Going into this review, it feels necessary to qualify that I really didn’t like the first Deadpool film. Sure, the meta, fourth-wall breaking antics may have been fun for about half an hour, but once the novelty wore off all that was left was a by-the-numbers superhero origin story which wasn’t nearly as clever as it seemed to think it was. While by no means exceptional, Deadpool 2 comes as something of a pleasant surprise, simply by virtue of not being quite as bad as the first.
A large reason for this improvement is that the film has a surprising amount of heart, finally managing to develop its protagonist beyond the first film’s one-note – and eventually grating – gimmick of ‘superhero, but he says ‘fuck’ a lot’. This is still a Deadpool film however, so naturally there are lots of jokes, though, unlike the first, they just about manage to land before they fall flat, with considerably less coming from the Family Guy school of referencing a well-known thing and assuming that the audience’s recognition works as a punchline in itself.
Many of the film’s strengths lie in its new characters, with Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison and Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz fitting the film’s tone perfectly, along with Rob Delaney as regular guy Peter providing some of the biggest laughs. Josh Brolin also plays bad guy Cable with enough menace that he never quite manages to be undercut by the antics of Deadpool himself. In fact, many of Deadpool 2’s weakest moments stem from the inclusion of characters from the first film. Colossus’ jokes and characterisation still begin and end with ‘he’s Russian’, Karan Soni’s faithful taxi driver Dopinder has one joke which repeats itself throughout the film with little development, and T. J. Miller is… well, T. J. Miller.
As well as this, several jokes in Deadpool 2 rely on the frustrating age-old trope of self-consciously referencing its own flaws while doing nothing to fix them. Other scenes come across as smug self-referencing, simply rewarding the audience for their knowledge of superhero films; Deadpool calls Josh Brolin ‘Thanos’, references Logan’s R-rating, but no attempt is made to extend these moments beyond bland recognition. Many jokes are simply repeated from the first film without any attempt to really build on them, with the result feeling a little hollow.
The action scenes, however, represent a great improvement from the first film; while those often felt bland and serviceable, the addition of John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch ensures that the set-pieces feel unique and original, even if they don’t quite measure up to his previous films. Naturally, how well Deadpool 2 works for you will depends on how closely it matches up to your sense of humour. If you enjoyed the previous film you will almost certainly enjoy this one. If, like me, you weren’t quite sold on the first one, this comes as a pleasant surprise, even if the series remains not quite as game-changing as it seems to think it is.
Words by Adam Wells