As we continue to get inundated by countless superhero movies every year, the risk of the genre becoming homogenous and stale remains an ever-present topic of conversation surrounding the growing ubiquity of these films. In theory, the first Deadpool movie should have been the breath of fresh air that this genre desperately needed, and in many other critic’s and fan’s opinions, it was. So much so to the point that it was being widely considered for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the Oscars that year, which is a more hilarious idea than anything actually in Deadpool. For a film that is meant to poke fun at the generic, cliched nature of superhero movies, the first Deadpool movie did little to differentiate itself from any of the standard, generic superhero origin stories that it thought it was parodying, and unfortunately, the sequel falls into that exact same trap.
With characters such as Tony Stark, Spider-Man, and Star-Lord just to name a few, the modern superhero movie landscape is already abundant with snarky, wise-cracking, pop culture-referencing goofball protagonists, to the point where that is almost the accepted norm (no more evident than Marvel’s massive Infinity War earlier this year). The only characteristic that sets Deadpool apart from the heroes that he is meant to be parodying, is his meta, self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking humor, which both films have still failed to fully take advantage of. Aside from casual references within dialogue to other superhero movies, both Deadpool films have severely missed out on golden opportunities to truly capitalize on Deadpool’s self-awareness as other mediums have. Video game iterations of the character have seen him break the fourth wall as part of his combat style, or alternatively flip the game’s aesthetic style as a nod to classic games. Obviously, in comics, Deadpool has always had a history of poking fun at comics as a medium (acknowledging panels and word bubbles) and allowing stories to be as outlandish and esoteric as possible, such as in “Deadpool: Killustrated” in which Deadpool fights classic literary characters.
“It becomes an eye-rolling slog when a film that is meant to be a parody of superhero tropes so cluelessly stumbles into all of the cliches that it is supposed to be lampooning, and with absolutely no self-awareness, which is supposed to be Deadpool’s entire schtick”
In both of the movies so far, such ambition has not been fully realized. The only segments that have been willing to play around with film as a format and as a medium have been in the opening credits–this film actually has a pretty creative parody of James Bond opening credits sequences–and in the post-credits scenes, which this film only uses to go back to the well of low-hanging fruit with Green Lantern and the Deadpool character from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as if they’re the only things worthy of being made fun of. There is one funny section, however, where it plays around with the musical score during an epic action scene, which is exactly the kind of meta-filmmaking jokes that should have had more of a presence throughout the film.
the film version of Deadpool has been severely toned down in order to mold him into a more cookie-cutter superhero character that would be more palatable to mass audiences
Despite its hit or miss humor, if Deadpool 2 was willing to fully embrace its role as a silly, irreverent roast of itself and of comic book movies in general, it might have been more salvageable, but the biggest misstep of both of these films, especially the second, is just how deadly serious it wants to be taken. One of the biggest lines of the trailer and of the movie is when Deadpool says to Cable, “You’re so dark. Are you sure you’re not from the DC Universe?” Ironically, the same statement could very well be applied to the film itself. A majority of what bogged down the first film is the amount of time that was spent on trying to develop Deadpool’s relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), expecting us to be legitimately invested in such a generic, obligatory superhero romance subplot. Not only does the sequel expect us to care even more about their relationship, but it also introduces a troubled kid for Deadpool to mentor, which serves to be the emotional crux of the film. If there’s anyone who is less qualified to be a compassionate father figure or to serve as a moral compass, it’s Deadpool. This is one of the many examples in which the film version of Deadpool has been severely toned down from the character that he is in the comics in order to mold him into a more cookie-cutter superhero character that would be more palatable to mass audiences, as opposed to being true to the exaggerated psychopath that he’s supposed to be, which is what sets him apart.
The film also attempts to shoehorn in a theme of family at the end, which is what almost every other generic superhero movie is about, yet the film executes it with such earnestness, that it doesn’t even realize that it’s falling headfirst into all of the cliches that it wants us to think it’s subverting. The purpose of Deadpool as a character and as a franchise is to be a goofy, lighthearted romp that takes a much-needed jab at the endless amount of superhero movie cliches that exist. It becomes an eye-rolling slog when a film that is meant to be a parody of superhero tropes so cluelessly stumbles into all of the cliches that it is supposed to be lampooning, and with absolutely no self-awareness, which is supposed to be Deadpool’s entire schtick.
While still retaining the few positive qualities of the first film and amplifying them to a more entertaining degree, ironically, Deadpool 2 also doubles down on all of the same problems that plagued the first film, making for a disappointingly frustrating experience, despite being a marginal improvement over the original. Though the meta, self-referential humor still remains some of the more clever attempts at humor, it doesn’t go far enough in those directions, and the film expects us to take this character and his story far more seriously than it deserves to be taken.