If you experience a sense of the familiar during the hundred and nineteen gloriously OTT minutes that comprise Deadpool 2, it’s likely because your subconscious can’t help but compare the Ryan Reynolds superhero meta-romp to that other sequel to a breakout satirical hit – Austin Powers. That’s right, Deadpool 2 is the superhero genre’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me – The Merc Who Merc’d Me, if you will – taking every gag you loved last time around and amping them each up to eleven. Where it falls flat though is in frequently sacrificing its tone for a newly beefed-up sense of plot and story, with the murderous answer to Bugs Bunny this time thrust into what largely plays like a riff on the Terminator series. It takes a decent swing, to be fair, but in the shadow of just how sparky and fresh its predecessor really was, Deadpool 2 just can’t quite cut the mustard.
In suitably meta-fashion, the sequel kicks off with a comically unsubtle look at just what John Wick director David Leitch is bringing the table – with an extended “here’s what Wade’s been doing” montage (largely used to comprise the marketing’s darker action beats) sporting all manner of farcically grizzly deaths and OTT hyper-choreographed fight sequences. It’s a strong foot to start on, and, for those few minutes at least, it seems all is looking promising for what should clearly have been entitled Deadpool Comes Again. It’s not a feeling that lasts however, as the plot pulls the rug from under what’s arguably the only piece of character development from the first movie and sends ‘Pool straight into the crosshairs of Cable – a cybernetically enhanced soldier from the future sent back to assassinate a future warlord in his childhood years.
Said warlord is none other than Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison, whose “Cartman but real” routine works up a treat here, and his rapport with Reynolds – though forced and more than a little mawkish at times – does raise one or two smiles. There’re also further added value elements in the much-trumpeted X-Force – Wade’s own super team, comprised of various C list X-Men types – which largely proves to something of a marketing misnomer working entirely in the favour of the delightfully deadpan Domino (Atlanta’s Zazie Beets). Reynolds, of course, was born to play Deadpool, and that casting remains as much fun as it ever was, beefed up in fact by the brilliant chemistry shared with Josh Brolin’s oh-so-serious Cable. And yes, Karan Soni’s Dopinder is back, though largely as something of a whiny irritant in contrast to the first movie.
It’s intriguing to speculate just what the alternative plans for a Deadpool sequel actually were (previous director Tim Miller departed over a desire to do something more ambitious with the second instalment), with returning writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick opting largely for The Spy Who Shagged Me model of simply making everything bigger and more excessive, but without stopping to truly consider the toll it would take on the material itself. Deadpool himself, for instance, undergoes something of an emotional journey this time around, but is there anybody in the world that truly wanted to see that? There’s also something just a little bit more rote to the manner in which gags are constructed this time, with more than a dash of the feeling that the Jack Sparrow curse (a breakout character built on an unexpected performance being forcefully written as such the second time around) well and truly strikes again.
All of which isn’t to say that Deadpool 2 isn’t funny or an otherwise spectacular comic book action fun, but it’s a little more pre-packaged and a lot less authentic than it felt on the first go, with more than a few ideas chucked in there (the opening credit design, for example) that simply don’t work, or, at least, clearly don’t work in the manner those behind the camera obviously thought they would. There’ll doubtless be a third instalment, and with Leitch’s unmistakable action chops, you’d hope he’d return in such an instance, but here’s hoping for a threequel perhaps more rooted in the character-driven meta-narrative of the first chapter than this story-heavy second bout.
Deadpool 2 is in cinemas nationwide from Tuesday, May 15th; rated 15. Check out the trailer below.