Director: David Leitch
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin
Genre: Action / Comedy
Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (Reynolds) brings together a team of fellow mutant outsiders to help protect a young mutant boy from a brutal, time travelling mutant named Cable (Brolin) who is hell bent on killing the boy.
Writing a review of Deadpool brings about the same conundrum as the Tarantino / Rodriguez Grind House films in that because of the constant breaking of the fourth wall any criticism could just be responded to with comments such as “well, we meant it to be like that” or “that’s the point”. There is however no denying that not only does Ryan Reynolds deserve a fair amount of credit for the effort he put in to get the first film made, and also that Deadpool most definitely was a much-needed antidote to the excessive quantity of superhero films that exist these days. Also, it proved that a 15 rated film can make money, and so paved the way for Logan to be far more violent, and inevitably that film is one of the many films that is the subject of some of the jokes in Deadpool 2.
However, the huge success of Deadpool meant that a sequel was always going to be inevitable, and with a bigger budget and even bigger expectations it has certainly put the pressure on Reynolds and co. to avoid the usual trappings of producing a sequel, and of course some of these trappings were the basis of some of the jokes in the first film.
Well, I for one thought Deadpool was a film with a few issues anyway, and for Deadpool 2 all involved inevitably stick to the same formula but just on an occasionally bigger scale, and so it is a film with the same issues of its predecessor, but to an even greater extent, with a disjointed narrative, some jokes that misfire, a baggy running time and an unavoidable overall feeling of hubristic smugness.
Deadpool 2 is certainly a very fun and enjoyable watch overall but is highly forgettable and has very little substance to offer beneath all the wise-cracking and self-aware surface. There is most certainly a market for a film that mocks the abundance of superhero films that dominate our cinema screens these days, and the many jokes aimed at these films are very amusing and occasionally laugh out loud funny, but they are often quite cheap jokes delivered in a way that suggests that all involved are quite pleased with themselves. There is indeed a rather strong and unpleasant whiff of smugness to the whole thing where they think they are smatter than the audience, which takes away some of the enjoyment of the film. Indeed, a lot of the marketing material is funnier than the actual film.
A vast majority of the gags are mildly amusing, but only occasionally are they laugh out loud funny, while some just don’t work, and that was definitely the overall vibe I got form the audience in the full screening that I attended. Also, the film does at times seem to struggle at turning this series of gags into a coherent feature length narrative so to avoid just feeling like a cheap spoof, and in my view the main narrative to Deadpool is not particularly engaging and is rather poorly constructed. At 119 minutes Deadpool 2 could have definitely done with a good twenty minutes being left on the cutting room floor to improve narrative flow as it is definitely does drag at times.
The main story does take a few unexpected twists, but the constant self-aware jokes and overall tone of the film actually serve to undermine any true sense of danger or emotional engagement when these happen, and there are way too many contrivances and clichés that bind the narrative together. Of course, Reynolds will often turn to the camera and admit to us that a scene involves lazy writing, or an action scene is going to go on for too long and not look cinematic, but that does not necessarily always make it okay to then go ahead with it. As with its predecessor, Deadpool 2 does tread a dangerously thin line, and often struggles to navigate it. While the film also seems to fail to heed some of its own observations with lacklustre depictions of some its characters, in particular Karan Soni’s scandalously stereotypical character Dopinder.
However, there are some great moments when the film does actually have the razor sharp observational humour that it should have, such as what happens when Deadpool assembles his ‘X-Force’ team, a ‘mutant’ character whose ‘superpower’ is that she is simply extremely lucky, and the biggest laughs are saved for the very end in what has to be one of the most memorable mid-credit sequences ever seen. Meanwhile Reynolds’ natural charisma and enthusiasm certainly elevates a lot of the slightly lacklustre material. Josh Brolin is also a superbly intense and genuinely menacing as Cable, and his character is actually quite well developed and definitely adds a lot to the film and the level of engagement, in fact I found myself missing his character when he wasn’t around. Meanwhile there are some additional characters (including a couple of famous names) that are fun and welcome additions.
As the bloated and contrived narrative falls into place and the repetitive action sequences come and go, Deadpool 2 never really has any peaks or troughs (apart from that aforementioned hilarious mid-credit sequence), but just seems to go along somewhere in the middle, making for a watchable film, but a truly forgettable one. If we do get a third instalment, then Reynolds and co will need more focus and not let the inevitable box office success increase their already borderline intolerable smugness anymore.
Sticking to the same formula of its extremely successful predecessor, Deadpool 2 suffers from the same issues but to a greater extent, with the saving grace often being Reynolds’ enthusiasm and Brolin’s brooding. It is watchable, more often than not mildly amusing, but instantly forgettable.