For a review of “Deadpool 2,”
The sequel to 2016’s “Deadpool,” the Marvel-mocking movie from Marvel, begins, not surprisingly, with an injoke. It rightly assumes that its audience has seen “Logan,” the critically acclaimed “X-Men” film that dared to show us — spoiler alert — the death of Hugh Jackman’s popular Wolverine character. “Guess what, Wolvie?” Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) sneers, intentionally blowing himself to smithereens before the opening credits. “I’m dyin’ in this one, too!”
For fans of Deadpool, this is red meat, a signal that the anti-hero’s snarky, self-aware persona — which made the first film a $780 million success — has not changed. He’s still the sick-humored schoolboy of the Marvel universe, the defacer and debaser of self-serious superheroes and their box-office vehicles. He’s a hard R in a PG-13 universe.
But wait — how can Deadpool be a satirical figure when he comes from the very Marvel machine he’s ostensibly spoofing? He can’t. Like the first film, “Deadpool 2” is filled with crude jokes and bloody violence, but it isn’t genuinely subversive.
Deadpool himself breaks the fourth wall by speaking to the audience (pointing out foreshadowings and clumsy plot points) and sometimes addressing an unseen movie crew, as when he yells, “Hit it, Dolly!” before killing a roomful of people to the strains of Dolly Parton’s upbeat hit “9 to 5.”
Let’s face it, though: These movies aren’t nearly as daring as, say, the “Air Pirates” comics of the 1970s, which gleefully defiled Mickey and Minnie Mouse, or Mel Brooks’ hot poker to the butt of the American Western, “Blazing Saddles” (1974). The “Deadpool” movies occasionally push the bounds of taste, but they don’t take real comedic risks.
Viewed as more of an action-comedy, then, “Deadpool 2” works passably well. Reynolds, the amiable Canadian actor (he also co-wrote the script), has clearly found his inner id as a foulmouthed mutant. There’s an appealing new character, Domino (Zazie Beets), whose deceptively simple superpower is being lucky. Josh Brolin glowers capably as Cable, a time-traveling cyborg who — with very little credit to “Terminator” — is trying to assassinate a mutant kid named Russell (Julian Dennison). Director David Leitch brings at least some of the stunt-driven energy that made his “Atomic Blonde” so thrilling.
Deadpool’s many jokes about comics and film franchises make it hard to care about the story’s themes of teamwork and sacrifice, but surely that isn’t what audiences came for. When Deadpool taunts Cable by calling him Thanos, the role Brolin just played in “Avengers: Infinity War” — now, that’s the payoff.
“Deadpool 2,” a Twentieth Century Fox release, is rated Rated R for bloody violence, language. Running time: 119 minutes. ★★½
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
The likelihood of making a successful Han Solo prequel were approximately 3,720 to one.
There was the also basic question of whether there was a purpose to even make “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
Like Princess Leia, we swooned over Harrison Ford’s smuggler over the course of his appearances in four “Star Wars” movies because he was a scoundrel. And an enigmatic one at that. If his mysterious past was suddenly revealed, would he remain as interesting?
Moreover, it didn’t instill confidence when directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The Lego Movie”) were fired during production of “Solo” — even if they were replace by the talented veteran, Ron Howard.
Some of us had a bad feeling about this. But never tell Lucasfilm the odds. Because the studio somehow succeeded — mostly, anyway.
In the sci-fi heist movie opening May 25, a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) escapes servitude on his home planet to set out to earn his fortune. He latches on to a gang of thieves led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) out to steal a shipment of the explosive fuel, coaxium, for a crime lord (Paul Bettany).
That brings him into the orbit of a femme fatale from his past (Emilia Clarke) and a couple of familiar faces from the future in fellow outlaws, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo).
The Kessel Run that the film takes from action set piece to action set piece is almost fast enough to obscure several convenient coincidences and plot holes. Of those there are too many, considering that the script is by Lawrence Kasdan — who wrote the best installment in the franchise, “The Empire Strikes Back” — and his son, Jonathan.
Fortunately, “Solo” is fueled by a stronger power source than mere coaxium — nostalgia. For “Star Wars” fans, it’s an enjoyable love story — between a boy and his Wookiee.
It’s not, however, a universal love story. A lot of the references (and a major plot twist) will simply go over the heads of tourists who are only passing through this galaxy far far away. (Knock a half-star off the review if you fall in that camp.)
Despite mid-production reports of studio dissatisfaction with Ehrenreich, the “Hail, Caesar!” actor fills Ford’s boots — both literally and figuratively. Ehrenreich manages the right balance of channeling Ford without mimicking him.
Glover chews his way through the scenery of several star systems with such aplomb and charisma that one can only hope for a “Lando: A Star Wars Story.” But Clarke isn’t given enough to do, especially considering how high-impact the female characters have been in the last three “Star Wars” films.
The movie’s real hero, however, is Howard. He managed to bring a fun, if slightly scuffed up, joyride into theaters — against the odds.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” a Lucasfilm release, is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action/violence. Running time: 143 minutes. ★★★
Alden Ehrenreich, right, and Joonas Suotamo star in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”