Historically, when it comes to sequels, especially in the superhero genre, there tends to be a precipitous decline in quality. While the difference in quality varied from franchise to franchise, most of Marvel Studios’ heavy hitters had a rough go of it the second time around; Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy 2. A general loss of direction or maybe conviction present in the original seemingly gets lost along the way. Perhaps it’s just growing pains, a natural process that occurs when a film grows into a franchise. Whatever the case may be, Deadpool 2 managed to avoid many of those pitfalls and still grow a little bit while maintaining the core aspects of the original.
For a R-rated comedy about an unkillable mercenary who graphically kills a lot of people while battling a time traveler for the fate of a young mutant’s future, there’s a surprising amount of heart…more than its predecessor. And even though the filmmakers poke fun at it for being emotional, it’s that quality that really makes Wade Wilson so endearing. The first time around, Ryan Reynolds voiceover and the general plot structure gave us a very bizarre and entertaining love story. This time, it’s about family…without really being a family film.
Reynolds reprised his role as the “Merc with a Mouth” and once again made a very odd character broadly palatable, but he also got down on the script this time around. For someone who fought so hard to make these films a reality and has such an intimate knowledge of the screen iteration, it was a good move. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the original writers, were right there with him and they didn’t stray far from what got them to the dance. Tonally, the sequel is very close to the original…”if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kinda thing. Although DP2 is incredibly funny, it felt like they were maybe trying a little harder than they needed to with the jokes. It worked wonderfully with the first movie because there was this element of surprise and, with that gone, the follow-up laid it on pretty thick. Sometimes the action or a previous joke was still landing while another was being launched, to the point where I would need to see it again to catch all the subtle barbs. Maybe that’s the idea.
David Leitch took over the director’s chair this go round and, as someone who cut their teeth as a stuntman before directing John Wick, he brought a heavier hand to the table with the action and choreography. Not that Deadpool was short on action, but something about the second effort felt more brutal in many ways. The cast grew substantially from the first movie, so Leitch spread around some of the hand-to-hand combat to all the primary players and his intimate knowledge of stunt work helped shoot the sequences in a more concise way.
The primary beneficiary was naturally Josh Brolin who played Cable, the aforementioned time traveling soldier. It’s an interesting character for sure, but the script really didn’t get into the immense complexity of the source material. Instead, he’s just a time traveler looking to dish out some old fashioned revenge. Brolin was good in the role, having the physicality required and enough of a sense of humor to work well with Reynolds…but a big part of me still envisioned Stephen Lang in his shoes. With all the time travel and alternate reality possibilities in play now and an X Force project announced, who knows what may happen down the line.
Even with all the star power on the front end, I was most impressed with Zazie Beetz as Domino and Julian Dennison as Russell. While we didn’t get to know Domino very well, aside from her superhuman luck and cosmic connection to the plot, Beetz stole the show on more than one occasion and did more than hold her own comedically. Dennison was dealt a heavier hand, playing a young mutant seeking revenge on his abusers. The young New Zealander demonstrated a knack for comedic timing and surprising range when it came to some of the darker themes.
With all the new players on the field, Colossus was even more boring and caricatured than the first time around. Why is he always in organic steel form? Why is he obsessed with Wade? Even his highly anticipated showdown during the big finale just kinda serves as filler. Growing up an X-Men fan, I always liked Colossus but the films have yet to do him justice. Unfortunately, this was a step back for Brianna Hildebrand aka Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Probably a casualty of the bloated cast, she was basically pushed aside to make way for new faces. In the limited time we did see her, we learned about her relationship status and her sexuality…she still gives Wade the finger. While she was certainly rockin’ the new look, it was disappointing to see the lack of legitimate development in her character.
In lue of any significance there, bigger roles were brought to the table for T.J. Miller and Karan Soni. Miller wasn’t much more than a glorified bartender the first time, but we learn that Weasel is more of a mercenary concierge and definitely Wade’s longest lasting relationship. Miller’s patented delivery fit the mold for this franchise, but wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Soni, on the other hand, got a bigger role and his own shot at being a hero. The unbecoming nature of his character Dopinder set the table for character growth in the right way. That growth is measured in small steps, but it’s better than nothing.
The filmmakers and the studio played this very close to the chest. Stick to the formula that proved successful in the first, introduce enough of the comic book source material to please the fan boys and deliver the violent action that separates the property from from its superhero peers. It’s redundant. There’s nothing groundbreaking going on here, but it a good bit of fun and turned out to be a better than average sequel.
Recommendation: If you enjoy the first movie, you’ll enjoy this just as much. It hits all the same notes and ups the ante on the action and the budget. If you don’t like superhero movies, you still might like this one due to the action/comedy aspect. Deadpool 2 is really graphically violent, like, really violent. Not the best idea to take young kids to see it, but it’s going to happen.