In 2016 in these very pages I wrote about how Deadpool was breaking the dull, factory-like mould of superhero movies. I wondered if audiences would show studios their appetite for a different type of comic book movie. Deadpool went on to become the biggest R rated film ever. Obviously box office results don’t mean everything, but the failure of films that aimed for the same, like Suicide Squad, showed the precision and skill with which Deadpool hit its target.
Two years later and cinemas are ever more packed with comic book movies. But the offering has broadened since the first Deadpool was released. For every Batman vs Superman there’s now a Thor: Ragnarok, a Logan or Black Panther, films that are willing to go in new directions. This means that while no film stands quite apart from its genre siblings as Deadpool 2, it’s no longer as much of an outlier as the first was. The spark of originality has dulled.
Still, Deadpool 2 doesn’t mess with what was clearly a winning formula first time around. It’s a movie for the fans – crossing the genre’s T’s with a samurai sword and dotting I’s with a jab of the finger – but it also works for those unfamiliar with the references. Like the original, it has the meta jokes, the fourth wall breaking, and the knowing acknowledgement that this is just a movie (and one with a standard three act structure that’s not afraid to write itself an easy way out). It all sounds straightforward, but the film (directed by David Leitch, with a script credited to Deadpool 1 and Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, along with star Ryan Reynolds himself) also isn’t afraid to defy some expectations, while diving head first into others with a wink and a raised middle finger.
So, it makes sense for the film to start with Deadpool deliberately killing himself with a carefully flicked cigarette into a barrel of accelerant. While pieces of his body lie strewn across the apartment, Deadpool’s voice-over guides the audience through the events since the last film, when Wade Wilson’s taken his brand of justice international. He’s also begun to care about people besides himself and, carefully avoiding any spoilers from here on, is soon convinced to join the X-Men. (It’s of course a running joke that he’s only joining some of the back-up X-Men – Negasonic and Colossus from the first film). As a trainee X-Man, Deadpool joins a mission to help control an angry, flammable teenage mutant called Russell (Julian Dennison). But Deadpool’s insistence on breaking the rules leads to him killing one of Russell’s ‘carers’, and the both of them being sent to the ice-box – a maximum security prison for controlling mutants. He’s not the only one concerned with Russell though, and a bionic-armed soldier from the future (yes, really. Josh Brolin as Cable) breaks in looking for the young firestarter. Deadpool must find out why, protect Russell, and even start his own team of superheroes.
Reynolds, the perfect embodiment of the character, once again puts more into this film than it has any right to expect, and he’s adept at wringing humour from pain, being narcissistic, self-pitying, insecure and overly confident. Brolin, in his second Marvel outing in less than a month, brings much to a character than could easily have been a robotic, monosyllabic fighting machine, and Cable and Deadpool nicely balance each other out. The jokes – mainly stupid and childish (in the best way) – fly thick and fast, from those at the expense of rival movies to those about studios Fox and Marvel, along with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. The film revels in its gruesome comic book violence, sending body parts flying across the screen. But it also reaches for the heart, and I don’t just mean by pulling it out of a bad guy’s chest. It tries to give depth to the relationship between Wade and Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and to bring family to the forefront with the creation of a new team. Saying that, the film does fall down in its underuse of the new members of the Deadpool family, especially of excellent talents like Terry Crews and Rob Delaney.
Overall, like the ambitions of this movie, it’s pretty simple – if you liked Deadpool, you’ll like this Deadpool 2.
Deadpool 2 is in cinemas from 17th May through 20th Century Fox.