For me, the main problem with the first Deadpool film was the fact that it followed behind Kick-Ass. When Matthew Vaughn’s affectionately irreverent superhero film came out in 2010, some six years before Deadpool, the reresurgent genre was ripe for mocking. By the time Ryan Reynolds’ costumed crime fighter was joking about dress ups, punch ups and team ups though, comic book movies had started to recognise their own tropes and everyone was playing against tradition. (See most notably Iron Man 3.) Now though the regular stories about masked and tight suited vigilantes have settled into a new set of conventions and are ready to be lampooned again. In recent years even the lighter films have got darker, the grounded stories have become outlandish again, minority characters are no longer consigned to the background, mythology and mysticism slowly pervades and no one fights alone. Now is the right moment for a tragicomic, cross generational, multi-character, spiritual, portentous, culturally critical, revisionist, socially representational, time travel, action spoof. Now is the right moment for Deadpool 2. It’s release three weeks after Infinity War, while that film is still ruling the box office, is actually perfect.
Deadpool was good but Deadpool 2 is not only more opportune, it is more subtle, more witty, more surprising, more measured and more exciting. This, I think, all comes from the fact that it also has more confidence. The first movie did sometimes feel that it was trying too hard and that it was overly knowing but that paid off for them and the sequel has the self-assurance that proven bankability and brand recognition brings. There is less off a throw everything at the screen feel (in particular the sex jokes and nudity are dialled down which improves things). Also, oddly for broad comedy and more so than its predecessor, it isn’t afraid to be taken seriously. There are moments of genuine pathos here and key elements of the plot attack very real problems such as institutional abuse. Also, while the pansexual nature of the protagonist is still played down, the film does feature an openly gay superhero in an appropriately matter of fact manner which is a significant step forward.
Crucially none of this comes at the cost of the chuckles and much of the humour is still casually quite dark. The beginning of Deadpool’s new fighting force’s first mission is a particular treat in this respect but there are laugh out moments from beginning to end. There is also no compromise on the references to other films and comics and, while this is fun for everyone, to get the absolute most out of it you do need to be a particular brand of geek. Part of this is the presence of several really good cameos alongside the refreshing absence of another.
Still not as good as Kick-Ass but better than Deadpool then, and a nice respite/antidote/palette cleanser from the MCU which I didn’t realise I needed but welcomed when it came.
P.S – I love how Deadpool 2 fits into the X-Men films but be warned that, among other things, this involves big spoilers for Logan. If you’re going to see that see it first.
P.P.S – I also love that they’ve got Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison in this film although he is deliberately essentially playing the same character. He’s even called Russell which may be a purposefully evocative of how that other character was evocative of that other character from Up. It that too meta for even Deadpool? Probably not.
Is this one for the kids?
Still no. This film series continues with the sex references and violence. As stated, the former may have been reigned in a smidge but the latter is probably ramped up.
The Ripley Factor:
The most notable of the two new characters is Josh Brolin’s Cable and he adds great value. The most memorable is actually Zazie Beetz’s Domino though. In a cinematic world of super powers that make no biological sense whatsoever hers makes the least sense of all but it is tremendous fun. Deadpool himself is a very dominating character but Domino might just steal the show.
In the post credit scene in the first Deadpool they jokingly suggested that Keira Knightly might play Cable in the sequel. They could have got her to play Domino then she could have revisited a much maligned previous character just like Ryan Reynolds is doing with these films.
Morena Baccarin returns from the first movie as Vanessa, the title character’s girlfriend, and is interestingly both marginalised, turned into a tired trope (to tell you which one would be a spoiler) and given a more significant role all at the same time.
Brianne Hildebrand also comes back as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and she still rocks.