe in his own film, and Ryan Reynolds imbues him with an appropriate balance of pathos and smarm so that Wade “Deadpool” Wilson can be as awesome as he thinks he is.
It’s unfortunate, then, that his newest film is a mess. Directed by David Leitch (credited as one of the men who killed John Wick’s dog), Deadpool 2 is all frenetic energy but never quite manages to settle on a tone that truly defines it as a film. With a narrative that reinvents itself no less than three times, it’s not that Deadpool 2 is at a lack of ideas but perhaps an overabundance of them. This time around, Wade’s become fond of a young mutant teenager named Russell that’s headed down the wrong path, played by Julian Denisson, proving his breakout role in Hunt for the Wilderpeople was no fluke. Mercenary Cable, played by franchise double dipper Josh Brolin in a bit of a generic tough guy role, has come from the future to kill Russell before he can grow up to become a supervillain that will in turn kill Cable’s family. Along the way, Deadpool loses his significant other Vanessa and starts his own superhero group, X-Force. There’s a lot going on here, and it doesn’t always work.
Thankfully, when Deadpool 2 is hot, it’s on fire. Every sequence involving the recruitment and eventual deaths of most of the X-Force are some of the most brilliant comic book gags ever put to film. You get to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Terry Crews as Bedlam, It’s Bill Skarsgård as Zeitgeist, comedian Rob Delaney as Peter, and a celebrity cameo so fun I won’t spoil it as another member of the group… and then you get to watch them all die in incredibly gruesome ways, played all for deeply dark laughs. The only new member who survives, in fact, is Domino, played by Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz, all charm, no time wasted. Domino is an easy standout in a film designed to top itself every few moments, and is such a welcome addition to the X-franchise that it’s a disappointment she hasn’t appeared sooner.
Deadpool 2, like Mountain Dew, is not perfect. There’s the illusion of a sweet taste and the fun fizzle of carbonation, but all it’s doing is masking a product that overall won’t do much for your mind, body, or soul. Still, sometimes a Mountain Dew hits the spot, and sometimes Deadpool 2 lets on a bit of the brilliance this series may one day let envelope it.
Deadpool 2 is in theaters now.