The worst sin a movie can commit is far from being irreverent.
To the contrary, that’s what movies so often and acceptably are, and if they happen to flounder into the realms of theses beyond a mere two hours of joyful entertainment it can be for the better, but can just as well be for the worse.
Deadpool 2 heralds an opportunity for the type of anarchic mayhem suggested by its marketing campaign that for the second time around has proved more entertaining than the film itself. Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson) taking over Stephen Colbert’s monologue, crashing a South Korean singing competition as a unicorn, teaming up with Celine Dion, gloriously trolling Eurovision (and Australia) or paying tribute to the greatest football team that is or ever was are all leaps above what is generally on offer here.
The sequel has a great collection of gags and does not deserve a negative review, far from it, it’s simply that the creativity abounding in the character and harnessed to no small extent by Reynolds gets treated to an on-screen rehash, as is not unexpected, of what worked well the first time. And it did work well the first time, though you can’t maintain that level of surprise or subversiveness if you just run with the same shtick all over again.
T.J. Miller, playing one of Wade’s wisecracking troupe, is largely emblematic of the issues in Deadpool 2. Irritating to no small extent, his being reeled out to deliver crass similes or glaringly point out cultural references the audience might not but probably will get on their own takes a lot away from viewers who the screenwriters should trust to appreciate the banter regardless of how many references they can register. Acknowledging Miller’s function, even as ironically as the film does, still doesn’t recommend the recurringly lazy humour characteristic of the lesser episodes of Family Guy that seemingly dictates the presence of so many cultural touchstones per minute.
There are exceptions in this regard; Karan Soni as Dopinder gets to have a lot more fun this time around. The excellent Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead), who among others has returned for round 2, regretfully has precious little to do. A replay of the opening credits gag, even if set to a marvellous Celine tune that delivers a clear riff on an established series, has little impact when it was done so well mere years ago.
Speaking of “Directed by one of the guys who killed the dog in John Wick,” it is even more surprising that this film, under the helm of someone with such a grasp of physical action and fight choreography, nonetheless (save the efforts of the celebrated main foil) offers so little by way of hand-to-hand thrills. The sequel conversely relies more heavily on requisite CGI and one-liners (as good as they are) than any sustained, engagingly kinetic sequence involving physical combat, despite the script calling for many.
Having said this, what the film lacks in unoriginality it makes up for in its ensemble, most notable among them the villain. Josh Brolin plays ‘techno-organic’ future-soldier Cable as straight as they come, serving as an appropriate foil to the merc with the mouth who in more ways than one is Wade’s fitting obverse arch-nemesis.
Giving his character more emotional depth than the film was ready to reckon with, surrealistic sequences involving Wade venturing into other-worldly realms as much as attempts to follow the heady, conventional routes of superhero fare (not unlike elements of the first Deadpool) do little service to a film that would have done better sticking to the haphazard, ecstatically unpredictable routes that so endeared the figure to fans as soon as that first test footage leaked those years ago.
Aside from a barrage of quips there are numerous moments that invoke the marketing campaign’s spirit, among them a surprise cameo from a major star, a tidbit from some of our favourite Marvel characters and an uproarious parody of every action sequence where anyone ever tried to infiltrate anything by parachuting out of a plane. These instances are far from regular if even the norm, though one particularly hilarious sequence is fairly notable in this regard where Deadpool proceeds to explicitly address the more than warranted criticism of a past treatment of the character.
With Brolin’s depiction a highlight, the same can fairly be said of Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison, as much a fixture here as the superb Zazie Beetz’s Domino. Dennison’s storyline, veering all too closely to a very popular science-fiction drama from the last ten years, the inspiration from which will be readily apparent, deserves credit for never inviting the type of cataclysmic, earth-shattering action sequences characteristic even of the first entry and instead, in spite of a larger budget, choosing to sustain a greater focus on the characters rather than the ensuing and inevitable destruction-fests.
A great deal of fun exponentially bettered by Reynold’s dedication to the role on and off screen, Deadpool won’t disappoint fans of the original and that’s about the best thing that can be said.
Deadpool 2 is in cinemas now