There were cheers and delighted snorts as the adult-rating warning came up in the multiplex at my public screening of Deadpool 2. Heads-up! This movie contains strong violence, strong language, and references to sex! Hooray, apparently, for some people.
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 see, 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 now, it's 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.
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. But 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), 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 comic book 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.
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 sappy sentiments 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) has come to kill. And my god, dead women sure do motivate men to get off their asses. There are so many dead women here motivating men, and that's no joke.
It's funny to see which tropes Deadpool 2 wants to make fun of, and which ones it will brook no laughter at. Zero stars.