Deadpool was a surprising film on a number of levels. For those unaware of the character’s comic book heritage, the only real mainstream angle we’d been offered of Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth was in 2009’s disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Those that did know the character, knew what a neutering he was given there. It was surprising, then, when Fox not only eventually agreed to a solo feature film (thanks to relentless efforts by Ryan Reynolds and writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick), but one that was gleefully crude, violent, and R rated (US classification). More surprisingly still: how successful it was. The film went on to earn a huge $US783.1 million worldwide, making it (at the time of writing) the highest-grossing R-rated picture ever made. A sequel became a no-brainer. So, how do you follow up that first recipe? According to Deadpool 2, you double down on everything.
The marketing thus far has done a great job of keeping most of the plot points under wraps, so I won’t ruin that by expanding on anything that hasn’t already been revealed. Wade Wilson finds himself up against the powerful, tech-boosted Cable (Josh Brolin, embodying another Marvel character currently giving heroes a hard time), who’s on a mission to take down young mutant Russell (Hunt for the Wilderpeople‘s Julian Dennison). Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) are among those back, with newcomers including luck-powered mutant Domino, played by Zazie Beets (Atlanta).
John Wick co-director and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch is at the helm this time around, and he’s the right man for the job. The action-oriented filmmaker gets the perfect playground here, allowing him to craft one slick, action-packed sequence after another, after another, after another. And writers Reese and Wernick, with Reynolds also credited for the script this time around, are equally suited to this world, this time ensuring they cram as many quips and gags into every moment as they can as though it may be their very last stab at a Deadpool movie.
If you dug the first film’s carefree and completely self-aware stylings, you’ll be happy to know that Deadpool 2 hits the ground running with every ounce of that middle-finger tone, albeit this time waving both hands proudly in the air. The first film offered off-kilter craziness; this one’s absolutely insane, bonkers, loony, and any other synonyms you want to throw in. The violence, swearing and crude jokes are all ramped up to 11, each moment seemingly wanting to beat the one before it in any way it can. More is better seems to be the key approach the team has settled on for the sequel, which is both a good and bad thing. Deadpool 2 is almost 2 hours of non-stop lunacy, a barrage of carnage, audacious humour, and fourth-wall breaking. Its relentless ‘throw everything at the wall’ approach means that not everything will stick, but luckily a lot of it does.
The film’s determination to keep things funny barely wavers for a second, which proves to be a little costly to some of the more dramatic moments. There are a few emotional turns that could surprise here and while they’re certainly welcome, these moments aren’t given the breathing room they need to have much weight. It’s all fun and games, and just when some of the emotional stakes are hinted at, along comes another swinging dick of a joke for a giggle.
As with the first film, there isn’t a very strong story driving the film’s momentum, with plot seemingly second place to shenanigans – as admittedly entertaining as they may be. Cable is serviceable and benefits from Brolin’s strong presence, but he isn’t fleshed out enough for us to particularly care much about his particular plight. Having an underwritten antagonist is certainly a common issue with superhero films, but it becomes more obvious here when a few of Cable’s choices towards the end don’t really seem earned.
Still, Deadpool 2 sets out to offer uproarious entertainment and it succeeds, thanks in part to the keen cast. Reynolds continues to wear the part like a glove and is on fire delivering more one-liners than your brain has time to compute, while also giving the character a little bit more depth and welcome fragility. Beets is a nice addition and she’s great as Domino, although the character simply isn’t given enough to do to leave much of a mark. The rest of the cast, particularly young Dennison, provide solid support.
A stronger narrative and a little less of a reliance on non-stop gags may have made this sequel a stronger film, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a hell of a lot of fun. Deadpool 2 is funny, often hilarious, features some great action (including a stand-out road sequence) and is more steadfast in the unbridled, frenzied tone crafted in the first film. Plus, it has one of the most enjoyable end-credit sequences ever made.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Deadpool 2 opens May 16 in Australia and May 18 in the US.