Director: David Leitch
Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T. J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy
Runtime: 119 Minutes
When Deadpool came out in early 2016, it arrived like the well-needed relief to audiences surrounding the domination of the superhero genre in the pop culture landscape. It was by no means perfect, but its feverish sense of fun at the expense of the genre allowed it to flourish as an unexpected box-office smash hit.
There was always the fear that Deadpool 2, in its efforts to coast on the runaway success of its predecessor, would feel like a repeated joke that was funny the first time but wears itself out upon repeated uses. So, while the good news is that this bigger, louder, naughtier sequel, for the most part, gets away with being able to pull the same trick again, it feels like the novelty has worn off in more ways than one.
Although the first film felt almost too slight and played with well-established formula, the simplicity of its storytelling allowed it a firm foundation for it to dress down its own standards and shortcomings. This doesn't have such a luxury in its favour, with a much larger budget and sense of self-satisfaction to its own existence and how lucky it is to be able to exist. As such, the handwaving gestures of its forth wall breaking lead (Ryan Reynolds) toward "lazy writing" and generic conventions can't be forgiven as easily.
There's also the issue of narrative, mainly in that in an aim to go bigger it ultimately feels like it comes out as a lesser entry due to the excessive bloat of it all. For a majority of its runtime, it's a big fat structural mess, shuffling between locations and set pieces almost too fast to allow it to breathe, as if it had a checklist of things it wanted to tick off and show off but doesn't afford as much of the same effort to its characters.
It wants to have the sincere emotional moments and vindication to its characters motivations as much as it wants to undercut them with a knowing joke or a mockery of the same earnestness. While the core relationship between Wade Wilson and love interest Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) was the first film's strongest and most surprising anchor, it's more or less side-lined here to provide a primary focus to Deadpool himself, as well as the plethora of new characters he brings into the frame.
Sadly, while Deadpool can be amusing in small doses when donning his mask and outfit, too much of him feels like a bombardment of crudity and smugness. It helps that Reynolds is still dominating the role in sheer self-deprecating manners, and he's still perfectly cast playing a role no other contemporary could quite pull off with as much ease, but Deadpool does outstay his welcome in his own movie as the jokes and references mercilessly pile on.
Of the new cast is Hunt for the Wilderpeople's Julian Dennison as Russell Collins/Firefist, a troubled teen taken under Wade's wing and probably the closest thing the film has to a heart, if only the screenplay offered him more to work with than what he's given. Same goes for Josh Brolin's antagonist Cable, a time-travelling cyborg with just enough backstory to keep him engaging, even though it's rather clear Brolin's mind is on the bigger, meatier roles he's currently invested in.
There's little else to say about the rest. The returning cast are decent but mostly underused, with the exception of Colossus (Stefan Kapičić). Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the previous film's breakout star, gets nothing to do but stand around and do her bit when needed. But the film somehow makes plenty of time for ethnic stereotype taxi driver Dopinder (Karan Soni) to hog screen time, as does T.J. Miller's unnecessary Weasel.
Which is a shame, because its all at the expense of a terrific turn from Zazie Beetz as luck empowered mercenary Domino, who shines in every frame but is afforded none of the same characterisations. Neither are the remainder of the X-Force team much publicised in the marketing material, although it's pretty clear that the movie isn't interested in them either – you'll understand why when you see it.
What works about the film and maintains its watchability is the direction of Atomic Blonde and John Wick director David Leitch, who matches the comedy with capable technical ability during the action-heavy segments. He's a tactile filmmaker with a great eye for scene geography, and even with a darker colour pallet the film still looks sharp and clear with a much larger sense of scale during its hand-to-hand combat scenes, all of which are expertly handled and executed even when the bigger moments reveal its digital effect shortcomings.
Deadpool 2 is the personification of ‘more is less' filmmaking. It casts its net bigger but reaps fewer rewards by comparison. It's still sporadically amusing and entertaining when it's not repeating jokes or trying so hard to shock or manipulate the audience, and Reynold's lead is as dedicated as ever, but it feels like it runs out of gas before the credits start rolling.