Deadpool 2 is almost critic proof. The Merc with a Mouth so brazen with a fourth wall breaking joke that it would be a likely bet he’d make a crack about sequelitis during said sequel. So it comes to pass (albeit in the trailer-as per a lot of comedies there is a fair chunk here that isn’t in the trailers), and you get the sense that no matter what you may leverage at the film, DP (as he’s affectionately known by way too nice taxi driver Dopinder-returning from the first film) would have a snappy comeback. It’s apt though that Deadpool 2 separates itself somewhat from the predictable charges of an improved second go round with an outing that suffers in its opening stretch, leaving this feeling a tad underwhelming.
The first Deadpool smashed onto screens with nary a care for such things as “R-Rated superhero films are death at the box office” or “audiences won’t get a 4th wall breaking character,” proving that those things are in the past. Crowds lapped it up (to the tune of $700 million worldwide), the films scrappy nature and hell for leather approach offering crude thrills in a world of PG-13 nice guy supers. Credit of course must go to Ryan Reynolds who nailed the character with such gusto, commitment and a surprising amount of heart that (outside of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine) I can not imagine anyone else more perfectly matched to a comic book figure. The fact the film got made is primarily down to his enthusiasm and persistence, so much so that for the sequel he has jumped behind the page to co-script with previous writers Paul Wernick & Rhett Rheese. As to be expected with number twos, this script goes big. Enlarging the action, the character roster and the humour. The boosted elements work sporadically well but too often drift perilously close to overkill. Particularly in the humour stakes. Deadpool 2 is funny, and in its peak moments (the final third) flat out hilarious. But too frequently the jokes are fired about with such abandon that not all of them stick. In some ways that is OK, if there is one you don’t like another will soon be along, however the desire to push through so much material singles out the weaker stuff ever more. A recurring joke about dubstep for example feeling hopelessly out of date and unnecessary.
Refreshingly for a sequel the story is relatively simple. Upon teaming up with the X-Men, well the only two they could afford (lovingly riffed on as part of one of the many films genius cameos) Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Deadpool comes across young mutant Russell whose powers are on the cusp of breaking out big time. Played by Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison, who builds on the cocky yet vulnerable wild card he so beautifully portrayed in Taika Waititi’s classic. Russell is a kid hurting, railing against the world for his mistreatment but really just in need of a father figure. Sadly the universe sends him Deadpool, which is further complicated with the arrival of Cable, a metal arm toting mutant from the future who is after Russell for reasons I won’t go into here. Once Cable arrives and the plot is kicked into gear the film fires on all cylinders, its linear momentum pacy and thrilling. It just disappoints that to get there the film suffers from a busy first act.
Dropping us into an action scene, before a shocking moment of violence tragically ends a main characters life, and then into some weird moments wherein the film tries to balance laughs with sadness. Tonally Deadpool 2 reaches a deft balance come the final surprisingly affecting act, but the first half it feels a little jarring. Whiplashing you into a state of affairs you sort of cannot prepare for. Repeat viewings may improve this but there is a nagging sense that the film is rushing through itself in order to get to the real meaty stuff. In a genius mid section Deadpool 2 introduces us to the X-Force, a misfit band of mutants (and Rob Delaney’s hilariously gentle ‘normal’ Peter) that the Merc brings together to bring down Cable. As to be expected the film knowingly teases that this is all to set up further instalments but the way the team actually plays out is possibly its finest piece of comedy unexpectedness.
Character wise there are some brilliant additions to the cast. Zazie Baetz delights (if feeling a tad underutilised) as the insanely lucky Domino. Gifted with perfect comedy timing and an attitude that brilliantly jives with the sarcastic Deadpool, and is probably the best of the new crew. Cable is also a big newcomer, and Josh Brolin follows up his other comic-book film turn of the month with a performance of great physicality and silence. There is a fair amount of gruntish brooding to his performance, especially in the early portions when the script focuses harder on keeping his motivations secret. By the time all is revealed Brolin is able to cut loose a bit, bringing a droll wit to his interactions with Reynolds that elicit the strongest laughs. Returning players are all still solid, TJ Miller as wildly crass and lacerating as before and the aforementioned Dopinder given delightful lightness by Karan Soni. Deadpool 2’s strongest asset is by far the performers at its feet. Reynolds holding it altogether with his usual brashness, albeit a fair amount more heart than before. Some may find the films incessant crassness and go for broke nature too much, but for those who loved the first you will get exactly what you expected.
Owing to such a big payday last time, the action is suitably improved this time around. Helped in no small measure by John Wick co-director David Leitch, who takes the reins here with as much confidence and a keen fight scene eye as you would expect. His colour palate bright and bold throughout. The depth to which some of the comic book film skewering goes is also a thing of wonder, the jibes against rivals DC and Marvel go to such detail putdowns that only true nerds (like me) will pick them all up. And by gosh stay for the end credits for an utterly genius alteration of some past mistakes. It is also nice to find, after the world ending operatics of Avengers, a film that keeps the stakes low. Deadpool 2 comfortable having its big finale centred on one house and one boy’s soul.
There is so much to like within this film and it is a hard heart who doesn’t get some semblance of fun out of it, but it is hard to deny that the film is not quite as all round brilliant as the first outing. Despite its underdog nature the first Deadpool felt more focused and tighter in its script than this instalment. Not to mention the sheer surprise of it, being something this film could never have challenged. Deadpool 2 is a decent sequel just not the expected “bigger, better” sequel most would bang on about. Wonder what that fourth wall breaking wisecracker would say to that!!
Verdict: Deadpool 2 struggles in its opening moments to rectify its opposing tones and speedy pace, but loosens up in its back half into a film of consistent laughs, big action and surprising emotion.