After years in developmental limbo, well-received leaked footage and eventually a green light, Deadpool was finally released in 2016. Breaking numerous records and firing on all cylinders in response to a bloated genre that deserves an occasional kicking. Two years on is the “Merc with a Mouth” still the remedy to superhero fatigue?
Emulating the structure of its predecessor, Deadpool 2 jumps between the past and present early on, accompanied by Deadpool’s narration. While an origin story was warranted as it wasn’t common knowledge, its erratic, humorous nature took off the obligatory edge. This time the format is messy rather than snappy, with distracting editing that’s disorientating rather than entertaining and purposeful.
Somewhere amongst the chaos, the plot centres around Wade Wilson/Deadpool’s (Ryan Reynolds) mission to prevent time-travelling Cable (Josh Brolin) from murdering adolescent mutant Russell (Julian Dennison). Familiar faces Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) return to help, along with newcomer Domino (Zazie Beetz) and other mutants that form the X-Force.
Despite the combination of John Wick co-director David Leitch at the helm (Tim Miller was set to return but departed over creative differences) and a bigger budget, Deadpool 2’s action scenes were surprisingly dull and forgettable. One of the many ways the film pales in comparison to its lower-budget predecessor.
While there’s been no shortage of superhero movies to mock, the film scrapes by on a handful of sniggers about fellow adult-rated Logan, DC’s shortcomings and a scattering of barbs at Marvel. All of which feel exhausted at this point, having been said by the majority of critics and cinemagoers quite some time ago. With the addition of Reynolds to the returning writing team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the film becomes incredibly self-indulgent. There’s a fine line between an inherently excessive character like Deadpool, with all his fourth wall breaks and wisecracks, remaining fresh and becoming as monotonous as the very genre he’s mocking.
The film’s self-deprecating nature can only carry it so far on a second outing. The slack you would give a Deadpool movie with its lackadaisical writing, inconsequential plot and numerous genre clichés promptly fades when you no longer feel in on the joke. While sequels were inevitable due to its success, the budding franchise already feels like an idea stretched too thin.
Tedious elements from Deadpool such as encounters with TJ Miller’s Weasel are amplified and regrowing limb gags that were funny are lazily repeated. I eagerly waited for a nod or wink that never came when multiple dated dubstep jokes began to fly. While a gentle, tired jibe towards Star Wars felt like a missed opportunity to poke fun at the revived franchise’s more recent obsessive fan culture.
While there’s no denying Reynolds was an enormous part of why Deadpool initially succeeded. It’s clear that a degree of separation served the previous film well, with its director and writers objectively being able to step back and trim the fat. A crucial aspect that was missing and required, especially considering that creating a superior sequel is already an uphill battle.
However, some positive elements from Deadpool’s first outing continue, including another amusing and unrivalled marketing campaign. Wade’s relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) also remains authentic, with unexpected quieter moments between the pair offering a change of pace (all of which are ultimately undermined later on, unfortunately) and Karan Soni’s Dopinder is still adorably endearing.
While newcomers to the franchise including Dennison, who shone in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, plays a similar character here but nevertheless brings a different edge to the familiar troubled teen archetype. Brolin turns in his second villainous role of the summer, in a solid outing that almost inevitably falls short of his sinister yet charismatic performance as behemoth Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
Lacking the urgency and discipline of its modest predecessor, Deadpool 2 lingers like a bad joke. Worsened by its inability to outrun its flaws with the novelty of unfamiliarity second time around.