There’s a gaping hole in the super saturated world of superhero movies. Concerned as they are with hanging on to a PG-13 rating — ensuring the kind of box office earnings that stops filmmakers from attempting to make anything that’s CGI-free — there lays open a market for R-rated storytelling that’s ripe for the taking. And gleefully owning that place since 2016 is none other than Deadpool, your unapologetic, neighbourhood mercenary with an uncomfortable affinity for the perverse and the vile.
And while the franchise has lost its element of surprise that took it to immediate and unchallenged blockbuster status two years ago, the sequel Deadpool 2, directed by David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), rises up to the challenge of managing expectations, and then some.
The sequel picks up some time after the events of the first movie, and Deadpool/Wade Wilson (the irreplaceable Ryan Reynolds returns) is getting into the groove of everyday superhero business, which mostly involves travelling the world and chopping up bad guys in extremely gory detail. A personal tragedy has Pool questioning his choice of profession, until Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) pick him up and immediately turn him into an X-Men trainee.
Things go south pretty quick because who in their right mind would ever trust Deadpool with an internship? A routine mission goes awry when Deadpool decides to take matters into his own hands and save a young pyrokinetic mutant Russell (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s brilliant teenager Julian Dennison), from the time-travelling cyborg Cable (a non-purple Josh Brolin).
To complete his new mission, Deadpool decides to bring together his own superhero team, one that won’t have the same moral scruples to those of the X-Men, and imaginatively names them the X-Force. Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz as the lucky mutant Domino makes a great first impression and holds her own against Reynolds’ charm. Other superheroes you might recognise from the comics include Black Tom Cassidy and the Vanisher, as well as a hilarious, non-superpowered role played by Rob Delaney.
The scenes involving the X-Force arguably offer the most laugh-out-loud moments in the film, and Reynolds and the writing team have managed to push the envelope so far that every scene comes at you like a hard slap in the face.
Almost no one’s safe from the unabashed and unchecked lampooning. From Hugh Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine to the MCU, and the Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises to Barbara Streisand, as well as personal digs at Brolin, Reynolds and Dennison’s cinematic careers, the film is an endless list of name dropping, to the point that you don’t recognise the difference between an actual joke and a simple fourth wall-breaking reference. Obviously, Thanos came up more than once. So did Green Lantern. And Batman. You get the drift…
What Deadpool 2 manages to pull off best is that it easily juggles all its characters, the old and the new, and gets them to play off Deadpool’s wild and zany personality, making for a constantly engaging dynamic. Old characters like Leslie Uggams’ Blind Al, TJ Miller’s Weasel and Karan Soni’s Dopinder easily work against characters like Cable and Domino.
But no matter how enigmatic these characters are, Reynolds steals the spotlight in almost every scene, because it’s impossible to imagine the actor without the character; they are one and the same. In a telling scene towards the end, Deadpool signs a kid’s cereal box as ‘Ryan Reynolds’.
Brolin manages to pull off a Thanos in Deadpool 2, as well. While he’s at his glorious best when he’s the menacing, soldier-ish cyborg intent on delivering on his mission, he shows surprising vulnerability and charm, winning the audiences over a second time.
And while the constant barrage of self-referential humour and lampooning can get a little overwhelming at points, Deadpool 2’ proves that it isn’t just a one hit wonder. Some real love and care has gone into its writing, and its dedication to honour its comic book origins in painful detail is just an added bonus for die-hard fans. Besides, who doesn’t like a good laugh at the theatres?
Don’t miss it!