Deadpool couldn’t have been a more refreshing take on the superhero genre and arrived at just the right moment – when superhero fatigue was starting to become a thing.
Where Marvel played safe, brilliantly playing to the masses as it built its precious Cinematic Universe, and DC threatened to bore us all on an epic scale, the Merc with a Mouth said or did whatever he damn well pleased, presenting us with gleefully full-blooded action, hilariously lewd dialogue, and fourth-wall-breaking asides that tore mocking strips off the superhero genre.
Deadpool was a risk, and it fully paid off
The movie made piles of cash, gave Ryan Reynolds back his credibility as a movie star (Green Lantern… cough, cough!), and gave the whole genre a much-needed slap in the face. A sequel was therefore inevitable, and with the departure of the original Deadpool director, Tim Miller, following creative differences with Reynolds, a bad sequel seemed almost as likely. Thankfully that’s not the case. Not entirely.
Like many sequels, Deadpool 2 chooses to up the physical and emotional stakes. Here, the red-suited, un-killable loon is on a personal journey of redemption as he tries to save the life of an institutionalised boy called Russell (Julian Dennison), who is otherwise known as Firefist due to his ability to shoot explosive flames from his hands.
Cable, played by Josh Brolin with the same relentless force he gave to Thanos in the MCU, will stop at nothing to eliminate the lethal youngster, and so it’s left to an overmatched Mr Pool to assemble a super-powered team, and save, not only the day, but the whole future of the human race. Along the way he also learns the real meaning of the F-word. Family.
Unsurprisingly Director David Leitch handles the action sequences with brutal aplomb. Unsurprising because Leitch was the uncredited co-director of John Wick, and made his official debut with the ultra-kinetic Charlize Theron vehicle Atomic Blonde. It’s faced-paced, relentless stuff that delivers hard-core close-quarters action, as limbs are severed by flashing katanas and headshots are made at point-blank range, as well as the big blockbuster set-pieces with giant superheroes squaring off and vehicles getting tossed improbably through the air.
The movie also makes worthwhile use of its CGI, and finally gives a character that has been horribly served by the big screen in the past, the size, weight, and power he deserves. Yes, sometimes CGI is a good thing!
Unfortunately, the comedic side of things is something of a mixed bag. The original Deadpool managed to jar audiences into laughter by occasionally stepping outside itself and making affectionate digs at the superhero genre. Deadpool 2, by comparison, seems to have developed a kind of meta Tourette’s syndrome.
Barely a moment goes by without Reynolds sneaking knowing looks at the camera, ribbing previous superhero movies and drawing our attention to genre conventions. It’s very hard to sit back and enjoy a movie that feels the need to tell you every two and a half minutes that you’re watching a movie.
This might not have mattered so much had the jokes been funnier, but more often than not there is no punchline beyond Reynolds and Co. pointing out the obvious fact that what we’re watching isn’t real. Lazy writing indeed Mr. Pool.
There some hilarious moments, however. In a repeat of DP’s hand-regeneration scenes from the first movie, here he waits for his severed legs to regrow, and literally toddles around on some sweet little baby legs. Disturbingly, and at out the outer-limits of bad taste, there’s even a reference to Basic Instinct thrown in. The movie also boasts easily the greatest post-credits scene a superhero movie has delivered so far. No spoilers, but it’s a must and sent this critic chuckling in near hysteria as he left the cinema.
The cast all do a fine job, though only Reynolds really gets to shine, reveling once again in his raw and rude, anything goes shtick. Josh Brolin is at once brutal and sympathetic as Cable, while Julian Dennison, who was truly wonderful in Hunt for the Wildepeople (which is more than worth a look by the way), manages to be a figure of fun, an object of pity and a significant threat. Eddie Marsan is sadly wasted as an abusive, puritanical headmaster. He gets to shout a few lines in a cod Southern American accent, then one imagines him taking his fat paycheque and leaving the set. A shame.
Also mostly wasted is Brianna Hildebrand returns as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who in a limp nod to inclusivity gets a girlfriend but nothing much to do. Dopinder (Karan Soni), Deadpool’s taxi-driving sidekick, gets rather a lot to do as he struggles to convince his murderous role model that he should be taken on as a trainee assassin, in what is one of the movie’s better running jokes.
However, it’s Deadpool’s newly assembled X-Force that makes the most impact, albeit with very limited screen-time, building towards a particularly nasty comedic set-piece.
Deadpool 2 serves up more of the same, and then some, with relentless action and a knowing sense of humour that exhausts at least as much as it amuses. There is still much to enjoy, but this Deadpool carries the slight whiff of stagnation.
3.5 / 5