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‘Deadpool 2’ and the Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Plus, some other random thoughts about the Ryan Reynolds superhero sequel

When Deadpool opened around Valentine’s Day 2016, its appeal was that it wasn’t trying to be one more Marvel superhero movie. With a smaller budget (reportedly $58 million — far less than the hundreds of millions usually spent on comic-book films), an R rating and a snarky, bloody, foul-mouthed irreverence, Deadpool was designed specifically for people who were sick of the MCU’s polite, polished PG-13 product. While those movies wanted to cater to the biggest audience possible, Deadpool thumbed its nose at all that respectability — it didn’t give a fuck about respectability, or really, anything else. In Deadpool, everything was fair game as comic fodder: superhero clichés; musty old action-movie tropes; and most pointedly, star Ryan Reynolds with his pretty-boy looks and failed earlier attempts at comic-book glory (2011’s disastrous Green Lantern).

That misanthropic spirit paid off: Deadpool was a massive success, bringing in nearly $800 million worldwide. Apparently, audiences were ready for a more violent, adult superhero film — they wanted a movie that was willing to satirize the MCU while acting like the class clown sitting in the back of the room. In the process, though, the franchise had seemingly painted itself into a corner: How do you keep playing the class clown after you’ve become beloved by the mainstream? Or more simply, how do you continue not to give a fuck?

Deadpool 2 struggles with, but mostly overcomes, its grappling with respectability. Budgeted at $110 million — still way below the $200-million-plus spent on Avengers films — and far sleeker than its predecessor, the sequel nonetheless wants to hold onto its outsider cachet, positioning itself as coarser and more graphic than Infinity War or Black Panther, both of which this movie self-deprecatingly tweaks. That said, the fact that the film is coming out right at the start of summer movie season, speaks to the expectations around it. So as much as Deadpool 2 mocks Hugh Jackman, the X-Men and Batman v Superman, this is now a major studio franchise, with the same massive commercial expectations that other blockbusters have to bear.

Probably not coincidentally then, Deadpool 2 is, itself, about learning how to care when you’ve spent most of your life pretending otherwise. The uber-acerbic Wade Wilson (Reynolds) has managed to open his heart to the equally caustic Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). But after she’s killed by some of Deadpool’s enemies, he has to fight against bitterness and make room for a new family in his life — namely, the dorky, sincere mutant Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and the temperamental young Firefist (Julian Dennison), who’s in desperate need of a father figure. While Deadpool’s inclination is to make jokes and reject sentimentality, Deadpool 2 challenges this tendency, constantly putting him into positions where this self-avowed non-hero has to be a selfless leader.

On a narrative level, that character arc is pretty formulaic: The lovable jerk with the heart of gold who eventually shows his softer side. (Wasn’t that sort of Han Solo’s shtick?) But for Reynolds and the rest of the Deadpool brain trust, it’s also an opportunity to have it both ways. Deadpool 2 is as violent and inappropriate as the first chapter, while sneaking in a more professional sheen and typically superhero-style storyline. On some level, the new film sorta knows it can’t profess to be the MCU black sheep anymore, but that doesn’t stop Deadpool 2 from obsessively — maybe even self-defensively — taking shots at its peers. Logan’s ultra-serious tone, the habit of superheroes teaming up to fight crime and Reynolds’ past commercial stumbles are all comedic targets, but underlying all of that snark is Wade’s growing realization that he has to let Vanessa go while letting other people into his life.

Of course, unfiltered sincerity in a Deadpool movie would be anathema, which is why, like in the first Deadpool, the sequel hides its emotions in knowingly cheesy 1980s songs and other ironic signifiers. Like a lot of guys uncomfortable showing their feelings, Deadpool uses ball-busting and pop-culture references to express himself — he speaks through the socially acceptable no-homo language of bro hugs and sarcasm. That posturing can be tiring, but if you can work past it, Deadpool 2 is probably the sappiest superhero movie in recent memory, with just about every character grieving a dead loved one, a traumatic childhood or a lack of connection to those around them. Everybody hurts, but no one cops to it.

In this roundabout way, Deadpool 2 tries very, very hard to prove it still doesn’t give a fuck. It’s actually sort of endearing: It’s always the people in your life who most insist that they’re too cool for emotions who end up having the biggest hearts.

Here are a few other takeaways from Deadpool 2

#1. What the fuck is dubstep? Even the internet isn’t sure.

When Deadpool is battling the time-traveling enforcer Cable (Josh Brolin), he jokingly asks him about what life’s like in the future — and whether dubstep is still a thing. Dubstep becomes a running joke in Deadpool 2, with our masked hero saying in the closing narration that, among the many lessons we’ve learned while watching the film, we should Google “What the fuck is dubstep?”

So, okay, what is dubstep?

For the uninitiated, dubstep is a type of highly aggressive, super-jittery form of electronic dance music. The genre entered the mainstream thanks largely to Skrillex, who perfected a more popular strain of dubstep that was dismissively derided as brostep because of all the drunken, jerky white frat boys who loved it.

Naturally, some of Deadpool 2’s fight scenes are scored to dubstep — it’s the really manic, electronic-sounding futuristic music — but I decided to actually Google “What the fuck is dubstep?” to see what the top results were. I found explainer videos, a 2012 L.A. Weekly article that traces the history of trap music (which is linked to dubstep) and a 2011 Reddit thread entitled “I fucking love dubstep, but what the fuck is it?” (Best answer on that thread: “Gangster Techno.”)

However, my favorite find was this video, which contains audio to the Swede’s “Knocking Palms (Original Mix)”:

Several of the commenters mention that Deadpool 2 brought them there, even though the page has been up since 2013. Labeling it “What The Fuck Dubstep” is about to pay off big time for user “kareszpower.”

#2. If you like the kid in ‘Deadpool 2,’ you need to check out an earlier movie he made.

Much of Deadpool 2’s emotional heft focuses on Wade Wilson’s relationship with Firefist, a teenager who can barely control his powers of shooting flames from his hands. (Everybody in Deadpool 2 agrees that the kid has a dumb superhero name.)

He’s played by Julian Dennison, a relative newcomer from New Zealand, who’s plenty appealing in the part. But for a greater sense of what he can do on-screen, I’d recommend another movie of his, which also has a Marvel connection.

About a month before Deadpool hit theaters, an action-comedy-drama called Hunt for the Wilderpeople premiered at Sundance. It starred Dennison as Ricky, a smart-ass punk trapped in the foster-care system, who is reluctantly befriended by a cantankerous coot (Sam Neill). The two of them go on the run after a misunderstanding with the police, leading to a rollicking, heartwarming adventure in the wild.

A really smart family film that’s touching and funny — Ricky worships Tupac and lives his life like a hardcore gangster — Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a small gem that hasn’t been seen by nearly enough people. Apparently, though, the right people saw it: The movie was directed by Taika Waititi right before he came on board to make Thor: Ragnarok. In both Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Deadpool 2, Dennison believably plays a young person with edge who very much needs a family. If you’d like to see more of him, hunt for Wilderpeople here on Amazon.

#3. Is luck the greatest superpower?

If you’re not watching Atlanta, then Deadpool 2 costar Zazie Beetz may be a discovery for you. She’s fantastic as the soulful, struggling single mom Van in the Donald Glover series, but she gets to flash a sexy, funny, kickass side as Deadpool’s new recruit Domino. What’s best — and most intriguing — about her Deadpool 2 character is that her only superpower is that she’s lucky. Deadpool argues that that’s not really a superpower, but by the end of the movie — when she’s managed to get out of every bind simply because of good fortune or fortuitous timing — he realizes she may be right.

While watching Deadpool 2, I thought about the age-old question, “What superpower would you most like to have?” Normally, people say invincibility, invisibility or the ability to fly. But maybe luck is the greatest superpower. It may not be as exciting as other powers, but there’s something kinda wonderful about just having things work out for you.

And I’m not the only one who thinks luck is the power you want. A renowned comic-book lover said this in 2016:

“I always say that luck is the greatest superpower, because if you have good luck then everything goes your way. For example, if a villain shoots you and you’ve got luck, he will miss. It’s perfect.”

Hey, if Stan Lee feels that way, then I’ll defer to him.