Deadpool 2′ returns with more postmodern twang than ever before, reminding viewers that the most admirable aspect of the Marvel Universe is their ability to point and laugh at themselves.
What happens when a film begins to suddenly come alive and realize its own existence? How does the audience reconcile the notion that the film’s diegesis is suddenly ruptured, allowing the perceptions of the film’s characters and their dialogue to confront the viewer head-on, seldom allowing the facsimile of reality within the film to be granted a suspension of disbelief? That yearning for verisimilitude is, after all, every film’s ultimate goal. For how does a film capture the attention of it’s audience if the world in which the film exists in is one that is crossing over into our realist one? It seems that for the makers of Deadpool and its sequel Deadpool 2 that coalescence and playfulness between the us (the viewer) and the them (the characters in the film) is exactly what allows us to enjoy the artifice of the contemporaneous superhero movies all the more.
In fact, the Deadpool franchise’s approach is one that is seldom new to the world of genre saturation. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, slasher-horror films were a bonafide genre that nearly always made back their minuscule budget. It became an oversaturated market that was churning out sequel after sequel, all on the backbones of the original cult classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and others. And yet each subsequent sequel was raking in cash, despite critical derision and commercial apathy. Nonetheless, it turned into a video-led cultural phenomenon, one that looks oddly similar to the superhero movie craze we see in today’s multiplexes (albeit, on steroids). And much like the superhero films, there were just too many of these gore-driven horror flicks, causing viewer-fatigue and lower-quality features to hit theaters and video rental stores. That’s exactly at which point postmodernism typically enters the picture to subvert and realign expectations. All of a sudden, it becomes like a refreshing reset button.
Films like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later acted as that wake-up call to audiences everywhere. These filmmakers uprooted the conventions of a slasher film, subverting them and subsequently revitalizing what was becoming a stale sub-genre. The same can be said of Deadpool and Deadpool 2, an increasingly successful franchise that works tirelessly to ensure that viewers realize that we are in fact watching a superhero movie, and guess what? It knows how ridiculous it is. And you know what else? Ryan Reynolds is in on the joke. He gets it! It’s an amusing notion, one that unfortunately does grow increasingly cumbersome and tiresome after nearly half a dozen references to just the actor’s presence in the Deadpool world (one that oddly suggests he is both the actor and Deadpool himself, and yet isn’t?)
This postmodern, self-referential sensibility is sorely missing from the oversaturated world of Marvel film adaptations. It’s a welcomed approach, one that other Marvel films attempt but ultimately do not succeed at. Whether that’s because it seems glib or pedantic, it’s hard to say. But in any case, it often comes off as hackneyed and/or flat. Sure, once in a while Captain America or Iron Man will throw out a decent one-liner, but overall, most of the films use humor as a filler between gargantuan battles that are exciting yet somewhat unsubstantial. Deadpool 2 on the other hand, uses humor as the primary source of fun and entertainment for viewers. Sure, there are some adept John Wick-inspired moments (thanks to David Leitch’s involvement) and inspiring action sequences, but it appears that Deadpool 2 rests a bit too much on the laurels on its humor. The film uses its postmodernist stance as a means of trying to propel the narrative and characterization. But alas it seldom does so.
Instead, the humor becomes so indulgent and overzealous in its self-awareness that it often overshadows any sort of depth or form. It soon devolves into a-joke-within-a-joke, making one roll their eyes more than chuckle at the arrogance of our protagonist. It becomes the unfortunate mainstay of the film, deafening nearly every other aspect of it, save for the overt violence and cheeky use of profanity. It’s unfortunate, for the first Deadpool was a welcomed new approach (and quite frankly authentic to the character of Deadpool), but it has sadly begun to make the inevitable descent into caricature. Perhaps had Reynolds kept his ego out of it and instead kept Tim Miller involved (who had masterfully adapted the original film), Deadpool 2 may have lived up to the expectations that we all had. Unfortunately, that did not seem to happen.
Deadpool 2 is set to hit theaters nationwide Friday, May 18.