This was originally published at Flickering Myth on 20th May 2018.
When reviewing a sequel, it is often worth reiterating your thoughts on its predecessor, so that your readers have a kind of litmus test to work with. That way, they can figure out if they’re on the same wavelength as you. If they are, then they’ll presumably put more stock in your judgement. Meanwhile, if they don’t share your views on the first one, then at least they can take your opinion on the second with a pinch of salt.
That’s how it normally works anyway. But in the case of Deadpool 2 it would be far more expedient to simple say this: ”Remember how you felt about Deadpool? Well get ready for a near identical experience!” Because that’s the likely outcome. Regardless of whether you loved the first one, hated it, or found yourself somewhere in between, you’re gonna have pretty much the exact same, if not slightly amplified, feelings on the follow-up.
For some, this might be disheartening news. After all, it’s not unreasonable to want a sequel to improve upon its forerunner’s strengths, whilst also remedying some of it’s flaws. However, for others it will likely come as a welcome relief. Comedy continuations are notoriously tricky to pull off and very rarely live up to expectations, so for Deadpool 2 to more-or-less maintain course is nothing short of a miracle. And then of course, they’ll be those who understandably hated the first movie and for those people it should go without saying that they need not apply this time around.
Everything that you loved/liked/hated/ (delete as appropriate) before is very much preserved. From the raunchy humour, to the gory violence and the constant ridiculing of one Hugh Jackman; it’s all presented and accounted for. But some things have admittedly changed. Most notably, there’s someone new in the driving seat.
With previous helmer Tim Miller having absconded to go work on a new Terminator project, David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick) has bravely stepped up to the plate. Some might argue that following in Miller’s footsteps would be a daunting task, but to be frank, Leitch is a much better fit for this material. It was always the writing and the central performance that stood out in Deadpool, not the directing. In fact, you could say that Miller’s approach was rather workmanlike and blandly efficient. Honestly, he didn’t have that much flair, which seems like something you would naturally associate with the property. It deserves someone bold and daring behind the camera, someone who is unafraid to experiment and who can compliment the anarchic stylings of the script.
In that regard Leitch is a superior replacement, throwing himself into the deep end with more creative ideas (like a Spectre-style intro sequence) and crucially jettisoning Miller’s grey and oddly dull aesthetic, in favour of something more colourful and vivid. He goes all in for the meta stuff too, committing to a gleeful bulldozing of the 4th wall that goes well beyond anything that the first film did. In short, under Leitch’s inventive shepherding, the filmmaking now lives up live up to the irreverence spirit of its protagonist.
The action scenes have also received a noticeable boost, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen Leitch’s back-catalogue. Indeed, the set-pieces are truly phenomenal, with ingenious staging, intricate choreography and generous lashings of gore. They are more overtly fused with the comedy as well, with some of them taking on a Hanna-Barbera like quality, keeping things spontaneous and fresh.
On that note, it was Deadpool’s humour that initially won everyone over and that’s very much intact here. It can be a bit hit-and-miss, but the scales definitely lean towards hit. On the negative side of the spectrum, there are a few duds that essentially boil down to just referencing or name-dropping things, without actually saying anything funny. It’s that Family Guy type of humour, where simply acknowledging that something popular exists constitutes as parody.
More annoying however is the ‘’that’s just lazy writing’’ gag, where comedy is used as a lame justification for cutting corners in the plot. This happens time and time again throughout the film and there’s only so many times that you can get away with it. You can’t just do things that are easy and convenient and then excuse them by repeatedly admitting that they were easy and convenient. It’s as if the writers can’t think of anything clever and so just settle for sticking their middle finger up at the audience.
Which is a shame because Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland), along with co-writer Ryan Reynolds, seem very capable of being sharp and witty when they want to be. After all, there’s tons of side-splitting moments here, including a really smart joke about the conspicuous absence of X-Men characters- which is book ended by an unexpected punchline- and a truly righteous scene revolving around a series of macabre accidents.
Add to that some wonderfully juvenile dick jokes and an impressive mastery of bad language (Reynolds is a true alchemist when it comes to cussing) and you’ve got a film that is funnier than most modern comedies, even if it does occasionally stoop below its own standards.
Much of this can be attributed to the stellar performances, particularly Reynolds, for whom the character of Wade Wilson will forever fit like a snarky glove. Everything from his line delivery, to his comedic timing and clownish body language is spot on, and he nails the more emotionally vulnerable side of the anti-hero too. As for the supporting cast; they’re great as well, although the returning players do feel weirdly short changed. This is especially true for Morena Baccarin, whose chemistry with Reynolds helped make the first film a surprise Valentine’s Day smash.
Luckily the newbies fare much better, with Josh Brolin’s Cable making for a bad-ass straight man and getting lots of cool action and Julian Dennison stealing plenty of laughs. The introduction of the spin-off baiting X-Force is also highly exciting, and goes to a very unpredictable place in the end. But it’s Zazie Beetz’s Domino who emerges as the real MVP, as she has charisma to spare and hilarious mutant abilities that are used very resourcefully.
To wrap up, Deadpool 2 is essentially a heightened version of Deadpool one, so make of that what you will. Assuming that you liked the first one, this is a deliriously entertaining romp. All of the new additions work, the action is tighter, the comedy is mostly excellent and there’s a strong emotional core to the story, even if does get a little heavy-handed at times. Best of all, there are even some surprises, ones that haven’t been spoiled by marketing. Yet another small miracle!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★