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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Deadpool 2 movie review: kryptonite for superheroes

Deadpool 2 red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
This is the death of the comic-book movie. Or it should be. The savage, inhumane nihilism here says, Yup, comics haters are right: this is dangerous nonsense with no morality or redeeming qualities.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): hated the first movie
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

There were cheers and delighted snorts as the adult-rating warning came up in the multiplex at my UK public screening of Deadpool 2. Heads-up! This movie contains “strong bloody violence, sex references, very strong language”; the US rating also notes the appearance in the film of “brief drug material.” Hooray, apparently, for some people.

“I can’t believe this smug asshole gets a second movie and so many awesome female characters can’t even get one. I don’t even mean us! Fuck this shit.” Shioli Kutsuna as Yukio and Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic

“I can’t believe this smug asshole gets a second movie and so many awesome female characters can’t even get one. I don’t even mean us! Fuck this shit.”

I didn’t laugh. I was sad. Imagine a truly adult comic-book movie, one that tells an actually sophisticated, complex story about a confusing and often contradictory world in which the good guys don’t always win, and tells it in a grownup way that is genuinely suitable only for those beyond adolescence because kids simply wouldn’t comprehend it. Or is this even imaginable? I’m not sure we have seen, or will ever seen, a movie like that. I don’t know that anyone would know what to make of it.

Instead we have Deadpool 2, which is like 2016’s Deadpool — quoting myself here: “Callous, crass, unpleasantly smug. Supposes it’s being edgy because its protagonist swears a lot, but it’s like a child saying bad words just to be naughty.” — only worse. The juvenile attempt to be shocking by swearing this time is joined by the cinematic equivalent of the juvenile attempt to be bold by breaking one’s toys.

Imagine a truly adult comic-book movie. Or is this even imaginable? I don’t know that anyone would know what to make of it.
tweet

Deadpool 2 is the death of the comic-book movie. Or it should be. Fans have fought for years for respect for the pulp stories of caped and/or mutant crime fighters. Comic books have come a long way from the postwar panic over whether they were turning kids into juvenile delinquents, and comic-book movies have come a long way in a very short time from when they were dismissed as power fantasies for nerds. DP2 says, Nah, those haters were right. And then goes on to prove it. Even more so than in the first film, psychotic antihero Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds: The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Woman in Gold), who knows he is a character in a comic-book movie, trashes other comic-book characters and other comic-book movies, dismisses what plenty of fans have found meaningful in comics stories, and embraces a savage, inhumane nihilism. So “fuck Wolverine,” the X-Men (the universe in which DP exists) are nothing but “a dated metaphor for racism in the 60s,” and hey, let’s crack a joke about child rape while causing so much urban carnage that likely hundreds of innocent bystanders, at least, are injured or killed. Indeed, comic books and comic-book movies are dangerous nonsense with no morality or redeeming qualities.

“I can’t believe I have to play sidekick to this jerk. My backstory is actually really cool, and he never even asks about it.” Zazie Beetz as Domino

“I can’t believe I have to play sidekick to this jerk. My backstory is actually really cool, and he never even asks about it.”

If there is one overriding message in Deadpool 2, one life-lesson takeaway, it is this: “Killing is fine and dandy, and a whole lotta fun… as long as you don’t enjoy it too much.” The movie seems to have forgotten that having fun by offing people is pretty much Deadpool’s reason for existence. Or maybe that’s a joke! Everything’s a joke here. Except when it isn’t. I don’t know how we’re supposed to take seriously the occasional lashings of sappy sentiment that get vomited up in between the bloodbaths and the random, incoherent pop-culture references, because the movie is constantly reminding us that it’s just a movie and nothing is real and nothing matters. But CHILDREN ARE SACRED AND MUST BE PROTECTED, which is what DP is doing this time with abused teen mutant Russell (Julian Dennison), whom Terminator-esque time-traveling cyborg soldier Cable (Josh Brolin: Avengers: Infinity War, Only the Brave) has come to kill. And my god, DEAD WOMEN SURE DO MOTIVATE MEN TO GET OFF THEIR ASSES. So many dead women here motivating men, and that’s no joke.

Funny, which comic-book clichés Deadpool 2, wants to make fun of, and which ones it will brook no laughter at.


see also:
Deadpool movie review: origin story with a potty mouth


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.


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Deadpool 2 (2018) | directed by David Leitch
US/Can release: May 18 2018
UK/Ire release: May 15 2018

MPAA: rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material
BBFC: rated 15 (strong bloody violence, sex references, very strong language)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Danielm80

    Imagine a truly adult comic-book movie, one that tells an actually sophisticated, complex story about a confusing and often contradictory world in which the good guys don’t always win, and tells it in a grownup way that is genuinely suitable only for those beyond adolescence because kids simply wouldn’t comprehend it. Or is this even imaginable? I’m not sure we have seen, or will ever seen, a movie like that. I don’t know that anyone would know what to make of it.

    https://www.flickfilosopher.com/2011/03/trailer-break-super.html

  • My tolerance for bullshit is going to be VERY LOW here. Tread carefully.

  • Levin

    Shut up, mom.

  • Daniel

    If you’re looking for a more story-driven, mature superhero story, I recommend the webserial Worm.

  • Bluejay

    Imagine a truly adult comic-book movie, one that tells an actually sophisticated, complex story about a confusing and often contradictory world in which the good guys don’t always win… I’m not sure we have seen, or will ever seen, a movie like that. I don’t know that anyone would know what to make of it.

    You had good things to say about Road to Perdition, which you actually do call “the first truly grown-up comic book movie.” :-)

    You’ve also praised A History of Violence and Snowpiercer for their handling of some hefty adult themes.

    As for superhero comic book movies, you’ve had good things to say about the Captain America and Christopher Nolan Batman films and how they weren’t afraid to tackle complex real-world issues.

    A terrible entry in a genre shouldn’t be an indictment of the genre as a whole. But it’s impressive that Deadpool 2 was apparently terrible enough to make you momentarily forget that. :-)

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    X-Men are “a dated metaphor for racism in the 60s.” Someone in the film says this? Because life’s so much better since we abolished racism, isn’t it? Makes all those strained allegories seem so unnecessary now we’re in a colour-blind utopia. Wow. This movie can never stop fucking off. Alright, I haven’t seen it, but I’m playing the odds of having seen and absolutely, violently detested the first one. This is cinema’s way of saying ‘Do Not Touch’. As far as more adult comic book superhero movies, I’ll defend Man of Steel and Logan to the end. Unlike this, where “it’s just a movie and nothing is real and nothing matters”, those movies are sincere. Sincerity wins over smug arrogant cynicism every time.

  • Charan

    “Imagine a truly adult comic-book movie, one that tells an actually sophisticated, complex story about a confusing and often contradictory world in which the good guys don’t always win, and tells it in a grownup way that is genuinely suitable only for those beyond adolescence because kids simply wouldn’t comprehend it. Or is this even imaginable? I’m not sure we have seen, or will ever seen, a movie like that. I don’t know that anyone would know what to make of it.”

    …Not a movie, but that’s how I feel about FX’s Legion. Also about a sort-of X-Man. And at times Deadpool’s unhinged verbal moments reminded me of David Haller’s, the titular character. Apologies if you’ve seen Legion and I’m just telling you what you already know. But yeah, I think Legion and a few other comic book inspired tv series do precisely what you’re describing, because they have both the time and perhaps ironically the budgetary constraints to *want* to do that…but movies? I’m not convinced that’s what most people want from our big screen escapism. Mostly we want big set pieces and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and bad guys with paper-thin motivations acted well by proven thespians happy to take home a fatass paycheque…

    I enjoyed both Deadpool movies and deeply enjoyed Cable & Deadpool in print way back when, but if you’re not on-board with what they’re doing, it’s dead(pool) on arrival I’m afraid. In Deadpool 2, there are jabs at Rob Liefeld that no one who hasn’t read an X-Men comic will get, for example. He’s the one who designed both Cable and Deadpool…and he notoriously cannot draw feet. And he draws way too many pouches, hence the fanny pack/shoulder strap gag. That’s how ridiculously targeted Deadpool 2 is. It hits where it aims, and I admire that it gives zero shits about who is there waiting. I’m still somewhat shell-shocked we’ve reached a point where Deadpool is not only a movie series, it’s a financially successful one. That’s nuts. But I guess all that inflated gravitas and ‘fate of the universe’ stuff, now so mainstream, was just waiting for Deadpool’s almost calculated pin prick, which is exactly what comic-form Wade Wilson did before he was allowed to swear, dismember people, or openly mock DC.

    And, now I’ve had that rant and time to think about it, aren’t you also sort of describing Logan (which Deadpool 2 references, repeatedly)? I think a kid would find that movie pretty slow if not necessarily incomprehensible.

    I respect the points you raised in your review if not necessarily the absolute ‘zero’. Zero. Really? Harsh. That certainly puts this movie in some terrible company, and possibly puts some inferior films above it. I won’t scour your review history but I’m willing to bet there are 1s and 2s in there that are probably worse than Deadpool 2 as far as basic movie-making skills and craftsmanship are concerned.

    I hope I have not breached your bullshit tolerance limit here. :)

  • Jack Thompson

    It’s a bad film. Beyond the subject matter which you’ve touched on, the story is just weak, and the cinematography is murky. And as for the so called humor, I didn’t laugh once. By the mid point of this endurance test, I just kept shaking my head while thinking about what Hans Gruber said at the end of Die Hard.. “Enough jokes.”

  • Laura

    Not every movie has to be Oscar material. It’s ok to just enjoy a movie without using it to guide your moral principles. It’s an adult movie—if an adult internalizes everything the protagonist does and treats his limits as gospel, the movie is hardly the problem. Notice that I said protagonist and not hero—Deadpool is an ANTI-HERO. If you could let yourself appreciate the absurdity and hilarity of the movie you might be able to really enjoy it. Otherwise, you might as well dismiss the entire genre of Superhero films. And Action. And Comedy. This doesn’t just go for the author, but everyone complaining in the comments section about the cynicism or how they didn’t take anything seriously. It’s not an aspect of the movie, it’s the whole setup. Nothing is untouchable, and nothing should be taken at face value. It’s a MOVIE.

  • Why can’t we get that at the movies?

  • Someone in the film says this?

    Deadpool says it.

  • Not every movie has to be Oscar material.

    You’ll have to point out where I have ever suggested that I think this is the case.

    It’s an adult movie

    This is where we disagree.

    If you could let yourself appreciate the absurdity and hilarity of the movie you might be able to really enjoy it.

    You are presupposing that this movie is objectively hilarious.

    Otherwise, you might as well dismiss the entire genre of Superhero films. And Action. And Comedy.

    Have you read any of my other reviews of action movies, comedies, and superhero movies?

    I dunno, maybe you have the superpower of finding every movie intended as a comedy to be funny. That must be very relaxing for you. I do not have that superpower.

  • Laura

    I think, ultimately, we just have different tastes in what is funny. To me, it just seemed that you were writing off the movie based on the overall tone and premise, which is kind of the whole point.It takes place in a universe where nothing should be taken seriously. If you just didn’t find it funny, then that’s just your opinion and neither me nor anyone else can really hold your sense of humor against you. When I said it was an adult movie, I was mainly talking about the R Rating—I think adults should be capable of deciding their morale principles on their own. As for the Oscar material comment, it was pretty much just my way of saying that I think some people take movies meant to be ridiculous a bit too seriously. I regret to say I haven’t read any other reviews of yours yet. You seem very intelligent and like you work hard at your job, however, so I can’t really fault you for just not finding it funny, if that was your issue. :)

  • Laura

    Basically, I just don’t think it’s fair to take issue with the morale of a movie for adults. Anyone legally watching it should know the difference between right and wrong without the help of our anti-hero. That absolutely applies to movies for kids, but anyone watching this movie has the responsibility of deciding for themselves whether the main character’s actions are ethically acceptable (obviously, many of them aren’t).

  • Bluejay

    We *do*! See, again, your own reviews of the Captain America films, the Nolan Batman films, Man of Steel, Logan, etc — even as recent as Black Panther. Boy, this film must be really shitty to make you forget all the good ones.

  • We expect different things from movies.

  • I just don’t think it’s fair to take issue with the morale of a movie for adults.

    Why not?

    it just seemed that you were writing off the movie based on the overall tone and premise, which is kind of the whole point

    Yes, that’s exactly what I was doing! Are you suggesting that a critic should not criticize “the whole point” of a piece of art or entertainment?

  • I specifically mentioned superhero movies genuinely suited ONLY to adults. I’m not sure even *Logan* qualifies as that.

  • Bluejay

    Well, yikes! If even Logan doesn’t qualify, that’s a pretty high bar. I’m not sure that a genre with superpowered fights built into its DNA will ever be entirely inaccessible to adolescents.

    I’m also not sure there are many NON-superhero movies that are comprehensible ONLY to adults. I think many adolescents are able to grasp the themes and events in adult dramas, even if those films may resonate more with older audiences. I was a fan of the Godfather films at 16 (unless you want to argue that those aren’t grownup films). :-)

    I do think it’s depressing that many films THINK they’re being “grownup” just by having raunchy sex, grossout humor, and swear words. That’s a juvenile fantasy of maturity rather than maturity itself. There’s a movie coming out, The Happytime Murders, that seems to want to be a “Muppet movie for grownups”; but I’m one grownup, at least, that doesn’t really want to see an extended Muppet ejaculation scene.

  • Johnathan Henning

    Was WATCHMEN a sort of superhero drama for adults in a similar way that GAME OF THRONES is a fantasy tale for adults? To me, DEADPOOL could never be that and, in fact, it doesn’t work when it tries. Rather, the only difference between Deadpool and a PG-13 movie is that Deadpool satirizes the ratings system without really subverting the subtext behind it. In the PG-13 superhero movies, the heroes and heroines show off their sexy bodies, but there is no element of sex in the movies OR it would get an R-rating. There is incredible violence in the movies – brutal fights and mass destruction – but no blood or carnage because that would get an R-rating. Deadpool doesn’t have an R-rating because of disturbing dramatic content or that it’s trying to be profound. Instead, it simply is a lot more honest about what the superhero and similar PG-13 movies are selling. Not heroics, but simply aggression.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I wouldn’t call Watchmen, either the book or the movie, “adult”. It’s post-adolescent, to be sure, but that’s not the same thing. The mere presence of bared breasts, the word “fuck”, graphic violence, and ejaculation metaphors does not in and of itself invite or challenge an emotionally and intellectually mature audience. Both Moore and Snyder certainly knew this.

  • Johnathan Henning

    Yeah, I have to agree that superheroes – including things like Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers and even Game of Thrones – would never really be a good fit for adult or sophisticated cinema. It would be like expecting Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark to be more like Lawrence of Arabia.
    Instead, why don’t we simply have movies like Lawrence of Arabia anymore?

  • Bluejay

    Why should we expect genres created to titillate or thrill to then deliver sophisticated stories that they really never have?

    While I’m all for having more intelligent and sophisticated stories, I also think we should be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that only certain kinds of “adult” movies can have those qualities, or that entire genres, by definition, can’t. (It reminds me of the rather narrow-minded argument that classical music is automatically more sophisticated than all other musical genres.)

    MaryAnn has negatively reviewed plenty of films that think they’re “adult” and smart and sophisticated, but turn out to be full of pretentious blather and lazy unchallenged attitudes. (See Tree of Life and The Great Beauty for prime examples.) And stories meant for kids or general audiences can effectively and powerfully explore sophisticated themes (the Harry Potter books and films alone have so much to say about childhood, friendship, abuse, self-definition, politics, fanaticism, etc, that they’ve spawned their own industry of dissertations and think-pieces).

    Action, adventure, and “thrills” aren’t incompatible with a smart, sophisticated story.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I think we do. I haven’t seen it, but I’m given that Dunkirk just last year is a film in the vein of Lawrence.

  • Johnathan Henning

    There are some differences in approach, but it is in the vein as you say. Dunkirk is like Lawrence of Arabia in the same way that Interstellar is “like” 2001. Not really at all alike, but in the same mold in some ways.
    Harry Potter is a good example. However, the first two Harry Potter movies were good movies, BUT they were very different and much less sophisticated that the rest – same for the books.
    Deadpool has a very specific identity in the comics that never, ever promises sophistication or deep themes. The movies are actually much deeper than any other version of Deadpool anywhere. The films deliver exactly what they promise to deliver, so where is the benefit judging them against an imaginary, never before seen ideal “mature” superhero film? Why in the world would anyone go to see this movie if that’s what they want? There is nothing to suggest that you should or that the film even wants you to see it if that’s what you’re looking for.

  • Matt Clayton

    I do agree with large chunks of this review. Domino is just there to look sexy and kick ass, she could’ve been removed from the film without changing the story at all. Ditto for Negasonic and her girlfriend. Deadpool is just as annoying, crass, and one-dimensional as he was in the first film. He’s a one-note joke, and I don’t get why people love him.

    However, the jabs at “X-Men Origins” and “Green Lantern” had me in stitches. It’s a shame I had to sit through everything else before that.

  • Laura

    Like I said before, I think adults should be responsible for their own morale. The main character shouldn’t have to be exemplary in an adult movie.

  • Laura

    Sure you can, but what were your expectations of the movie if you disliked the most fundamental part of it? (I know that’s kind of an unfair question, you’re a movie critic and it’s your job.)The only way you would have liked it is if everything that made that movie that movie were changed. The fourth-wall breaking, the raunchy and silly comedy, the violence and gore, and the profanity are all part of the DNA of the movie and the character, not just embellishments.

  • You are arguing against things I have never said.

  • And none of those things are problems in themselves. I have positively reviewed movies that break the fourth wall, are raunchy and silly, are violent and gory, and are profane.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You’ve used the word twice, but do you mean “morale” as in ‘enthusiasm”? Or did you mean morals or morality?

  • I assumed she meant “morals”/”morality.” That’s what the context suggests.

  • Agnis Nero

    Dismissing a movie based on morality and redeeming qualities implies that you’re not even endeavoring to employ pseudo-objectivity as a smoke-screen. It’s just terrible criticism.

  • Hayden Silbermann

    That wasn’t what they were saying though? They were saying X-Men’s metaphor on racism is dated and kinda problematic now (which it is) because we know a lot more about racism than we didn’t in the 60s.

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    Since I haven’t seen it and likely won’t see it, I can’t make any informed comments about this aspect. I’m going on how much I hated the first movie. This type of humour just isn’t for me.

  • you’re not even endeavoring to employ pseudo-objectivity as a smoke-screen

    Bingo! I have NEVER endeavored to employ pseudo-objectivity as a smoke-screen.

    The morality of the film and its protagonist are hardly the entirety of why I dismiss this movie, but wow, nothing gets by you, does it? Congratulations!

  • But do you think that dated and problematic racism applies to the movies of recent years? Because those movies are what Deadpool is referring to.

  • Hayden Silbermann

    I thought they were mostly referring to the original intent of the comics. But either way, as much as I love X-Men, a lot of it does not hold up to modest scrutiny and the modern movies, while somewhat updated aren’t bereft of issues.

  • Danielm80

    I think you’ve got a new tag line for the site.

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