By Shreehari H
Family was always an F-word to him.
The first time we see Deadpool, he is puffing away at a cigarette with his mask half-up. It’s just a catnap on 1200 gallons of high test fuel, he tells us nonchalantly. In his hand lies a tiny rotating clockwork toy of a grimacing Hugh Jackman (“Fuck Wolverine”, our pockmarked, scar-faced anti-hero interjects) with a tree branch jutting out straight through his heart—a visual that might conjure up disturbing memories for those of us who watched the terrific Logan earlier last year.
In Deadpool’s world, however, this is but yet another moment of levity, a self-referential, meta gimmick in a film franchise whose greatest superpower has always been its subversiveness.
Deadpool 2 is a film that revels in breaking the fourth wall—heck, smashing it—to bits. “When was the last time you saw a plus-sized hero? The industry discriminates,” the portly young Russell (played by a terrific Julian Dennison) grumbles. A highly stylish opening sequence tells us that the film was directed by “wait a minute”, stars “obviously someone who hates sharing the spotlight”, and was produced by…well, I would tell you, but that would be a huge spoiler in itself.
Director David Leitch keeps the humour relentless, even if not all jokes land in this quip-a-minute fun fest, and one clever pop-culture reference follows another. “There was Passion of the Christ, then me…at least domestically,” Deadpool says about his own box-office record, and there are allusions to Sorting Hats, Counter Strike, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the five stages of the Kubler-Ross model, Brown Panthers, chimichangas, and even the great David Bowie himself. An “annoying clown dressed up as a sex toy,” he looks like an avocado and is a bit of a jabbering bonehead himself, the kind of superhero who refers to his own grandmother as Matthew McConaughey, and wouldn’t mind a premature death if the Academy was watching it in slow motion.
In the end, it all comes down to woodpeckers, gingivitis and codswallop.
Ryan Reynolds is a hoot in his reprisal of the titular role, and it is to his credit that none of this comes across as being farcical. He doesn’t hesitate to refer to himself as Batman—this in the midst of strangulating an enemy—and puts the ego in alter ego. Let’s just say he is the hero we deserve.
The lovely, doe-eyed Morena Baccarin steals a couple of pivotal scenes earlier in the film as Vanessa when an unexpectedly tender moment takes centrestage. “Bricks for brains” is the phrase she chooses to describe her paramour (even as Take on Me, from La La Land of all films, plays in the background), while he thinks that she is a lot smarter than she looks. The couple share a scorching, smouldering chemistry, and it is this romantic beat that a sequel with (slightly) higher emotional stakes chooses to centre itself on, lock, stock and barrel.
If there’s one thing Deadpool 2 shows us, it’s that profanity and profundity need not always be mutually exclusive. The film gleefully acknowledges how unrestrained, racist and shallow it is, and it is this nimble-footed self-awareness that is so refreshing about it. A smashing end credits scene, especially, is one for the ages, as is one that involves an invisible hero (and a most surprising cameo).
Deadpool 2 is a film that trades in severed heads and severed limbs. It is an acquired taste, occasionally feeling like it is treading familiar ground, or trying just a little too hard, and yet it always remains irrelevant, irreverent fun. “You’re so dark. Are you sure you are not from the DC universe?,” our young whippersnapper asks, tongue firmly in cheek, even while getting stabbed to the tune of dubstep music. He believes his is a film not to be watched alone because, believe it or not, “every family film begins with a vicious murder.” That’s what has always demarcated him from the rest of his planet-saving contemporaries. He’s his very own jack in the box, but he’s not all wound up.
Shreehari H is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.
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