REVIEW – ‘Deadpool 2’

As a general rule of cinema, sequels are rarely as good as the film which preceded them. You know it. I know it. We try to keep our expectations down, but there’s invariably unfortunate expectation and hype attached to any second chapter that few live up to. But comedy sequels are their own unique beasts and are almost always horrendously disappointing. A great comedy is often lightning in a bottle which is tough to repeat and attempting to do such is fraught with danger.

Deadpool hit like a breath of fresh air in 2016, jolting us out of our seats with its irreverent self-deprecating humour and lashings of violence and gore the likes of which we’d never seen from any Marvel film. Or any comic book movie, for that matter. It was exactly what the well-worn superhero genre needed, and audiences lapped it up to the tune of over $780 million worldwide. A sequel was a preordained inevitability. Thankfully, with Deadpool 2, they’ve somehow managed to deliver everything you could want from a follow-up…and then some.

We begin with Wade Wilson/Deadpool (a glorious Ryan Reynolds) right where we left him, living blissfully with his gorgeous gal Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Things are going so well for the pair, they’ve begun to discuss starting a family. Oh, yes. Deadpool wants to be a Daddy. In his spare time, and with the help of his trusty chauffeur, Dopinder (a scene-stealing Karan Soni), Wade is using his impressive abilities to eliminate crime bosses all around the world, making him the world’s most feared mercenary. But when one particular gangster enacts some brutal payback, Deadpool spirals into a deep funk of depression and self-doubt.

Rescued by his old pal Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Wade seeks some much-needed recovery at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, home to the never seen X-Men (again the victim of several gags) and Colossus’ quippy sidekick Negasonic Teenage Warhead (a sadly underused Brianna Hildebrand). The brutish metallic behemoth is still determined to end Deadpool’s reign of outlandish behaviour and turn him into a real superhero, making him an “X-Man trainee.”

It’s not long before the trio is called into action after a hot-headed (and handed) young mutant, Russell (the stellar Julian Dennison) aka Firefist enacts some firey chaos on the orphanage he calls home. Realising the troubled teen is merely reacting to the cruel torment he’s been subjected to by the school’s evil staff, Deadpool takes a shining to Russell, awakening further paternal feelings in our lovable rogue. But, naturally, Wade makes a mess of the entire situation, and both he and Russell are shipped off to a high-tech mutant prison known as the Ice Box.

Things get even more complicated when mechanically-advanced super soldier Cable (Josh Brolin, again in fine form) time-travels from the future, hellbent on eliminating Russell, for reasons unknown. After a prison battle separates Deadpool and his new surrogate son, Wade makes it his mission to save Russell from Cable by creating a new team of somewhat superheroes, calling themselves the “gender inclusive” X-Force. I won’t spoil the fun of the introduction of Deadpool’s new rag-tag bunch of misfits, but at the forefront is confident and sassy Domino (a stellar Zazie Beetz) whose “superpower” is being uncharacteristically lucky. Don’t worry. It makes sense when you see her power at play.

The first film laid the foundation of what to expect from this unexpected character, and, for better or worse, the sequel continues down a similar path. The meta pop culture references are all deliciously here again, with everything from Hawkeye, the DC universe, and Hugh Jackman on the receiving end of some much-deserved ridicule. Cable is even referred to as “Thanos” at one point, in a nod to Brolin finding himself the main villain in two Marvel films released only weeks apart. And, again, the opening credits are laced with sneaky stabs at the cast and crew such as the film being directed by “one of the two guys who killed John Wick’s dog.” There’s even a conspiracy theory connecting Barbra Streisand’s seminal classic Yentl to Disney’s Frozen which is rather eye-opening, to say the least.

Do they lose a little impact this time because the element of surprise is gone, especially when the fourth wall is broken time and again? Perhaps. But the jokes are no less funny, and, quite frankly, the film doesn’t even care if every joke lands or not. It’s determined to throw them at you with such rapid pace, you’re too busy laughing at the next one to worry about the ones you weren’t. The references feel more on-point this time and are far more earned and relevant than in the previous film. There’s a polished sharpness to the wit of the dialogue that elevates it even further than the sublime writing of the original. It’s not often you get to say this about a sequel.

Most sequels tend to fall over by simply trying to be bigger than their predecessor. This leads to overbloated catastrophes that ultimately create an exhausting experience. The crowning glory of Deadpool 2 is that it surprisingly keeps things relatively subdued. Sure, there’s plenty of dazzling fight sequences, lots of explosions, and gallons of bloody gore. But those were cornerstones of the original, and they’re presented here again for your enjoyment. It’s deviating itself from what came before with a fresh narrative, rather than bombard you with relentless waves of action. It’s a smart move that creates a sequel which genuinely sets itself apart from the first film. Again, that’s not something you can often say of a follow-up.

Early in the piece, Deadpool refers to this as a “family film,” and, in many ways, he’s spot on. Not a film made for all the family, but a film deeply rooted in the ideal of familial connection. Much like Batman, Deadpool is the typical lonely superhero who must learn the importance of connecting with others. Naturally, this is where Russell and his new X-Force gang come in. This narrative is deeper than its predecessor and makes for a more complex character journey for our titular hero. Yes, this is the evolution of Wade becoming more than just a smart-alec douchebag, gifting Reynolds with the chance to show more than just his comedic chops.

That’s not to say this film isn’t mostly concerned with showcasing Reynolds’ impressive comedy skills. We paid to see a comedy, and a comedy is certainly what we’re delivered. The original proved Deadpool was the character Reynolds was always born to play, and, with another chance to throw on the red tights, he demonstrates that even further. Reynolds gives another firecracker of a performance, with his supreme knack for self-effacing humour and the driest wit the screen has seen in years. But there are a surprising number of genuinely touching moments which highlight how versatile an actor Reynolds really is. Deadpool’s humour is ultimately a mask for some deep-seeded pain, and Reynolds runs the total gauntlet of emotions in this film. Can we start a serious Oscar campaign for him now? He deserves recognition beyond a Golden Globe nom.

Surrounding Reynolds is another wonderful roster of supporting characters. Cable may not have the deep pathos and character development of Brolin’s Thanos, but the actor is just as intimidating and ominous in this role, with some sprinklings of conflict and vulnerability thrown in to craft a fully-formed performance. Brolin has great chemistry with Reynolds and the pair play off each other remarkably well. Dennison is a real delight as Russell, bringing plenty of the Kiwi-inspired humour that made Thor: Ragnarok‘s Korg such a treat. But the real star here is Beetz as Domino who is a new superhero for the ages. She captures attention like no other in this film and needs her own spin-off chapter immediately.

With a whole host of sensational action set-pieces (including one to the refrains of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” of all things) and a slew of brilliant one-liners, it’s impossible not to leave the cinema with a huge smile on your face. This is joyous cinema that never takes itself too seriously and therein lies its absolute power. It delivers exactly what you came for, yet surprises you further with what you didn’t know you wanted. If you loved the first film, you will love the second chapter. And not that you were likely to (Marvel has us well-trained, by now), but do not leave your seat once the film ends. Otherwise, you’ll miss perhaps the greatest Marvel mid-credits scene there has ever been. Truly. It’s absolutely bloody genius.

Deadpool 2 is the rare sequel that takes what made its predecessor great and strives to improve further. It’s a calamity of ridiculousness and absurdity with a hefty sense of heart and a deep respect for its fanbase that makes for wonderful entertainment. The world needs to laugh right now, and Reynolds is here with some much-needed and timely levity. Thank god for Deadpool.

★★★★☆

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Karan Soni, T.J. Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Eddie Marsan
Director: David Leitch
Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds, Lauren Shuler Donner
Cinematography: Jonathan Sela
Production Design: David Scheunemann
Music: Tyler Bates
Editors: Craig Alpert, Elisabet Ronaldsdottir, Dirk Westervelt
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: 16th May 2018 (Australia)

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