Deadpool 2 ups gags and in-jokes
Deadpool 2. (R16, 119 mins) Directed by David Leitch ★★★ 1⁄
It’s easy to forget, even just a couple of years down the track, just what a blast and a surprise that first Deadpool was.
It undercut all the po-faced seriousness that was threatening to turn the Marvel franchise into more of a slog than it needed to be. The jokes were truly funny, the pop-culture references came in at all angles – Ryan Reynolds holding up the bleeding stump of his hand and whispering ‘‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’’ is still about as funny and deliriously daft a moment as I’ve ever seen on a movie screen – and that R rating was proudly and incontrovertibly earned.
Deadpool had true swagger. It was a film that didn’t care whether you were offended, it just wanted to be allowed to exist on its own terms.
Two years later and the inevitable sequel arrives with the sort of fanfare and marketing budget the original couldn’t have dreamed of. Does it work? Kind of. In a sequels-are-always-a-bit-ofa-let-down way.
We pick up the action not too long after the first film ended. Our boy and Vanessa are happily domesticated whenever Deadpool isn’t off, offing villains and blowing stuff up. Naturally, it can’t last.
The script throws up an unexpectedly grim twist and the film seems to be morphing into a revenge and retribution yarn. But a new teenage mutant enters the story and Deadpool 2 seemingly forgets its own first 15 minutes, as Deadpool tries to alternately save newbie Firefist (Julian Dennison) from himself and the predations of the staff at the orphanage-formutants he is interred in.
Events lead to a prison break and then another newbie in the shape of Josh Brolin’s ‘‘Cable’’’. And then, after an interminable opening act, Deadpool 2 starts to find some momentum and direction.
Listen, there’s not much about this film I didn’t like. Which I guess is as it should be. Because Deadpool 2 wants very much to be liked. And that is its weakness.
The writers have loaded the screenplay with gags and in-jokes. If that was what we all loved about the 2016 film, then Deadpool 2 ups the quota so that nearly every line of dialogue now includes something for us to laugh at. It starts to feel a bit strained after a while.
And after the genuine tragedy included in the film’s opening stanza, just a little tone-deaf. What was fresh and hilarious in Deadpool is trying a bit too hard in Deadpool 2.
But that’s not a reason to dislike this film. Trying too hard isn’t anything like as damaging as not trying hard enough. And Deadpool 2 still hits its targets a lot more often than it misses.
Mostly, this is a likable, funny and pretty well-strung-together second instalment. Brolin – doing double Marvel duty after his shift as Thanos in Infinity War which, of course, gets a mention – is terrific as the brooding and brokenhearted Cable. When the film starts to badly need to find its centre of gravity, Brolin is there to provide it.
Dennison does more than enough to suggest he’ll be back for episode three, or maybe get his own spin-off. Likewise Zazie Beetz as Domino.
Sequels to singular hits are a tough road to walk. I’d file Deadpool 2 alongside Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (and about a million miles ahead of Kick-Ass 2). It’s good enough, with only a whiff of seen-itbefore around the edges.
Deadpool 2 wants very much to be liked. And that is its weakness.