Even at its best, a superhero movie is still a superhero movie. You know exactly what you’re going to get: a lot of CGI battles, some stuff about good and evil wrapped up into a moral lesson, and some preaching about great power and great responsibility. If the original Deadpool taught us anything, it’s that this franchise doesn’t give a shit about any of that. And Deadpool 2 isn’t about a cool new superhero suit, some sort of convoluted timeline, or nerds trying to debate the energy properties of magic crystals or even selling action figures.
No, Deadpool 2 is a movie about dick jokes with occasional action sequences thrown in. This is a movie whose distant connection to the greater Marvel and X-Men universe only functions as a way to make fun of it. At its high points, Deadpool 2 is the greatest modern satire of a highly lucrative and bloated film genre. And even at its lowest, it’s the best comedy of the year so far.
Having settled down with his fiancée Vanessa, Deadpool spends his days and nights traveling the world and killing the shit out of bad guys. But when one of the guys who got away tracks our hero down and kills the love of his life, Deadpool hits rock bottom in a destructive explosion of cocaine and gasoline. After reluctantly joining the X-Men as a trainee, his first mission with Brianna Hidebrand's Negasonic Teenage Warhead and the Stefan Kapicic-voiced Colossus requires the trio to obtain Russell, a punk-ass mutant with a New Zealand accent who's terrorizing his boarding school and goes by the name Firefist.
But just as Deadpool is detaining Russell, he learns that the school's faculty has been abusing the children; Deadpool reacts by killing everyone involved. This naturally doesn't sit well with the even-tempered X-Men, who have him arrested along with Russell. But while Deadpool and Russell are in mutant prison, the complex is attacked by Cable, a mysterious cyborg from the future who is trying to kill Russell. Reluctantly, Deadpool ends up attempting to protect the kid from Cable, and eventually needs to enlist the help of a squad of heroes...
Now, this all sounds extremely superhero movie-ish, but let's take a look at the central meta joke of this movie. It begins with marketing and promotion of Deadpool 2 leading up to the movie’s release. All of the trailers framed it as a squad movie introducing the X-Force—kind of like Deadpool’s version of the Avengers, Defenders, or X-Men. It’s the natural progression of any superhero franchise: to introduce sidekicks and new characters. And audiences fully expected this to be a squad movie going into its release; hell, web sites were publishing posts like "Everything You Should Know About the Deadly X-Force," mining content from the comics to prep people for this film.
But Deadpool 2 isn't that film. After an excellent audition scene early in the movie, we finally get to see this X-Force in action. Alongside Deadpool are Domino (Zazie Beetz), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Peter (Rob Delaney), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), and Vanisher (played by an A-list actor whose name I don't want to reveal here). The team leaps into action on their first mission, and, in a hilarious twist, they all immediately die a violent death—everyone except for Deadpool and Domino, that is.
The plot twist is a punchline years in the making, from teases of an X-Force stand-alone film, interviews with Ryan Reynolds and the cast, and all those early trailers. And they absolutely pulled it off. Imagine if an Avengers or X-Men movie had done something like this; there would have been nerd outrage. But Deadpool 2 knows exactly how far it can take things, and it thankfully goes one stop further.
And that’s just how Deadpool functions on a macro level. At every turn, it rolls its eyes at the superhero genre as a whole—whether it’s Deadpool referring to Cable as Thanos (who Brolin also plays in Avengers: Infinity War) or mocking its own ridiculous timeline inconsistencies. It throws jabs at Logan, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and even Reynolds himself for his godawful Green Lantern film. Nothing is off limits, including its own parent company; when Deadpool says to Negasonic Teenage Warhead, "Pump the breaks on the hate speech, Fox and Friends," I couldn't help but note the irony that I was attending a Deadpool 2 screening in the same building where the Fox News show films every morning.
The worst Deadpool 2 could have done is embrace itself as the first of many sequels in a new superhero franchise. While there are certainly more on the way, the movie at least pokes fun at itself—it even makes use of the genre's reliance on fan-servicing Easter Eggs that give clues to future movies in a franchise. In Deadpool 2, however, the Easter Eggs that fans love and expect aren’t allusions to other characters or an expanded universe; instead, they’re references to other movies: Flashdance, Say Anything..., James Bond. That likely speaks to Deadpool's creators and to whom they want the franchise to appeal: It’s for people who love comedy, pop culture, raunchy jokes, and maybe even talking shit about comic books.
Deadpool would never consider himself a superhero, and we shouldn't, either. Instead, he is more, like Cable says, "a clown dressed up as a sex doll."
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