I think it’s fair to say that rarely has a film’s cast and crew been happier to make a sequel than Deadpool 2’s. Deadpool was a giant surprise in 2016. Surprising in that it ever happened period, and that what we got was so good. Deadpool 2 gleefully jumps back into the Merc With a Mouth’s world, but the results this time are hit and miss. Overall, it hits a lot more than it misses, and if you liked the first film, you’ll like the sequel. It is, however, like a lot of sequels, a bag of diminishing returns. Going to get a bit spoilery below so warnings all around.
The biggest problem with Deadpool 2 is that the film lacks the heart of the original. Deadpool, under all the R-Rated shenanigans, is a weirdly sweet love story between Wade (Ryan Reynolds) and Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Deadpool 2’s decision to kill Vanessa early in the sequel leaves Wade anchorless and the meandering plot follows his lack of connection to humanity. First he goes through an admittedly darkly hilarious series of attempts to off himself (which is the downside of having a Wolverine-level healing factor). He tries, with disastrous results to be an X-Man. He forms his own team of morally ambiguous mutants, X-Force, to try to stop time-traveling Cable (Josh Brolin) from killing a child before he can grow to be a monster. It’s a lot of stuff to jam into one film and the whole conceit could have worked, but it’s just not plotted very well. I think the biggest mistake was to make Vanessa’s killers really just random punks that Wade reduced to component parts in less than two minutes. There’s no real villain in Deadpool 2 though some big mutant baddies like Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut are trotted out, none of them establish the personal vengeful wrath that Ajax did in the first film. There’s no real righteous target to fire Wade’s death machine at, and Deadpool is a character that can get unsympathetic pretty fast if he’s not couched in the right terms.
Deadpool is famous for breaking the fourth wall. In the comics, he’s a comic book character who is aware he’s a comic book character and is constantly making in-jokes about comics and talking to the reader. The first movie established that Deadpool is a movie character who knows he’s a movie character and talks to the audience about it from time to time. In the sequel, DP has a LOT to say to the audience, especially about comic book movies making jokes about Batman vs. Superman, the entire DCEU, Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Infinity War, Logan, etc. He talks to the audience…a lot. That’s fine in moderation, but if you go to that well too much the movie ceases to become a movie and is more like a series of sketches. Some work, some don’t, some are just the lazy writing that DP complains about three times over the course of the film.
The best thing that Deadpool 2 has going for it is that Ryan Reynolds was born to play Wade Wilson and is loving every single second that his impish spandex-clad self is on-screen. Ultimately, this is what makes the movie work despite my problems with the plotting. Deadpool 2 is absurdist fun coming at you at 1,000 mph. The Bond-style opening credits to an original Celine Dion song? Brilliance. The cameos? Astounding. 80% of the jokes? Hysterical. The film has some great action pieces (it gets overly ambitious with the CGI and even with an extended budget, the film is pushing its capabilities). X-Force’s first deployment is one of the most hysterical action sequences in recent memory. The end credits scene…maybe the greatest end credits scene of all-time fixing both X-Men Origins: Wolverine AND Green Lantern.
While I’m hard on it, Deadpool 2 is a lot of anarchic fun. All credit goes to Ryan Reynolds for his passion for the character and willingness to do literally anything for him. Josh Brolin’s Cable and Zazie Beetz’s Domino are great additions to the ensemble for this and future films. While it doesn’t have the overall package the original presented, the film is still tremendously entertaining and definitely worth a trip to the theater.