Film

The Highs Are Higher, the Lows Lower in 'Deadpool 2'

Deadpool 2 poster excerpt (IMDB)

The first half of Deadpool 2, in which Vanessa is murdered and Wade becomes purposeless and suicidal, is a slog. The second half, where Wade commits to defending an angry teenage mutant, positively soars with fantastic action and some of the funniest superhero film moments in years.

Ryan Reynolds spent 11 years bringing his cinematic vision of Deadpool to the big screen. Wade Wilson/Deadpool is a foul-mouthed, violent, cartoonish, mentally-disturbed, hilarious, horribly-scarred mutant mercenary that could only be adapted faithfully with a big-budget, R-rated superhero film. Reynolds persevered through development ups and downs with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and director Tim Miller, to make Deadpool (Miller, 2016), and their persistence paid off. Deadpool was praised as a fresh, irreverent superhero film in the midst of a comic book film glut. It also became the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time at the worldwide box office and the second highest-grossing R-rated film at the North American box office, right behind The Passion of the Christ (Gibson, 2004).

Given this success, it's no surprise that Fox, the studio behind the first film, quickly pushed for a sequel. Just over two years later, Deadpool returned to theatres and he brought his friends.

The comic book origin of Deadpool is inextricably linked to the origins of the characters Cable and Domino, as well as the mutant team X-Force. Given their close connection, these elements were essential to include as Deadpool's world expanded in a sequel. Created by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld, Cable first appeared in New Mutants #87 (March 1990). The New Mutants began as a group of students in Professor Charles Xavier's mutant school, new recruits to potentially join Xavier's mutant peacekeeping force, the X-Men.

By New Mutants #87, however, Marvel's editors decided to push the team in a new direction, giving them a more militaristic leader to contrast Xavier's peaceful approach. Cable is a grizzled mutant warrior from the future, complete with scars, a metal arm, a bionic eye, telepathy, and a lot of large weapons. It's later revealed that Cable is actually Nathan Summers, the son of venerable X-Man Cyclops, who was sent to the future as a baby when he was infected with an incurable techno-organic virus. Future medicine prevented the virus from killing him, but growing up there turned him into a soldier.

Even in an era when X-Men comics were as melodramatic as soap operas, Cable's backstory stands out as convoluted. In New Mutants #98 (February 1991), Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza introduced Domino, Cable's ally, and Deadpool, a mercenary sent to kill Cable. New Mutants ended with issue #100 (April 1991) before relaunching as a more militarized, Cable-led team in X-Force. X-Force #1 (August 1991) remains the second highest selling single comic book issue of all time, with eight million copies sold.

This success is due to the immense popularity of the X-Men line of comics, artists such as Rob Liefeld, and characters such as Cable in 1991. In retrospect, Cable is the quintessential example of everything wrong with superhero comics in the early-'90s: he is a very serious antihero with extreme, violent methods, enormous muscles, enormous weapons, a tortured soul and a mysterious past. The same can be said of Domino, Deadpool ,and dozens of characters introduced at this time. X-Force is also a product of early-'90s trends towards violent antiheroes. It's a cynical team, willing to cross the lines that the optimistic, peacekeeping X-Men would not.

https://marvel.fandom.com/wiki/New_Mutants_Vol_1_87 (Fair Use / Marvel Comics)

Of all of these '90s antiheroes, Deadpool has enjoyed the most enduring popularity due to later writers exploiting his comedic irreverence to satirize comic book trends. In a way, Deadpool has carried Cable along with him. Cable starred in a solo comic book series from 1993 to 2003. He was then paired with Deadpool in Marvel Comics Cable & Deadpool starting in 2004. This series smartly balanced Deadpool's zany cartoonishness with Cable's tortured self-seriousness to create an odd couple action dynamic. Domino has had less solo success over the years, but has frequented X-Men team-up books since her introduction, and regularly appears in Cable or Deadpool stories. Each of these characters has been linked to some version of X-Force over the years.

The filmmakers behind Deadpool began discussing a sequel in 2015, before the release of the first film. Reynolds used the leverage from the massive success of Deadpool to renegotiate his contract for the sequel to gain more creative control. The introduction of Cable was the first major idea, and his inclusion was even announced in the post-credits scene on the first film. Besides Cable, the filmmakers included Domino and felt obliged to include some version of X-Force. There were even larger-scale ideas, such as including characters from the dreadful Fantastic Four (Trank, 2015), which was also produced by Fox, to make light of shared superhero universes. In October 2016, Tim Miller, director of Deadpool, left the sequel citing creative differences. According to most reports, Miller and Reynolds had slightly different ideas regarding the scale of the film and certain casting choices, and Miller bristled under Reynolds' increased creative control.

In November 2016, David Leitch was hired to replace Miller. Leitch was no stranger to Marvel Films. He began his career as a stuntman, working on such Marvel Films as Blade (Norrington, 1998), Daredevil (Johnston, 2003), and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009). The latter featured Reynolds as a poorly-conceived early cinematic version of Deadpool. Leitch also worked as a second unit director on The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013) and Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers, 2016). Outside of his Marvel work, he became an accomplished director, helping to redefine action films in the 2010s with films such as John Wick (Stahelski, 2014), for which his co-directing went uncredited, and Atomic Blonde (Leitch, 2017). Leitch's background with Marvel and action films made him the perfect choice to take over Deadpool 2. His approach to action filmmaking depicts as much of the action as possible practically and in-camera, rather than relying on digital effects. He also favoured long takes with minimal cutting. These techniques are common in action films, but not in comic book films.

Fox nearly doubled the budget from the first film to $110 million, which was still low for major blockbusters of that era. Despite the extra money, the filmmakers actively resisted the temptation to go bigger for the sequel. Besides a few large-scale action sequences and nods to X-Force, the writers intended to keep the focus of the film on Deadpool. They wanted the stakes to be personal for him, rather than global stakes that are so often at the centre of superhero films. Under the surface, Deadpool is a romance film, and the writers chose to make Deadpool 2 about a group of loners coming together to form a family. So, it's a "family film" as Deadpool calls it.

In August 2017, Sequena Joi Harris, a stunt performer doubling for Zazie Beetz, crashed her motorcycle and died while filming an action sequence in Vancouver. Her death was heavily criticized by members of the Hollywood stunt community, who thought her experience racing motorcycles but relative inexperience with stunts made her ill-suited to perform what was being asked of her. Investigative reports into the crash also revealed that the production of Deadpool 2 had moved to long 15-hour shooting days, rather than the typical 12-13 hours, exhausting the crew. The film is dedicated to Harris, but the incident certainly put a pall over production.

As with Deadpool, the marketing for Deadpool 2 was unique, hilarious, subversive and effective. Shortly after Leitch was hired, and months before filming Deadpool 2, he directed No Good Deed (Leitch, 2017), a four-minute short film starring Deadpool. In the film, an old man is mugged in an alley and Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) rushes into a phone booth to change into his costume to help. But, he takes too long and the old man is shot. James Mangold, director of Logan (Mangold, 2017), had no interest in featuring a post-credits scene to his film, so No Good Deed ran as a trailer before Logan.

Later in 2017, the first Deadpool 2 poster was released. It's a recreation of Norman Rockwell's 1941 Freedom from Want, featuring characters from the film. Around the same time, "Deadpool" guest-edited an issue of Good Housekeeping. The first teaser trailer featured only quick shots from the film in the middle of an extended parody of painter Bob Ross. In early February 2018, Reynolds live-tweeted the Super Bowl to avoid paying for a costly Super Bowl trailer spot. The second trailer for the film is interrupted when it's clear the visual effects are unfinished, and the trailer resumes with Deadpool acting out Toy Story-like scenes with Deadpool action figures. Even the final poster for Deadpool 2 reads "From the studio that killed Wolverine", hilariously referencing the end of Logan.

Just before the release of the film, Reynolds released a video of Deadpool apologizing to David Beckham for insulting him in the first film. Wal-Mart released new slipcovers for 16 DVDs, such as The Terminator (Cameron, 1984) and Cast Away (Zemeckis, 2000), featuring Deadpool on the cover. These and more outside-the-box marketing ploys made Deadpool ubiquitous in the spring of 2018. Very little of the marketing for the film was straightforward or expected which, like the marketing of the first film, reflected Deadpool's irreverent, knowing sense of humour. In a culture where even massively viral moments seem to fade in mere hours, Reynolds and his Deadpool team are experts at unique, enduring buzz marketing.

As for the film, Deadpool 2 is very similar to Deadpool in some key areas, but is ultimately more uneven and less satisfying. The stories of both films are dark and surprisingly serious in the first half, then zany, hilarious, and action-packed in the second half. In the case of Deadpool, the first half of the story depicts Ryan Reynold's hilarious, irreverent mercenary Wade Wilson falling in love with a prostitute named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) shortly before he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. In an effort to find a cure, he's tortured in an experimental facility until his latent mutant healing ability is activated, but the procedure leaves his body horribly scarred. After this grim first half, Wade adopts the Deadpool persona to get revenge, and cartoonish fun ensues. The filmmakers made the smart choice to balance the opposing tones of each half of the story by intercutting them for most of the film. The darkness never feels oppressive and the antics offset each other perfectly.

The story of Deadpool 2 is similarly split tonally, but it's told in a linear fashion. And so the first half of the film, in which Vanessa is murdered and Wade becomes purposeless and suicidal, weighs the film down and makes it a slog. On the other hand, the second half of the film, in which Wade commits to defending an angry teenage mutant, positively soars with fantastic action and some of the funniest moments in film in years. Compared to the first film, the lows are lower and the highs are higher in Deadpool 2. The second half is better than anything in Deadpool, but it only comes after enduring the dour, aimless first half. This unevenness makes Deadpool 2 fall just short of its predecessor in my estimation, but it's still a hilarious, worthwhile superhero film.

Deadpool 2 opens with Wade Wilson/Deadpool lighting a cigarette and winding up a music box that depicts Logan/Wolverine's death in Logan. Wade then turns up the gas on his apartment stove, lies on drums of gasoline and flicks the cigarette causing it to explode. As pieces of Wade fly towards the camera, Wade begins his voiceover with "Fuck Wolverine." He's personally offended that Logan followed his lead as an R-rated superhero film and then went so far as to have its hero die at the end. Wade then promises that he, too, will die at the end of this film, sticking it to Logan in a very one-sided rivalry.

The film then flashes back to a montage of Wade's mercenary work. He takes out gangsters in a Hong Kong nightclub, a Tokyo sauna, a Sicilian funeral, a Biloxi strip club, and finally a Russian warehouse in Wade's unnamed home city. The action is quick, creative and violent, complete with lost limbs, decapitations and even, as Wade proudly points out, a guy on fire. The montage is scored by Dolly Parton's "9 to 5". This may be a vulgar, violent superhero film, but the soundtrack features Parton, Cher, Barbara Streisand, Enya, Air Supply, Pat Benetar and, of course, Canadian national treasure Celine Dion. The montage is fun, and promises the kind of action that will come after the serious first hour. Wade brags that he's now mentioned in the same sentence as Jesus, referring to the comparable box office of Deadpool and The Passion of the Christ. He also assures the audience that, despite the extreme violence, Deadpool 2 is a family film.

Dancers by hsvbooth (Pixabay License / Pixabay)

Wade's Russian gangsters mission goes poorly. He escapes in a cab driven by Dopinder (Karan Soni), and rushes home to celebrate his anniversary with Vanessa. She gifts him her IUD, indicating that she is ready to have kids. They move right to "foreplay", which consists of watching Yentl (Streisand, 1983). Wade and Vanessa's relationship anchored the first film. They are both very strange but fit together perfectly in a sweet, sex-positive way. The relationship is so well-drawn that killing Vanessa at the start of Deadpool 2 has an intentionally devastating impact. The Russian gangsters burst into the apartment. Wade fends them off with knives from a knife block, but just misses the last one. A shot is fired and it kills Vanessa. Wade chases down the escaping gangster and throws himself and the gangster in front of a truck.

Cue Celine Dion performing the lovely ballad "Ashes" over a James Bond-esque opening title sequence featuring Deadpool rather than dancing women. Having an original ballad played over an extravagant title sequence is very funny, but that humour is muted by the lingering shock of Vanessa's death. The filmmakers know this, so the titles are all jokes in reaction to the death. "A film by Wait a Minute!", "Produced by Did You Just Kill Her?", "Presented by What the Fuck?", "In association with I Don't Understand.", "Starring Obviously, Someone Who Hates Sharing the Spotlight", "Written by The Real Villains", and "Directed by One of the Guys Who Killed the Dog in John Wick". The filmmakers knew that Vanessa's death would be shocking, but they may not have known how controversial it would be.

But they should have. In 1999, comic book writer Gail Simone began the website "Women in Refrigerators" to shine a spotlight on the overused trope of female characters being abused, tortured, or killed to further a male character's arc. The name was in reference to a particularly heinous example from a 1994 Green Lantern comic, and the trope is now commonly referred to as "fridging". Of course, harming one character to motivate another is a perfectly valid plot device. But that plot device had become widely overused and highly gendered in comics. Simone's website successfully started a conversation, and writers became more conscious of fridging.

Unfortunately, the trend has begun to seep into comic book films. I previously wrote about fridging in X-Men: Apocalypse (Singer, 2016) and Avengers: Infinity War (Russo Brothers, 2018), which both feature relatively minor examples of the trope. Deadpool 2, on the other hand, bases Wade's entire motivation on Vanessa's murder.

The problem with fridging doesn't lie with its use in one film or comic, but with the sum total of all the similar uses. In Deadpool 2, Vanessa's death isn't taken lightly or treated casually. It's significant and hangs over Wade for the entire film. The writers justified the choice by stating that Wade's character works best when he has lost everything, and early drafts that feature Vanessa breaking up with Wade didn't have enough emotional weight. They also felt it was important to have Wade's career cause her death.

Even so, the writers worried the event may be too dark, and it does set a grim mood for the first half of the film. So, the fridging at the heart of Deadpool 2 may be a well-executed use of the trope; however, it still begs the question of why storytellers must keep returning to this trope over and over, and always with the female character suffering. Then again, Wade uses time travel to save Vanessa during the credit scenes, so the point may be moot.

The larger problem with the film is the after-effects of Vanessa's death. Wade becomes grief-stricken, depressed, suicidal, and worst of all, purposeless. The lack of purpose makes Wade a passive character throughout the first half of the film, and the story is aimless as a result. It's grim and serious on top of that, which doesn't help. There are jokes along the way, of course, but Deadpool 2 doesn't come back to life until the second half.

Wade seeks comfort from his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) and his former roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) before arriving at the suicide that opened the film. After the explosion, Wade finds himself in a sunlit, soft focus version of the apartment separated from Vanessa by an invisible barrier. Vanessa tells Wade that his heart is not in the right place before he returns to life.

His body is recovered by Colossus (Stefan Kapičić), the Russian, steel-bodied X-Man, who takes him to the X-Men mansion. There Wade encounters Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who is now in a relationship with Yukio (Shioli Katsuna). Wade's surprise reads as homophobic at first, but he clarifies that he was just surprised anyone would want to date her, continuing the sibling-like sniping between Wade and Negasonic from the first film.

The relationship between Negasonic and Yukio is actually the first overt LGBTQ relationship in a Marvel Film. Hildebrand agreed to it as long as it wasn't treated as a big deal in the film. It's not, which makes its inclusion all the more refreshing. Wade complains, as in the first film, that Fox cannot afford to include more X-Men in a Deadpool film. This time, however, we see the X-Men hiding from Wade in another room. This brief, very funny cameo, featuring James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp and Kodi Smit-McPhee, was shot on the set of Dark Phoenix (Kinberg, 2019).

Colossus wants Wade to join the X-Men to give himself some purpose, but Wade resists. He blames himself for Vanessa's death and wants to kill himself as a penance. When Colossus mentions Wade's heart, he sees it as a sign and joins the team.

On his first mission, Wade, Colossus and Deadpool are called to a mutant orphanage, where a teenager with fire powers, Russell (Julian Dennison), is causing a violent scene. Reynolds first saw Dennison in the wonderful Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Waititi, 2016) and wrote the role of Russell for him. Wade wears a cut-off X-Men jersey with "trainee" written on the back, and he can't help but make the situation worse through insults and threats. He succeeds in knocking Russell down, allowing authorities to put a power-negating collar on him. But then Wade notices wounds on Russell's neck, and deduces that the orphanage orderlies and Headmaster (Eddie Marsan) are abusing him.

Wade immediately shoots at the orphanage staff, resulting in him being collared and sent with Russell to the Ice Box, a maximum security prison for mutants. Having totally given up, Wade pushes Russell away and allows himself to be beaten by other inmates while waiting for his terminal cancer, returned with the loss of his healing powers, to finally kill him. Russell, meanwhile, plots his escape and revenge against his abusers. Like I said, this half of the film is grim and serious.

Ryan Reynolds and Julian Dennison (IMDB)

Meanwhile in the future, Cable (Josh Brolin) finds his wife and daughter burned to death in his apartment. He uses a time-travel device on his wrist to travel to the present. He arrives behind two rednecks discussing the benefits of using wet wipes over toilet paper. The rednecks are played by Alan Tudyk and Matt Damon, both in heavy makeup, but Damon is listed as Dickie Greenleaf in the credits. This is a reference to The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella, 1999) for some reason. Cable prepares his weapons in a dark, neon-lit hotel room that evokes The Terminator. Wade even calls Cable "John Connor" later in the film. Cable is shirtless, showing off the techno-organic virus that has taken over his left arm and part of his chest. This is never mentioned, but exists as a reference for fans of the character.

For much of the film, Cable is presented as the mysterious villain, a dangerous man arrived from the future for unknown reasons. Ultimately, Cable's backstory is minimal, which is a smart choice given that his comic book backstory is so terribly convoluted. Brolin is perfect casting, playing the stone-faced, no-nonsense man of action perfectly. Deadpool 2 was released just three weeks after Brolin took on the Avengers as Thanos in Infinity War, a fact that Wade even calls attention to later in the film.

Cable breaks into the Ice Box to kill Russell, surprisingly, not Wade. When Cable says he's from the future, Wade's only questions are about the future of dubstep, Sharknado, and the overabundance of characters with metal arms in films. Despite fighting to protect him, Wade denies caring about Russell. Wade and Cable's fight ends up blowing both of them out of the prison. Over voiceover, Wade identifies this as his lowest point, and he visits with Vanessa again. He determines that Vanessa wants him to help Russell, giving him purpose for the rest of the film. And with that purpose, the dark, overly-serious first half of Deadpool 2 gives way to the joyous, highly-entertaining second half.

The Fake X-Force (IMDB)

This second half begins with one of the funniest sequences I've seen in years. The "fake X-Force" sequence is hilarious and it exists almost entirely in service of one big joke. It's dispensable, having no impact on the overall story. Wade learns that Russell is going to be transported from the Ice Box on a convoy truck, so he and Weasel put together a super-powered team to rescue him. A team young enough, as Wade says, to carry this franchise for 10-12 years. They hold a casting call where they hire Bedlam (Terry Crews), who can distort electric fields, Vanisher, who is invisible but also may not have shown up yet, Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), who spits acidic vomit, Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), an alien who claims to be better than Wade at everything, Domino (Zazie Beetz), who has luck powers, and Peter (Rob Delaney), a completely ordinary man with no powers who simply responded to the job posting.

Peter became so popular after his introduction in the trailer that Reynolds started a LinkedIn profile and Twitter page for him. These characters become X-Force. Wade uses a crayon drawing to lay out his plan for stopping the convoy and fighting Cable. The drawing includes an arrow pointing to the attack labelled "sequel money", and another label that says "no need for a 3rd act" if they succeed. Meanwhile, Cable captures Weasel and plans to torture him to learn Wade's plan, but Weasel gives it up freely. He does, however, warn of high winds.

X-Force take a helicopter, planning to parachute onto the convoy. The team is fired up and ready. Wade is so proud of what he has created and heaps them with praise. Peter prepares by applying sunscreen. ("I don't know about this Cable fella, but I guarantee he hasn't killed as many people as melanoma has.") Vanisher is present, evidenced by the floating parachute pack. AC/DC comes on the soundtrack, the back door opens, and X-Force dives out. As they free fall, they form an X midair. Everything is going great, X-Force is awesome.

But then they open their parachutes, and the high winds become a big problem. The team scatters off course immediately. Wade lands on a billboard, giving him a clear view of the rest of the team. Bedlam floats towards a street and is killed by a bus. Shatterstar flies into a spinning helicopter blade. Vanisher flies into power lines and is electrocuted, briefly revealing that Vanisher was played by Brad Pitt. Peter, shockingly, lands perfectly. Zeitgeist, however, flies into a nearby wood chipper. When Peter tries to save him, Zeitgeist involuntarily sprays him with acidic vomit before succumbing to the wood chipper.

Twelve minutes after Wade decides to form X-Force every member of the team except for him and Domino are dead. After so much build-up they immediately die. To mask the fake-out, the filmmakers even filmed superfluous action beats featuring X-Force to put into trailers and other promotions. All of that footage and effort was a misdirect to fool the audience into thinking X-Force would be a significant presence in the film. It's astonishing and hilarious, firing Deadpool 2 into its phenomenal second half.

Zazie Beetz as Domino (© www.twitter.com/VancityReynolds / IMDB)

The joyful momentum from fake X-Force carries into the ensuing convoy sequence. Domino lands safely and on target due to her luck powers. Wade steals a moped to rush to the scene, all while questioning over the radio whether luck powers actually exist and how they could be depicted cinematically. Domino causes a car crash that perfectly sets her up to jump into the prison truck. The driver tries to shoot her and his gun jams. As he's kicked out of the truck, he knocks the side mirror, which catches the sun and blinds Cable enough that he misses his attack. Before Wade even finishes his rant against her powers, Domino is in control of the truck.

Beetz plays Domino with the smirking confidence of a person who knows everything works out for her. This makes her performance charismatic and subtly hilarious in every scene. Leitch stages the action beautifully. Deadpool 2 isn't as groundbreaking as John Wick or Atomic Blonde, but the characters' mutant powers allow for some unique gags. For example, Wade catches up to the convoy by standing on the hood of a prison Humvee, hitting the gas pedal with his sword, then steering the car to the truck by looking upside-down through his legs. It's visceral, exciting, and funny -- a perfect Deadpool action beat. While fighting Cable on the truck, Wade attempts to deflect Cable's bullets with his swords, like his proto-Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In this film, however, he misses all of the bullets but is riddled with wounds.

The sequence ends when Russell escapes from his cell and then releases his new friend from prison: Juggernaut. A frequent X-Men villain, Juggernaut is giant, super strong and difficult to stop. He was previously portrayed by Vinnie Jones in the poorly-received X-Men: The Last Stand (Ratner, 2006), but the filmmakers wanted to do the character more justice. In Deadpool 2, he's fully digital and voiced by Reynolds. Juggernaut crashes the convoy, destroying a bridge in the process. Domino lands safely on a giant inflatable bear, while Wade awakens with his head backwards in the most Looney Tunes-esque bit yet.

Russell, having felt rejected by Wade in the Ice Box, refuses Wade's partnership in favour of Juggernaut. Wade is incredibly excited to meet Juggernaut, praising him and even citing his comic book appearances right up until Juggernaut rips him in half. Even this is played for laughs: "What's Juggernaut have that I don't have? And don't say legs!" Russell flips off Wade and leaves. Domino uses Wade's arms as straps to carry his upper half away like a backpack, and Wade officially ends the whole sequence by whispering "X-Force!" The fake X-Force and convoy sequences are perfect.

Wade returns to Blind Al's apartment to regrow his legs, which now look like toddler legs on a grown man's body. Cable appears, calling for a truce. He explains that Russell is preparing to commit his first murder. Once he does, he continues to murder, eventually killing Cable's family. Cable travelled to this time to kill Russell before he becomes a murderer, then he will use his last time-travel charge to return home. Cable relates to Wade over wanting to save their family and, suddenly, he's no longer the villain. In fact, Deadpool 2 has no real villain, simply antagonists. The overarching villain, in fact, is future Russell and the goal is now to prevent that person from ever existing. Wade believes that Russell can be reasoned with, so he agrees to join forces as long as he gets a moment to talk before Cable murders Russell. Wade toddles over to Cable to seal their partnership with a handshake.

For the rest of the film, the filmmakers are able to explore the odd couple, buddy cop dynamic between the two characters, inspired by the Nick Notle/Eddie Murphy dynamic in 48 Hrs (Hill, 1982). Cable is no-nonsense and dark enough that Wade thinks he's from the DC Universe. Wade, meanwhile, is incredibly annoying and takes nothing seriously. When Cable says that this generation "fucked this planet into a coma", Wade just snorts and says "Ha, planets."

There's a very funny running joke in the film that revolves around Black Tom Casidy (Jack Kesy), a white Irish inmate of the Ice Box that beats up Wade. First, Wade accuses Black Tom of cultural appropriation by having "black" in his name. Later, Wade remembers him as being African American. In the convoy fight, when Cable accidentally shoots Black Tom, Wade accuses him of racism. When they call a truce, Wade chastises Cable for killing Tom, who was "like a brother" to Wade. Then, as they ride in Dopinder's cab to the climax, Wade accuses Cable of being racist towards Dopinder. This is an example of how Wade endlessly, hilariously needles Cable.

Wade, Cable, and Domino go to the orphanage, where Russell plans to kill the Headmaster who abused him. The heroes try to fight past Juggernaut, but Wade ends up with a fence rod through his head. Colossus arrives to help, taking on Juggernaut, while Wade and Cable fight through armed orderlies and Domino saves the orphan children from the now-burning building. Wade asks to borrow a gun from Cable, who refuses. Wade shrugs and says he will just use a brick off the ground.

Composer Tyler Bates has fun with the score during this section, parodying the standard climactic superhero score with choral singers chanting "Ho-ly shit-balls" or "you can't stop this mother fucker!" As a result, the Deadpool 2 score is the first film score to be released with a parental advisory. Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio arrive to help Colossus defeat Juggernaut, and Wade takes an opportunity to talk to Russell. Russell wavers but blasts Wade with fire. Wade then tries his last resort: a power-negating collar. He puts it on, ensuring Russell would kill him in another attack. Cable is fed up and shoots Russell. Wade jumps in front of the bullet, sacrificing his life to save Russell.

Wade's heart was finally in the right place, and this gets through to Russell. Wade refuses to take off the collar, wanting to finally die to be with Vanessa. This doesn't stop him from having a hilariously extended death scene. First he hopes "they got that in slow motion." (They did) He then sees that the teddy bear Cable carries, stained with his daughter's blood, is now clean, meaning Cable's family is safe. Wade keeps seeming to die, he feels "the soul exiting the husk", but then keeps on talking.

In a joke I doubt many registered, the score over the death is "Don't Be What They Made You", the track by Marco Beltrami that scored Wolverine's death in Logan. They used Logan's music and tried to one-up its death scene. Finally, after tricking Colossus into saying "fuck" just once and urging Cable to stop being racist, Wade dies. In the afterlife, he finally gets to join Vanessa and his scars are healed. But Vanessa tells him that it's not his time, that he must return to the family he has made.

Cable uses his last time-travel trip to put Wade's skee ball token in the way of the bullet before the climax. The film then fast-forwards like an old VHS tape through the action. Wade takes the bullet, but doesn't die. Russell still reforms, Cable's family is still saved, but now Cable is stuck in this time. Wade refuses to kill the Headmaster of the orphanage, but only because he hears Dopinder's cab about to crash into him. And then, Wade strolls off with Cable, Domino, Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Yukio, and Russell, his new "family" to the strains of Pat Benetar's "We Belong".

Normally I save discussion of credit scenes for the end of the article, but the Deadpool 2 credits are essential to the plot. Negasonic fixes Cable's time-travel device and gives it to Wade, immediately regretting her decision. As Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" plays, Wade has some fun. First, and most importantly, Wade saves Vanessa. The filmmakers have said that Vanessa is actually alive again, negating the fridging but somehow not the events of the film. Whatever, it's Deadpool. Wade then saves Peter's life, ordering him to leave after he safely lands his parachute. It's telling that he doesn't save any other X-Force members.

And then things get meta. Using recovered footage and alternate takes, the filmmakers insert Wade into a scene between Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and proto-Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This allows Wade to repeatedly shoot the other Deadpool to "clean up the timeline". Finally, Wade shoots Ryan Reynolds in the head after Reynolds reads the script to Green Lantern (Campbell, 2011), hopefully preventing that dreadful film from being made. Wade says "You're welcome, Canada," and Deadpool 2 ends.

Deadpool 2 is a fun, hilarious, action-packed superhero film, much like the first film. It's filled with inventive gags (both action and comedy), lots of pointed pop culture references, and plenty of parodies of superhero film trends. Like the first film, it's also underscored by a weighty dramatic character arc for Wade. Unfortunately, that arc is incited by a tired comic book trope and results in a disappointingly downbeat first half. The second half more than makes up for it, though, livened by incredible sequences and the excellent additions of Brolin and Beetz. The film is uneven, but ultimately worthwhile.

After its initial release, two more versions of Deadpool 2 were released. The Super Duper Cut debuted at San Diego Comic Con in July 2018 and was later released on video. It features 14 extra minutes, much of which are extra or alternate jokes, gore, and action beats. The most substantial additions are in the first half, with more scenes of Wade attempting suicide, Wade trying to fit in with the X-Men and Russell at the orphanage. But expanding the first half doesn't benefit the film. In the second half, there are different songs in the climax.

The most notable addition is Wade attempting to kill baby Hitler in the credits. Ultimately he can't go through with killing a baby, but plans to ask Cable to do it. When the release of Alita: Battle Angel (Rodriguez, 2019) was delayed several months, Fox replaced it in December 2018 with a limited run of Once Upon a Deadpool (Leitch, 2018). This is a heavily-edited PG-13 version of Deadpool 2 framed by additional scenes of Wade telling the story to a kidnapped Fred Savage in a recreation of his character's bedroom in from The Princess Bride (Reiner, 1987). It was in theatres for 13 days, and $1 of every ticket sale went to the charity Fuck Cancer, which was renamed "Fudge Cancer" for that time period. The release was successful, adding $50 million to Deadpool 2's worldwide gross.

That gross was already substantial. Deadpool 2 overtook Deadpool to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time and the highest-grossing X-Men film. The filmmakers immediately planned follow-up films. They announced many characters, including Deadpool, would return for a legitimate X-Force team film. This would be followed by a smaller-scale third Deadpool film, much like Iron Man 3 (Black, 2013) followed The Avengers (Whedon, 2012). Having signed a four-film deal, Josh Brolin expressed hope for a Cable solo film. However, all of these plans were officially cancelled with the Disney-Fox merger in March 2019.

The merger had many wide-ranging impacts, from the hundreds to thousands of laid off employees (numbers vary depending on the source), antitrust concerns, and the loss of a major Hollywood studio shrinking the creative market. All of the Fox-owned Marvel properties, such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, came under the Marvel Studios umbrella, but Marvel hasn't announced any plans for them.

In terms of Deadpool, I believe the series will continue. The films were both major hits, and Ryan Reynolds is game. Furthermore, Deadpool may be the only character capable of crossing over into the MCU seamlessly, with his constant meta-commentary allowing him to call attention to it. In December 2019, Reynolds confirmed that Marvel Studios was developing a Deadpool sequel. A lot of Fox properties are up in the air, but I believe Deadpool will be just fine.


***

Stan Lee Cameo Corner: Besides a mural in the convoy scene, no Stan in this film. That is 33 cameos in 49 films.

Credits Scene(s): See above

First Appearances:

• Several characters introduced in Deadpool 2 were likely to return in future films, but right now everything is very much in flux. Hopefully we will see Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison and Rob Delaney again.

Next Time: Ant-Man returns, and he brings the Wasp with him.



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