When it was released in 2016, the first Deadpool movie more than lived up to its hype. Combining a surprising straightforward action movie plot with genre-skewering superheroics and elements of romantic comedy, the movie was slick, confident, and absolutely certain what it was doing. Despite being lukewarm towards the comics, the Cinematic Universe team all enjoyed the film (as you can hear in our Deadpool podcast) and collectively looked forward to seeing what a sequel could do.
We need wait no longer, because the sequel is out. Often with sequels you can say “it was more of the same” and have it be either compliment or criticism. In Deadpool‘s case, it’s tough to say that, but only because whether or not there was more of the same depends heavily on what you liked about the first movie. If you were here for the romcom elements, the bad news is that they’re almost completely absent. If you enjoyed the focus on the story, this movie takes a much broader view of that too. And if you liked the action, well, incoming director David Leitch is mostly just churning out generic gun-fu. But if you liked the jokes in Deadpool, it’s ALL good news: Deadpool 2 isn’t just funnier than most Marvel movies, it’s funnier than almost any comedy you care to name.
What makes Deadpool 2 work, despite a much softer grip on its own story than the first movie, is that it’s reverential towards absolutely nothing. Not its genre, not its characters, not even its own prequel. There are more meta-jokes, in-jokes, comedy nicknames and pratfalls than you can even catch on a first viewing, and for a comedy sequel to be funnier than the original is an achievement in its own right. The setups even extend through to the marketing, with expectations crafted by the trailer and then turned into a punchline by the film itself. It is, in its own way, an action-comedy masterclass, and if you found the first one even a little funny you’re guaranteed find this one more so.
Despite this, the film does struggle with some elements of its formula. It tries to replicate the emotional core of the original, but can’t quite make the relationships work as immediately and completely as they need to. Tim Miller’s action direction, so slick and inventive in the first movie, is sorely missed here – the fights are brutal but uninventive. In a purely objective sense, you can’t help looking at the film and saying that it is, on the whole, a less coherent and well-crafted piece of cinema than the first. The good news is that you probably won’t care about its shortcomings in those areas because you’ll be laughing too hard to notice.
Backing up Ryan Reynolds’ faultlessly-judged performance as Deadpool are Josh Brolin (Cable), Julian Dennison (Russell Collins/Firefist) and Zazie Beetz (Domino), all of whom are working overtime to keep up with the cartoonish reality of the movie. Brolin’s unfalteringly straight performance as Cable serves to both ground the movie and give Reynolds someone to bounce off. Dennison is the unpredictable but vulnerable target of Cable’s ire. And Beetz flat out steals every scene she’s in with an effortless sense of cool that extends to her power set of “luck”. The fact that the idea of these characters as Deadpool’s “family” works to any extent is down more to their performances than the writing.
With so many characters in it, the film is arguably a little overstuffed. There’s no villain quite as prominent and memorable as Ed Skrein’s Ajax, and a LOT of people turning up for just one or two scenes. The fact that it features a team of X-Men in addition to its own returning cast explains why it’s tough for anyone but Reynolds to get much of an arc, but it’s easy to forgive because in many ways this is a better X-Men film than any of the other X-Men films. It’s not quite an ensemble movie, but it feels like it could be. The only weak link in the entire movie is the now unfit-for-purpose TJ Miller, whose appearances noticeably suck the fun out of the room while he’s trying to crack wise.
As a piece of cinema, then, any rational analysis of Deadpool 2 will leave you with a clear picture of what it does wrong, the beats and opportunities it misses, and the ways in which it could have been as strong a movie as the first. But as a piece of entertainment, it’s basically just 2 hours of having your joy buttons pressed – especially for fans nerdy enough to get its multiple movie and comics references. And since you’re reading this website, well, that probably means you. It may be flawed, but likes its borderline-immortal lead character, a Deadpool movie like this every couple of years would take a long, long time to get old.