(SPOILERS) Perhaps it’s because I was lukewarm on the original, but Deadpool 2 mercifully disproves the typical consequence of the "more is more" approach to making a sequel. By rights, it should plummet into the pitfall of ever more excess to diminishing returns, yet for the most part it doesn't. Maybe that’s in part due to it still being a relatively modest undertaking, budget-wise, and also a result of being very self-aware – like duh, you might say, that’s its raison d'être – of its own positioning and expectation as a sequel; it resolutely fails to teeter over the precipice of burn out or insufferable smugness. It helps that it's frequently very funny – for the most part not in the exhaustingly repetitive fashion of its predecessor – but I think the key ingredient is that it finds sufficient room in its mirthful melee for plot and character, in order to proffer tone and contrast.
You can colour me surprised on that score, as I didn’t think the series was up to engaging on a level much beyond Naked Gun gag-ery. Which is fine up to a point – the point where its juvenile tendencies become simply tiresome – but aside from the undoubted chemistry between Monica Baccarin and Ryan Reynolds – albeit, their actual plotline was fairly leaden – the first film didn’t seem to leave itself much of anywhere left to go; it was diminishing returns, story-wise, once Deadpool became Deadpool. I noted of that picture that I probably wasn’t the target audience; judging by the attendees' predominant ages, I wasn't the target for this one either, but I felt much more at home with the proceedings. I suspect that's because Deadpool 2 is less just one thing, and never seems to content to rest on its laurels and thus lose its edge or inventiveness; it's snappy and quickfire, not only in gags but also with plotting.
That plot is no work of art, but it meshes its derivate qualities in an engagingly forward-moving manner, cutely aware that Cable (a perfectly deadpan Josh Brolin, complete with an obligatory Thanos line aimed squarely his way) is a Terminator-rip-off and following the time-travel tinkering scenario to its (il-)logical conclusion in a mid-credits-sequence to end all pre-, mid-, and post-credits sequences (of which more shortly). But, perhaps surprisingly, not riffing on the old Grandfather Paradox to humorous ends (a going-back-to-kill-baby-Hitler scene was cut). Cable’s desire to put an end to Russell/Firefist – Julian Dennison proving that, as with The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, while his range is limited, his rapport with a more experienced co-star goes some way to making up the difference – for future crimes committed propels much of the action. As with its predecessor, this is refreshingly not about the usual apocalyptic stakes (even if Cable arrives from a wrecked world), much of the action focussing on Deadpool trying to bust Russell out of the captivity before Cable busts him.
And that comes after a first-rate first act in which the makers get away with fridging Baccarin's Vanessa – thanks to that revitalising mid-end-credits sequence – and thus providing Wade with necessary motivation, or lack thereof, before becoming refocussed on "family". If the latter element is about as unconvincing as Deadpool announces it to be (despite his being sincere but not really but really), the tonal shifts in losing her play remarkably well. The touchstone here is other superhero sequels divesting their hero of his mojo (Superman II, Iron Man 2), this one accompanied by the added unwholesome spin of rekindling Wade's cancer while he's incarcerated.
The movie's peak beats are naturally the funny ones, though, reaching their zenith with Deadpool gathering together X-Force and promptly seeing them obliterated through sheer ineptitude. His crew are the raggediest bunch of superheroes since Mystery Men, the pride of their leaping into action instantly undercut by a succession of parachuting immolations.
There's an embarrassment of riches here, with Terry Crewes as the only instantly recognisable face doing nothing of note with his legit super skill and Lewis Tan as the most generically super-looking hero getting bluntly minced by a helicopter (which might have pleased his creator Rob Liefield, upset by the coming out of his comic strip incarnation), Bill "Pennywise" Skarsgard's Zeitgeist (asked if he has his finger on the pulse of society, he reductively replies, “No, I spit acidic vomit”) and Telford Porter/Vanisher, entirely invisible – making for a highly amusing skydiving image – until he's fried by power lines and revealed as Brad Pitt.
And Peter (Rob Delaney) entirely normal and comfortably moustached, and an instant hit with Deadpool, unceremoniously eaten away by Zeitgeist as the latter succumbs to a grindler (Deadpool saves Peter during the credits sequence, so presumably said fuck it to the remaining X-dead). Domino survives entirely, with an effecitvely-sustained running motif based on her superskill of luck (Deadpool being initially disbelieving of its status as a superpower), although in days to come, I can see more column inches devoted to Zazie Beetz’s unfettered underarm hair than her character's prowess.
Only the end credits' succession of sight gags can equal this, including Deadpool killing off his X-Men Origins: Wolverine self (at the outset, he’s playing with a run-through Logan diorama) and assassinating Ryan Reynolds as he rejoices over receipt of the Green Lantern screenplay. There's the usual mixture of gross-out gags (inventive ways to discover how Wade pieces himself back together after decapitation and dismemberment lead to an unnerving encounter with his newly-formed baby legs and balls) and pop culture references (The Human Centipede, The Proposition, "Martha", and who’d have thought intoning "I’m Batman" in a gravelly voice could still elicit a chortle?) and cameos (most of the First Class-era X-Men hiding behind a door in the Xavier Mansion). Perhaps the biggest surprise, given the prominent placing of Juggernaut, is that there's nary a derisive swipe at Vinnie Jones. Perhaps Ryan was chicken in a way he wasn't of Becks.
Of course, Reynolds, now garnering a co-writer credit, simply owns the material, eking himself out a level of stardom he could never have hoped for without the mask (what was it, a decade and a half trying but singularly failing?) Brolin knows just how to pitch his response, particularly in respect of charges of prejudice ("You killed Black Tom, you racist son of a bitch!")
The supporting cast, including returnees, are good value; Negasonic (Brianna Hildebrand) arrives with an amusingly effervescent girlfriend (Shiori Kutsuna), Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) is still the butt (sometimes literally) of Deadpool's jokes, Weasel is grossly funny (whatever TJ Miller may have done), and Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and Dopinder/"Brown Panther" (Karan Soni), tread a dedicated line in stereotypical riffs. Only really Eddie Marsan gets a raw deal, assigned an entirely generic villain. Probably got paid well for it, though.
The biggest star of Deadpool 2 may be David Leitch though. Atomic Blonde received far more brickbats than it deserved – fortunately not preventing the announcement of a sequel – perhaps due to outsized expectations, and those who appreciated his knack for giddy laughs amid the superbly-executed action (likewise in John Wick) won't be surprised that he's so adept here. I admit to having thought he'd be wasted on this one (although I'm much less sure that will be the case with the Hobbs & Shaw movie), but I’m happy to report he adds immensely to the proceedings. Tim Miller may seem to have been offered the glittering prize of a Cameron-sanctioned Terminator 6, but that could well be a kiss of death, doing similar things to his career as Alan Taylor’s with Genisys; Leitch far outguns him stylistically, and his martialling of the choreographic – even, or perhaps especially, when encumbered by over-sprayed CGI – is never less than magisterial.
Reynolds has, probably rightly, said he can't see where Deadpool can go after this, suggesting he'll show up in Drew Goddard’s X-Force (so more of a Lector or Captain Jack in their first instances?) before there’s a whiff of a Deadpool 3. But by then, the Mouse House may own him lock and stock, and who knows how that will skew his barrel. If Deadpool 2 doesn’t outgun its predecessor at the box office, it will probably only be down to his having been positioned amid an overstuffed summer; you won't – or shouldn't – exit the picture fatigued or of the opinion he doesn't have another innings in him.
Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.