‘From the studio that killed Wolverine’ reads the tag on one of Deadpool 2’s innumerable posters. It’s the one with Wade ‘Deadpool’ Wilson lounging astride a swan, tickling the sea, ahead of a big old explosion. This sequel may follow Infinity War in 2018’s superhero release schedule but it’s a very different, in some ways welcome, beast.
There was nothing conventional about Tim Miller’s Deadpool, the mucky-mouthed passion project of actor/producer Ryan Reynolds. From its viral marketing to its witty spin on the, now-inevitable, post-credits scene, the film seemed hellbent on breaking the rules of Marvel’s game and reaped the critical and box office rewards because of it. Whilst there was always going to be a sequel, the issue with following a boundary-breaking hit is the question of how to remain post-modern. How, essentially, not to become Scream 2.
Set two – mercifully free from cinematic universe happenstance – years after Deadpool, the new film finds Wade (Reynolds) still employed in international bad-guy slaughtering and still loved up with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When tragedy strikes, Wade’s search for redemption leads him on a crusade to protect a pubescent mutant called Russell (Julian Dennison) from the clutches of time travelling cyborg Cable (Josh Brolin)
As it transpires, this primary strand of plot doesn’t actually emerge until a good thirty minutes have passed; a half hour preoccupied with wisecracks and the emotive touch that elevated its predecessor. To compare the pair, Deadpool 2 is funnier than the first but also cheesier. Whilst cliche mockery is part and parcel with the Deadpool brand there’s a sincerity here that doesn’t quite ring true. One moment Wade’s discussing his hitherto unheard of daddy issues, the next he’s pining after for the family he never had. Admirable that these humanising touches are, put alongside the relentless meta humour, they’re exposed as weak.
More so than before, Deadpool 2 suffers from its own superficiality and a sense that this is a world of precious little consequence. The fourth wall is once again broken with hilarious effect but in a way that hasn’t the first film’s balance with diegetic jeopardy. Certainly, there are no fewer than three tricks in the film to allow characters virtual immortality. It is particularly troubling that only Reynolds and Brolin have even a hint of flesh to accompany their bones and even they are dumped with highly generic arcs.
Another issue here is the film’s inability to challenge or tackle the problems that it repeatedly informs us exist in the superhero genre. It may be astute to note that Zazie Beetz’s new addition, Domino, is like a ‘black Black Widow’ but when you realise that this really is the entirety of her characterisation, it’s hard not to feel a little insulted. Beetz is reduced to the role of ‘Manic Pixie Dream Chick’ and does little more than kick ass in a catsuit. Not a single women in this film is given strong material to handle.
Equally problematic is Deadpool’s depiction of ethnic diversity. In the same year Marvel brought the world Black Panther, they’ve allowed Fox to turn out shallow Indian and Japanese stereotypes. Brianna Hildebrand has even less to say and do this time around, being a one-note joke, but she gets away lightly compared to the newbies. Eddie Marsan is wasted and a popular character from the comics is realised as a CGI mess.
If you go into Deadpool 2 for a good time, you’ll get one. This is a dirty delight, packed with some properly hearty laughs. On the other hand, don’t expect a film that will stand the test of time.