In a climate of movies dominated by the prevalence of Marvel's cinematic universe and the heavy somberness of DC's outings, Deadpool ended up being exactly what was needed to take both sides down a few pegs. After vigorous crowd support and the dedicated efforts of Ryan Reynolds to get right what went so wrong with the character's depiction in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the creative forces came together into what I personally described as a "gleefully violent and blatantly subversive" piece of work, one that relishes how it breaks the fourth wall and deliberately pokes fun at the superhero genre. By getting the character right and living up to audience's expectations -- as well as a gangbusters turnout at the box office -- the bar was set pretty high for whatever would come out of a sequel. In steps Deadpool 2, and while the same sort of descriptions for the initial film also fit its follow-up, it's hard to deny that the forces behind this one got distracted by a desire to one-up what worked previously, cranking up the raucous humor and self-aware lampoons to a point that tries too hard to get its jollies.
Following the craziness of Wade Wilson's transformation into the "Merc With a Mouth" from the first film, Deadpool 2 picks up shortly after its happy ending, in which the hero (Ryan Reynolds, duh), whose genetic modifications grant him enhanced physicality and regeneration abilities that keep his cancer at bay, has led him into globe-trotting mercenary work. Battling the evils of the world also comes with personal dangers, of course, bringing tragedy into Wade's life within the first couple of minutes into this sequel. In response, Deadpool dons his costume and pushes the limits of his abilities by becoming self-destructive, but eventually -- with a little help from certain X-friends -- he tries to piece himself back together and refocus on fighting the bad guys again. While getting back to his normal mouthy self and engaging a different sort of mission, he interacts with a fire-wielding teenager named Russell (Julian Dennison), who's angry at the treatment at his mutant orphanage. His fury has such a wide impact that time-traveling strongman Cable (Josh Brolin) zips back to the current era to fix some of the chaos unleashed by Russell.
The stars aligned better than expected with the first Deadpool, which told an emotive story about Wade Wilson's relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) as he made choices about what's worth doing to his body to fix his cancer and keep their love alive. While not original or complex, everything meshed into an amusing, yet uniquely effective superhero origin story with an expressive backbone, something that director David Leitch and his threesome of writers -- including Ryan Reynolds -- attempt to mirror in Deadpool 2 with a combo of collateral-damage tragedy and the abuse of a teenage mutant. This time, between how somber motivations are created for Deadpool and Julian Dennison's portrayal of a mistreated teen, the underlying sentiments carry both more intensity and less actual impact than Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's first stab at the character. Admittedly, the endlessly sarcastic Deadpool isn't an easy character to progress since so little about him can be taken seriously, but the inelegance and contrivance involved in this sequel's momentum doesn't help matters. Wade Wilson says it himself: there's lazy writing going on here.
What's more dissatisfying about Deadpool 2 is the humor, both the caliber and the frequency. As Deadpool becomes self-destructive, turns over a … uh, different leaf, and interacts with fresh allies and villains, the film doesn't have the same availability to focus on building his character's origin and mythos, and that's where much of the effective self-aggrandizing and fourth-wall-breaking jokes stemmed from in the original. Instead, attention falls more on directly poking fun at idiosyncrasies in the story itself, Marvel's cinematic universe -- as well as the DC universe, to lesser degrees -- and stale pop-culture references and exploiting the desire to further as much of its R-rated reputation as possible. With Deadpool, there was balance; with Deadpool 2, the efforts seem persistent and overt. In some ways, this improves as soon as his new superhero buddies get more comfortable around him: Josh Brolin's gruffness as time-slipping cyborg Cable taps into deadpan suppression of Wade's antics, while Zazie Beetz's cheeky vibrancy as the luck-based heroine Domino could possibly fill the space of her own movie.
The facets that worked together so well before don't fit together as seamlessly in Deadpool 2, though, something that can't be easily overlooked with a plot that's both mundane and overly complicated. Director Leitch works from a script that falls victim to many other superhero sequels, one that dramatically escalates the scope and stakes of what's going on, embellished by the time-travel facets introduced by Cable's arrival. There's a lot going on here: physical abuse to mutant children, preventing future deaths by going back in time to kill wrongdoers, establishing a prison (and tech) for criminals who wield powers, and forming a team of heroes not unlike a combo of the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy. Oddly enough, all that can feel almost like the rough components of what's going on in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and that predictable uptick in comic-book scale causes this film to escape the grasp that the screenwriters had on what works with Deadpool. An attempt is made at personal drama with how Deadpool approaches the teenager and how Cable copes with his family's death, but the abuse plotting and the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff ends up too big and brash in comparison to Wade defending his best girl.
A key creative force behind John Wick and Atomic Blonde, David Leitch has orchestrated a fine-enough action movie with Deadpool 2, I suppose, but its most proficiently-executed sequences are also tied to some of the story's weaker aspects, such as the early slow-mo tragedy that changes Wade Wilson's life and a certain multiple-hero parachuting descent that's undercut by its absurdity. The uptick in visual effects afforded by a larger budget are off-and-on convincing, so long as it's computer-generated elements that are coming in contact with one another: whenever a digital creation interacts with something practical, such as when an ultra-heavy body collides with a metal obstacle, the impact isn't as convincing as when, say, two ultra-heavy CG bodies are in the midst of a comic-book style brawl. Reynolds' voice meshes well with whomever's in the suit as a continuation of the unconventional hero's crime-fighting chaos, and he gets a few zingers in on Josh Brolin's equally stout Cable. There's a pile of entertainment value here, of course, yet somewhere in the thick of spicy dialogue, minor-league team assembly, and general sequel mannerisms, the Merc With a Mouth seems to have misplaced the exact recipe for the wonderful chimichangas he made two years back.
The 4K Blu-ray:
Deadpool 2 arrives on UltraHD from Fox Home Entertainment in a four-disc package -- two 4K-dedicated discs and two standard Blu-ray discs --that boldly touts the existence of a "Super Duper Cut" within. A promo photo with the three most pertinent cast members adorns both the front cover and the overlying slipcase, while the disc designs playfully mirror "burned" or semi-bootleg discs; they're not as homespun-looking as Sony's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo designs, but they get the point across in a streamlined, cute manner. Aside from that, and the fact that there's four total discs, it's standard fare from Fox Home Entertainment, complete with a four-disc black tray case and Digital Copy slips. Nope, no DVD discs.
So, About That "Super Duper Cut" ...
Within the first scenes in Deadpool 2, one should be able to pinpoint some of the differences in this "Super Duper Cut", as well as the nature and intention of what's been spliced into this alternate version of the film. The runtime for the theatrical cut lingers juuuuust underneath two hours (1:59:20), whereas this version of the film extends to 2:14:00, adding in what Fox boasts as "15 Minutes of Unrated Goodies". That's a fair and balanced description of what this cut entails: the additions throughout dial up the vulgarity and violence by dropping extra material into what don't really seem to be gaps in the film. For instance, one of the most predictable additions can be found in the introductory mercenary sequences, adding extra zany bloodshed -- in the case of the Tokyo bathhouse, adding a lot -- and throwing in new lines of unbridled dialogue. Even just at the beginning, the pacing does indeed suffer due to what's been added in the Super Duper Cut, falling more inline with what happens to "unrated" comedies on home video: overlong, slightly awkward in pacing, and a mixed bag in quality.
Video and Audio:
Fox ain't messing around: even though they've included two cuts of Deadpool 2 in their UltraHD package, they haven't attempted to cram both cuts on any of the discs. After viewing both cuts through Fox's 2160p 4K treatments of the 2.39:1 cinematography, it's worth noting that there aren't any measurable differences in quality between them, in that they both have the appearance of modern, lower-saturation digital photography presented in the highest quality possible. In other words, damn. The texture of Deadpool's costume is almost obnoxiously detailed during the bevy of closeups on his masked face, while skin surfaces are impeccably supple and firearms show both a shapely metallic sheen and the harsh angles of their craftsmanship. Black levels are exceptional, dipping into dark yet not-too-dark in scenes at a prison facility and universally enhancing the depth of the image, while the vividness of certain white levels are marvelously elevated by the HDR enhancement. A broad range of skin tones, the red of Deadpool's outfit, and the subtle blues and grays of metal are the most prominent colors found throughout the muted palette, but they stay incredibly well-adjusted to the palette's intentions … while a few fiery bursts of superhuman power telegraph bold, vibrant digital shades that also look terrific. Absolutely no complaints in the visual department: Deadpool's a stunner in 4K.
The Dolby Atmos track drives the sonic intensity home almost as well as the visual transfer, but with a few mild reservations that keep it a step or two out of sync with perfection. Explosions are robust and room-filling, expanding with grace as the lower-frequency channel tackles the oomph of blasts, billows, and metal-on-metal collisions. Gunfire has a satisfying amount of midrange pop as well, while higher-end elements like the shattering of glass, the zap of a taser, and the clank of a bullet casing on a surface having ample crispness and presence. It's in extra high-pitched elements that there's some satisfaction lacking in the advanced audio track, notably the swiping of blades and their, uh, aftereffects, which tend to be thinner and hollower than one might want. It's a minor nitpick, but it drags things down just a peg. Dialogue has natural clarity and heft throughout, the Atmos object-based surround activity remains fluid but unostentatious, and there isn't a hint of higher-level distortion to be heard regardless of volume levels. Barring a few sword slices, it's a tremendous sound atmosphere accompanying the outstanding visuals.
On both the 4K and standard Blu-ray presentations of Deadpool 2, an Audio Commentary with Ryan Reynolds, David Leitch, Rhett Reese and Pau Wernick can be flipped on for one's pleasure. Look, the minds behind these films would obviously be expected to crank out a pretty entertaining track if they're all thrown in a room together, but they manage to do so in standard "commentary" fashion, pointing out little production anecdotes and real-world production interests: the real shooting locations of exotic places, what foreign language text actually says, some heavy alternate scene ideas (including alternate ideas for Vanessa'sfate), working around makeup, how the script continuously evolves onset, etc. Reynolds naturally elevates the mood alongside the writers and director, but they stick to an insightful and conversational rhythm that carries well enough from scene-to-scene, heavily emphasizing the freedom granted to them by the studio.
Everything else shows up for the party on the Blu-ray disc, after a p air of Deleted Scenes (2:37, 16x9 HD) -- the vast majority being an extended "Hitler Coda" bit that takes on the whole thought exercise of going back in time to kill baby Hitler -- and a Gag Reel (3:12, 16x9 HD) . Interviews and copious behind-the-scenes shots are cobbled together for this featurettes, which are perhaps more interesting for the off-camera glimpses they offer instead of the fairly mundane and obvious chats with the cast/crew. Family Values (15:09, 16x9 HD) covers how they had to make Deadpool "vulnerable" so that he could link up with the cast of characters and tap into an emotional angle, while David Leitch (Not Lynch) (11:40, 16x9 HD) tackles how the practical-effects director approached the superhero scale of the story. That makes up the bulk of the truly substantive extras, which does the job well and allows everything else that comes afterwards to exist as icing on the cake.
Featurettes with a narrower, smaller focus follow the primary ones. Deadpool's Lips Are Sealed (12:52, 16x9 HD) touches upon the secrets and secrecy involved with making a Marvel film; Until Your Face Hurts (9:25, 16x9 HD) talks generally about making a sequel, the effortlessness of Reynolds' comedy, and a few splashes of alternate takes; Roll With the Punches (6:57, 16x9 HD) more briefly glosses over the action in the film than I would've expected, but it finds a nice focus on Leitch and the team he assembled for orchestrating his action; and the Deadpool Prison Experiment (11:29, 16x9 HD) explores the entirety of the prison sequence, the world-building involved, and the actual construction involved. Other fun bits include Rob Delaney's inclusion in the film with The Most Important X-Force Member (2:21, 16x9 HD) , literally playing a game of Chess With Omega Red (1:17, 16x9) , Swole and Sexy (2:13, 16x9 HD) jests about the actors getting buffed up for the film and about Josh Brolin's personality, "3-Minute Monologue" (2:15, 16x9 HD) features Brolin chatting aimlessly while he's in the makeup chair, and Deadpool's Fun Sack 2 (HD) offers up trailers and promo bits, still photos, and that extended "test footage" featuring Deadpool getting geared up for crime-fighting in a telephone booth.
As much as it tries to evade the trappings of being one, Deadpool 2 does indeed feel like a superhero-movie sequel, and that's probably what bothers me about it. The first film works hard to be something exceptionally different than all the others in the pack, but it does so in a relatively cautious, self-aware way that somehow gets when the character's fourth-wall-breaking or deliberate jester tactics are getting to be a little much, appropriately blending action, comedy, sentimentality and subversion. The sequel's put in a tough place, with the pressure on to both exceed its predecessor and try to stay in the same ballpark of tonal balance, and that essentially forces all facets to scale up alongside each other. Those levels get thrown off in Deadpool 2, as the irreverence of the comedy and the leaden grimness of the story overbearing the medley of tense combat sequences and general subversive aspirations of Deadpool's entire reason for being. It's still entertaining in bursts, Reynolds and Brolin blend mania and stone-faced mannerisms well together, and the character's impact on the world around him -- both physically and expressively -- remain infectious. Deadpool 2 didn't need more to be a better film; it needed less. Fox's 4K disc is outta sight, though, and comes packed to the brim with extras, including a commentary, over an hour of featurettes and a sack fulla other goodies. The whole package comes Recommended.