Deadpool 2, or, Good Lord I Get It He Has a Heart of Gold

deadpool2

But also emotions and feelings and stuff.

To the uninitiated, dwindling though they may be, Deadpool can be a lot to take in. The goofiness. The violence. The utter disregard for the fourth wall. He’s not exactly Batman or Iron Man, and he’s so much more than a brief synopsis of his power set can communicate. The original Deadpool film knew that, both financially and narratively, and thus hedged its bets accordingly. The scope of the first film was relatively small, smartly comprised of largely a single action sequence cut up by flashbacks, and the story, for all its protagonist’s quirks, was very conventional superhero origin stock.

Deadpool eased audiences at large into the world of Wade Wilson, carefully guiding them through his transition from a charming, sassy Ryan Reynolds-type to a Looney Toon burn victim assassin. As such, it leaned on some achingly familiar tropes, presumably in an effort to make the unfamiliar a little more palatable. But that was 2016. Now, Deadpool is pretty much familiar to everyone and their grandmother. He’s Deadpool! That lovable, R-rated hybrid of Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote who violently slashes and shoots his way through the world.

But Deadpool 2 still seems overly concerned with nerfing its hero, insisting on reminding us over and over again that the Merc with a Mouth is also a hero with a heart. For all the sass Deadpool slings in his all-out war on marketing, a disproportionate amount of his second movie is concerned with pathos and soul-searching and melodrama that feel like they’re present more to check a box than to elicit any real emotion from the audience. To be blunt, there’s a lot here that comes off as filler.

Now that Deadpool is a cinematic establishment unto himself I expected Deadpool 2 to offer audiences a less-traditional film for its less traditional-hero. Ryan Reynolds is still an absolute embodiment of the character and this movie is hilarious and fun, but its insistence on unnecessarily reminding the viewer that Wade Wilson is more than sass and headshots over and over again holds it back.

When it comes to Wade Wilson’s secret heart of gold, less it most definitely more.

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Space Jam 2, or, Deadpool!

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My relationship with Deadpool is a tad amorphous as while I enjoy the character quite a bit I’ve never actually encountered anything featuring the character that I’ve liked. While I certainly haven’t rabidly pursued every last scrap of the Deadpool mythos I’ve been burned enough by the Merc with a Mouth’s misadventures to be a little weary of each successive one I embark on.

Luckily I now have an absolute go-to when I need my Deadpool fix, as director Tim Miller’s new film (written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick) does such an awesome job with the namesake character that it helped me understand why I like Deadpool in the first place.

Deadpool is a cartoon character running around in the “real” world. Space Jam style. He addresses the audience, he gets blown up and chopped to bits and lit on fire and he frequently exhibits a perplexingly acrobatic mastery over gravity. Deadpool occupies a space somewhere on a spectrum between Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote. I suspect fans wouldn’t think twice if he started stamping his foot and howling at a beautiful woman, was lifted off of his feet by the smell of a pie in the window or turned to camera and said “ain’t I a stinker?” The Deadpool film does a fantastic job of bringing the cartoonish smart-ass to life in his full Looney Toon glory and dropping him smack dab in the middle of an R-rated shoot ’em up.

But Miller’s film has a careful balancing act it has to perform, being both a superhero origin story and a Deadpool movie – a harder mash-up than one might think.

I’m sure somewhere out there Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote have origin stories, but do any of us really want to know them? When Bugs Bunny is in the process of tricking Daffy Duck into blowing his brains out all over the forest the last thing you’re interested in is a flashback to why a bunny is named “Bugs.” Similarly, while watching Deadpool massacre a bunch of nameless, faceless minions I don’t really want to halt the proceedings to find out why he’s called Deadpool.

That isn’t to say that the movie isn’t great. Ryan Reynolds turns in a pitch perfect performance as the titular hero and the action and humor are top notch but the flashbacks to how Wade Wilson became Deadpool felt like homework I had to do before I could go play outside with swords and pistols and the F-word.

Still, Tim Miller has made a film that is unequivocally Deadpool and should both please long-time fans and ingratiate itself with newcomers who have no idea just how obnoxious a superhero can be.

Boy Deadpool Sure is Dumb 2, or, Why I Stopped Reading Deadpool

There’s an episode of the television show Boston Legal wherein two new, attractive lawyers join the cast. They show up at the firm for work and a befuddled Denny Crane, played by the incomparable William Shatner, insists that they can’t be new at the firm or they would have been introduced in the season premiere.

It’s called breaking the fourth wall and it’s awesome: an action on the part of a character that implies or outright insists said character is aware that they are a character within a work of fiction.

It's funny cause it's meta.

It’s funny cause it’s meta.

It’s also something of a superpower for Wade Wilson, the mutant mercenary known as Deadpool, in the Marvel Comics Universe. His extreme self-awareness, coupled with a Wolverine-esque healing factor, make Deadpool a character full of potential for a fun, thoughtful comic book. That potential has only grown alongside Deadpool’s saturating popularity over the years.

Naturally, a hugely popular comic book character that’s fully aware of their status as a hugely popular comic book character put into the hands of a stand-up comedian would seem like a successful equation. I know I assumed as much.

I’m retreading some old ground with this piece. The last time I wrote about the current Deadpool title I commented that it was either the dumbest comic book on shelves or the smartest. Well I’ve made up my mind.

The cover of Deadpool #1 saw the Merc with a Mouth going at a grossly anatomically inaccurate dinosaur (or a highly anatomically inaccurate non-dinosaur lizard monster) with guns blazing. Awesome.

The synopsis promised bouts between Deadpool and zombified Presidents of the United States of America (not the band). Awesome.

The comic was co-written by a hilarious comic – Brian Posehn. Awesome.

Were you paying attention? That was three awesome things. Three. Only none of them turned out to be actually awesome. They just turned out to be three things.

First and most egregiously, the dinosaur/non-dinosaur only lasted like two pages. And it didn’t even lay eggs in Madison Squad Garden or nothing.

Goodbye dinosaur buddy.

Goodbye dinosaur buddy.

The zombie presidents? Well they were summoned by a kooky sorcerer in a kilt who believes the great men of America’s past are the only thing that can keep it from a terrible future – which is actually a compelling enough jumping off point for a comic book, only the narrative does less jumping and more tripping.

Every new cover promised awesome new possibilities in the form of awesome new presidential zombies, be it a shotgun-toting Teddy Roosevelt amongst throngs of game animals or Abraham Lincoln in a Vegas boxing match or Richard Nixon. Every month brought with it so much potential and every month came up short.

Which leads to cowriters Brian Posehn and Gerard Duggan.

Deadpool is a funny guy, largely because he’s an unbearable smartass. But in the wrong hands an unbearable smartass is just an unbearable smartass – and unbearably so.

Duggan and Posehn’s Deadpool lives up to his title of the Merc with a Mouth, only nothing that comes out of it is particularly worth reading. For a character that has the ability to directly communicate with the reader and all the possibilities that come with that ability most of the dialogue Deadpool spews reads like the results of a caption contest. There are a lot of jokes in these books, but few if any are memorable.

I had nearly quit reading Deadpool when the dead president arc wrapped up. But then I saw that the next issue was a throwback tie-in to the decades old classic Iron Man story Demon in a Bottle and I couldn’t resist. It was actually pretty awesome. The art was old school and the gimmick was well worth the price of a single issue. It kept me going through the next issue.

Unfortunately the next issue didn’t do it for me.

But then I saw the issue after that had a giant godamn shark on the cover. So I got it. And low and behold there were indeed sharks inside. My interest was restored. And with the next issue uniting Deadpool with the new Superior Spiderman I was ready to rock.

POTENTIAL

POTENTIAL

But Deadpool wasn’t and his team up with Superior Spiderman was damn near all the smartassery I could handle.

Then I forgot to cancel my subscription.

The last issue of Deadpool I read saw Wade Wilson (sort of) run across Luke Cage, Black Widow and Daredevil. And only two of them were the product of a shape-shifter. It was a preposterous amount of shoe-horning for a single issue and yet the quality didn’t suffer in the slightest, because the bar was pretty much on the floor already.

Deadpool knows he’s in a comic book. At any moment he could literally stop everything, sit down, and have a one-sided conversation with the reader about the season finale of Game of Thrones. He could examine the very medium he occupies from the inside out. He could call into question the very seams of fiction and reality.

In Deadpool #11, the last issue I read, Deadpool is cooking for the family of the sassy black lady whose soul is residing in his body and tells them “I can make a pretty good salad, but that’s it. You can call me Wolfgang Suck.”

I don’t read Deadpool anymore.