Thoughts On: Deadpool 2 - Using Structural Dead Space

30/07/2018

Deadpool 2 - Using Structural Dead Space

Thoughts On: Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool searches for a reason to live after his girlfriend is killed.


Deadpool 2 is a pretty good time. Yet for all it does well, watching this film feels a little like watching fighter who endlessly talks a whole lot of shit win a questionable split decision after a mediocre fight. Simply put, this chokes just a little bit on all the money it puts where its mouth is. What Deadpool has that no other superhero film does is the freedom to be coarse and, in addition to this (Logan was also R-rated), it doesn't have to take itself seriously. These two things are what no other superhero film has. However, it spends too much time being self-relfexive and not enough time exploring the dead space that other films overlook.

One of my favourite moments in any superhero movie comes from Spiderman 2: the elevator scene...


This is such a brilliant moment because the writer, Alvin Sargent, must have looked at his plot and saw a gap in between two important beats. It is the elevator scene that is sandwiched between the hero's initial fall into despair and his so-called 'dark night of the soul', a period before the sprint towards the big fight in which he is stuck in the maelstrom of his internal conflicts. Instead of cutting from expected scene to expected scene - Spidey falling, realising his powers are lost and then waking up the next morning to question what this means on the edge of his bed - we take a moment to pause and ask how Spidey gets home, and further ask how it feels to be in Spidey's suit.

Deadpool is rife with moments in which structural dead space is turned into an opportunity to ask unasked questions - and this is where most of the comedy is found. One example of this would be us getting to know how Pool's limbs grow back; the catalysts to some of the most brilliant jokes in both Deadpool 1 and 2. It is the fact that the Deadpool films can use their self-reflexivity and R-rating to ask questions and seek comedic moments such as these that I think these films appear so special. There is quite a difference between Spiderman 2 and Deadpool 2, however.

Occasionally, we are allowed to peer into the dead space that rests between key structural beats in Spiderman 2. Never, however, does the film become distracted by this practice. In fact, it is through its asking of often unasked questions that Spiderman 2 finds unique moments to access the heart of its character. Think, then, of Peter delivering pizzas and emerging from a closet. The sequence around this moment raises the theme of imbalance in Peter/Spidey's life; the two intersect, but can't seem to find harmony. So, just like Spidey doesn't manage to save Peter's day and deliver the pizzas on time, it is Peter who ruins Spidey's abilities in this film with his anxiety. The moment in which Peter emerges form the closet to deliver the pizzas does not necessarily help express this idea (it would be translated without the comedic moment), but, it does give it a sense of character in highlighting the awkward line that separates Peter and Spidey.

With that said, not only are the explorations of dead space used for the sake of character as well as comedy, but the expected beats and the serious drama that emerges from Spiderman 2 is genuine and earnest. And this is the dividing line between the two Deadpool films and the first two Spiderman films. Deadpool masturbates with its self-reflexivity and fetishises dead space. At its worst, this then feels forced and try-too-hard in its search for meta-comedy. A more pervasive problem lies in the structure and character of the two Deadpool films. Each sells itself as highly aware of cliche, but doesn't necessarily provide anything much better than the classical, expected beats. And is it not the height of pretence to utilise cliched, lazy writing, call it out as such, yet leave it as is?

Deadpool works best when it announces something such as "CGI fight" and then delivers a pretty good one - the fight is not mind-shattering and could have been better, but it's pretty awesome. However, on the page, Deadpool falls short when it announces that it will be a movie about love or family, but doesn't provide a particularly compelling narrative that utilises those themes. And such brings us back to the fighter who talks shit endlessly and claims he is the greatest in the world, yet wins a boring split-decision. Ali's poems were nothing without his actions in the ring.

This is my primary criticism of Deadpool 2. I do not think that it would have benefited from seeking the tone that Spiderman 2 manages to conjure. Some of the more gleeful moments to be had when watching this come from its violent anarchy; for instance, the parachuting scene, which had me laughing most, and which wouldn't work in a Spiderman film. Without relinquishing its obnoxious self-consciousness and its on-off refusal to commit to genuine plot beats, I believe that Deadpool could be more earnest and could find more heart in its characters through a play with dead space and unasked questions. That said I'll end by noting that, like quite a few others, my favourite reference that this film makes is to Swades - it could have chosen a better song and used Yeh Tara Woh Tara instead of Yun Hi Chala Chal Rahi, as the former is about the value of children, as is Deadpool 2 - alas, everything during after that cab ride is golden. Imperfect, but worth the watch.


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