When the Marvel Comics movie Deadpool stormed the box office in February 2016, reviews focused on its subversive, self-conscious humor. But the true appeal of this R-rated kid flick lies in its orgiastic zeal. There’s an orgy of gun violence, as the crimson-clad Deadpool uses a dozen pistol shots to waste an assortment of thugs with machine guns; after his last bullet travels through three skulls, he sniffs the barrel and confesses into the camera, “I’m touching myself tonight.” There’s an orgy of sex, set to Neil Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl,” that shows Deadpool’s alter ego, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), coupling with his beloved Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) every which way: her on top, him on top, him from behind, her from behind (wishing him a happy International Women’s Day and entering him with a strap-on). There’s an orgy of torture, sardonically scored with the Chordettes hit “Mister Sandman,” in which Wilson is hung from the ceiling and beaten, locked in a cage and sprayed with a fire hose, and submerged in a tank of ice water. With a comic book movie, you can never have too much of too much.
Unfortunately the new sequel, Deadpool 2, which opens Thursday night, doesn’t have enough of too much; less charitable viewers might even argue that it has too much of not enough. Once again screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (abetted this time by star Reynolds) drop viewers into a chaotic opening scene and then bring them up to speed with flashbacks, but this time they introduce a tragic element distinctly out of sync with the movie’s wiseacre design. D2 opens with an overhead shot of Deadpool lying on a bed of industrial barrels that contain 12,000 gallons of fuel, flicking a match into the mouth of an open barrel, and getting blown sky-high; flashbacks reveal that he’s been driven to suicide by the death of Vanessa, who was killed by an assassin’s bullet meant for him. Deadpool, you see, is really just an old softie, despite his filthy mouth and his smug contempt for the DC Comics universe.
Only at one point does D2 approach having too much of too much. Hoping to rescue the young mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) from the time-traveling villain Cable (Josh Brolin), Deadpool recruits a new team of superheroes called the X-Force, which includes Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), and the hapless Peter (Rob Delaney). Led by Deadpool, these four make a daring helicopter jump together, but you won’t be seeing them in the forthcoming X-Force spin-off because the raid descends into chaos and they all suffer gruesome slapstick deaths. This is truly the best a superhero movie can offer, when the road of excess leads to the palace of absurdity. v