Deadpool 2 (2018) (Review)

When Deadpool was unleashed upon the world for the first time in 2016, I became part of a small faction unable to warm to its unique brand of superhero vulgarity, one fuelled by bad language, blood, gore and incessant dick jokes. It grew exhausting very quickly, stale, one-note and not nearly as subversive as it thought it was. It went on to be a huge success though and so two years and three months later, we have The Second Coming of Ryan Reynolds' red-suited hero. What does someone so underwhelmed by the first think of the sequel?

Wade Wilson (Reynolds) has become a mercenary who works worldwide, killing various criminals as the self-regenerating Deadpool. After his time as an X-Men trainee ends in disaster, he forms X-Force - a group of unique individual with mutant abilities - to help protect a child from Cable (John Brolin), a time-travelling soldier seeking revenge. Co-starring Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J Miller, Brianna Hildebrand and Jack Kesy and directed by David Leitch (replacing Tim Miller), it is clear that Deadpool 2 is a sequel not in the business of changing hearts or minds.

Straight off the bat, I'll admit to enjoying the sequel slightly more than the original. In scaling-up the production - it is made for almost double the first film's production budget - the filmmakers can afford some bolder set pieces. It's superficially entertaining but there's no depth to it; it's saying very little. Although the CGI is a little hit-and-miss at times, the set pieces are typically executed with some gusto and energy. Leitch directs with confidence and assurance, with his history as a stuntman and coordinator transparent in the choreographing of the bigger, slicker sequences. While there's little to rival the now-famous stairwell sequence from his last directorial effort, Atomic Blonde, he does a solid-enough job at the helm.

Almost all of the problems arise because of the messy screenplay. Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Reynolds try to use a copious number of meta-references, tried-and-tested humour and an exhausting degree of self-awareness to paper over the cracks of a disappointingly predictable and horribly formulaic story. It concerns itself far too intensely with universe-expanding that sight of Deadpool 2 is lost in the set-up for X-Force: The Movie. Supporting characters are largely sidelined until they're needed to propel the narrative forward (or aligning them for future instalments) while adhering to genre conventions it simultaneously attempts to satirise. It feels like a lazy stepping stone -- and if the work in the mid-credit sequence sticks, I won't be hanging around for Deadpool 3 to emphasise my annoyance. 

Objectively, a good majority of the humour doesn't work for me; subjectively, it seemed to fall a little bit flat in my screening too. There are some laughs to be had - there's one prolonged sequence shortly before the credits that provided me with the only laugh-out-loud moment experienced over two films - and a reference to saving Martha that goes down a treat, but almost all the chuckles are down to visual gags (including a Bond-inspired opening) rather than that spoken -- as well as those emphasised by terrific musical cues. I've always dreamed of using Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 non-contrapuntally and I'm a little sad these guys beat me to it.

It's a well-known fact by know that Ryan Reynolds is made for the role of Deadpool; the guy's charm is clear and he's as committed here as ever. It's difficult to fault his performance - he balances the humour, with the emotion and the darkness far better than the script does - but he's doing the same thing over and over again, and it grows tiring through no fault of his own. Brolin delivers his second-best performance as a Marvel villain this year as Cable, bringing intensity and menace to the picture, while Julian Dennison does a fine job in his first major performance since his breakout in Hunt For The Wilderpeople. He bounces off Reynolds' in particular well, reflecting Russell's instability effectively.

For a film that so proudly boasts of its uniqueness, Deadpool 2 sure does take the laziest path. If you liked the first film, I'm confident you'll enjoy this too; if you didn't like the first, Deadpool 2 isn't in the business of changing minds. It's as crude and it's as rude as ever before but surprisingly empty this time around -- with the whole thing potentially rendered entirely pointless, depending on how a late-in-the-game twist sticks.

Some may even suggest that Deadpool has become the thing it was always criticising (a stale studio-tinkered, convention-conforming, universe-expanding and depressingly one-note superhero picture, with only bad language and gore to set it apart from the rest) and to that I say: it always was that franchise.


Summary: Deadpool 2 does nothing to quell my belief that copious meta references, fourth-wall-shattering and incessant rudeness can only carry a film for so long. Bold set pieces make it slightly more fun, but it's surprisingly empty exercise in franchise-making that sees it (again) become the exact thing it attempts to criticise.