A real come down after the lunacy of the first film, Deadpool 2 loses some verve and edginess, and squanders its promise for cheaper jokes.
After the events of the first film, Wade ‘Deadpool’ Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) circles the globe flippantly slaughtering criminals, but after events hit home he bounces from becoming a potential X-Men through to defending angry and misunderstood young mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) from mysterious time traveller Cable (Josh Brolin).
I loved the first film, as it was unhinged and felt fresh and abrasive. The problem with this sequel is that it felt torn between trying to follow the original’s carefree madness with making it more of a standard superhero movie, by way of nearly becoming an X-Men one! That indecision to me was a real shame, because the first film balanced the former and latter well and mocked the tropes it falls into this time around.
Perhaps the main objection I had was that it just decided to go “super serial”, in the words of South Park, and this kills its momentum stone dead. Not to mention the humour pays the price, with this constant need to humanise Wade (who we already like!) sitting poorly with the gonzo comedy that Reynolds and co writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick throw at us.
For me, it was less of what Deadpool is or what we are expecting of him, and the first film had better balance between the humour and seriousness (not to mention sentimentality, which was skillfully undercut or emboldened with humour). Instead, here we have too many sombre pauses without jokes, and a plot development that I couldn’t believe this movie would use when you consider how much it’s been used in superhero (and other) action films – it’s something this film should be mocking!
On the subject of the humour, it never really hits the heights of the first movie, and what is engaging and potentially hilarious about proceedings here gets undercut by that resurgent seriousness. It felt more conventional at times, which is exactly why people enjoyed Deadpool – because it wasn’t.
New director David Leitch brings some of his John Wick and Atomic Blonde action oomph, but there didn’t honestly feel like enough action compared to those two. The film is quite cleverly made to look more expensive with some more exotic locations and glossy cinematography from Jonathan Sela, but after Tom Holkenborg’s Thriller-esque soundtrack for the first film, Tyler Bates’ forgettable score is a real disappointment. Some popular music choices are also a bit tired and unoriginal.
A lot of this general malaise I feel is reflected in my view of Ryan Reynolds’ performance – it’s like he’s been restrained this time around, with a way more dramatic performance than comedic. He also spends loads more time outside of the suit as Wade as opposed to giving into that general insanity when the mask is on – he’s still hilarious when he tries, but it’s not a patch on his anarchic performance in the first film.
Josh Brolin brings the grit and glower as Cable, the ultimate straight man to Deadpool’s clown, and though he’s obviously great with his steely grim demeanour (see nearly every other performance), he shows some real action aptitude and cracks a little towards the end to show he’s also capable in the humour stakes. If anything, seeing him let loose a little more might have been better!
Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison is misused as the young, angry mutant at the heart of the plot, his natural ability with comedy (like Reynolds) dampened down in the name of ever-so-serious themes. While we’re talking about people being misused, Morena Baccarin is woefully treated here, despite being a fun and spiky part of the first film as Wade’s girlfriend.
And on the subject of poor decisions, the continued casting of T.J. Miller despite the actor being exposed, quite frankly, as a seedy abusive piece of shit seems like a major misstep when they could have dropped him and made a great joke of the situation in the dark Deadpool style.
Elsewhere, one shining light is Zazie Beets as Domino, who feels like a breakout star as a mutant with the power of luck. This makes for some hilarious comedy scenes and some bizarre but cool action, and I look forward to seeing where a film with her, Deadpool and Cable might go in action and comedic terms.
Finally, the remainder of the X-Men from the first film make staggered appearances and minimal impact (almost reinforcing this idea of the film becoming an X-Men one by stealth). Some absolutely brilliant cameos (including a couple of particularly surprising ones throughout and at the end) are some of the film’s high points, particularly Rob Delaney’s extended cameo as the non powered Peter signing up for the hell of it, though the great Terry Crews’ comedic genius is wasted.
For me, as it’s probably clear by now, Deadpool 2 was a great disappointment compared to the first, falling into surprising traps that the character should and would mock. Let’s just hope down the line that the first film’s “who gives a shit” attitude makes a return.