Deadpool 2 effectively capture my mood in its opening scene, referencing its own existence in a post-Logan world. Having finally given Wolverine his bittersweet send-off, we find ourselves in an uncertain world. The past is secure in the hands of McAvoy’s gang of X-Teens, but the future is up in the air. Does it belong to the grim, dystopian world of Cable, or the wise-cracking Marvel style ensemble of the X-Force? Grim and gritty or fun and quippy?
In the ensuing two hours, Deadpool 2 gleefully proves a determination to be both and neither. It alternates between these various tropes with the expected level of self-awareness. A hammer is taken to the genre, as the Merc with the Mouth realises the fate of world lies in the blazing hands of Julian Dennison’s Firefist. The resulting plot borrows tropes from a range of MCU and X-Men titles too ludicrously long to name here, involving heists plans, time travel and even prison drama.
Deadpool finds himself eventually gathering a team, the X-Force, to play hero in his own unconventional way. Putting the bubbly Deadpool as the leader of Rob Liefeld’s famously gritty New Mutants allows for the ultra-violence and moral ambiguity of Liefeld’s characters with slightly more of a knowing wink.
Opening with a dazzling send-up to Bond films, Deadpool immediately reminds us to take him with a pinch of salt. The film features numerous call-backs to its predecessor with cleverly placed visual gags which any discerning viewer will spot. (Note the randomly placed portrait of Karl Marx in the X-Mansion.) The trademark breaking of fourth walls continues, opening with a number of sly shots of Wolverine figurines. Indeed, this self awareness extends to scenes with extras forgetting their lines to Wades’ chagrin. It also continues to carve its own path with its mixture of unconventional music and fight scenes: it’s likely I’ll never view Dolly Parton the same way again.
Ryan Reynolds delivers the expected level of thunder to the title role, swinging between rom-com leading man and cackling maniac. Indeed, the sequel allows room for slightly more sensitivity to the character, highlighting his empathy. Wade’s troubled childhood allows him to empathise with Firefirst’s situation. I didn’t expect the pathos experienced when Deadpool comments “He’s been abused. You can always tell!” I hope to see this explored further in sequels. Turning to Dennison, I found myself in awe of his performance. The charming New Zealand actor, who won our collective hearts in Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, plays a similarly troubled protagonist as a mutant in a world deeply prejudiced against him. However, unlike the smack talking child in Wilderpeople, Firefist possesses the superpowers to act out his (albeit justified) aggression.
Dennison is given more of an opportunity to be foul mouthed, making him more than a worthy match for Reynolds during their interactions. Josh Brolin plays Cable to perfection, evoking the right levels of aggression, brooding and sadness appropriate to a mutant from an unforgiving future. His stony demeanour is played off to great effect against Reynolds, who characteristically mocks the New Mutant franchise at every possible turn.
However, despite the endless ribbing, the film shows a great affection for the messy shoulder-pad world of 90s comics. It emulates Youngblood’s outrageous violence and larger than life characters even as it mocks them. Although Deadpool 2 is not blind to this era’s flaws, it lovingly introduces these characters to the big screen. Deadpool has now created a space for the more bizarre figures in comic history to get their chance to shine. Nothing is out of bounds, providing serious opportunities for nostalgic characters who might not make the cut for Avengers. (I’m not saying Howard the Duck and yet now you’re thinking it, therefore my work is done)
The film unfortunately reaches its weaker points in the treatment of its supporting characters. Fan favourite Negasonic Teenage Warhead returns, introducing her bubbly girlfriend Yukio, but lacks the same quality zingers as last time. Dopinder, Karan Soni’s soft-spoken taxi driver from the previous film, seems to have rather confused motivations. The film can’t seem to decide whether our lovable driver is lovesick puppy or a wannabe superhero. Though a good foil to Deadpool in the comic, TJ Miller’s Weasel falls rather flat in this instalment. I found myself visibly groaning with Miller’s endless “you look like” comparisons with Wade. Terry Crews is long overdue a superhero role and I can’t help but feel he got a raw deal. I’ll concede the third point isn’t entirely fair, given the plot context. I definitely have I bias on this point. Just take my damn money and give me more Terry, Marvel.
However, for every under focused character, the film allows another a real chance to shine. Colossus continues his Saturday Morning attitude to super-heroism. His much needed pep talks continue to be amusing but the sequel changes the dynamic slightly. Having taken on some of Colossus’ nuggets of wisdom, Deadpool offers his own: “Being a hero is sometimes f****ed up and messy and inconvenient.” Our favourite metal Russian develops, realising sometimes Deadpool’s morally grey approach is necessary. Blind Al’s appearances are short but memorable, giving Wade the needed pluck to continue his way. Zazie Beetz also injects a lot of charisma into the X-Force with her portrayal of Domino. I definitely look forward to seeing this character developed further. Additionally, despite his somewhat fumbled handling, Dopinder gets in some genuinely hilarious lines.
The film admittedly strays rather close to having too much on its plate at points, not necessarily giving certain characters necessary time to shine. However, the chaotic style of the plot seems rather appropriate to Deadpool’s irreverent approach and I can say despite my reservations in how certain arcs don’t, I’m confident we’ll see characters on our screens again very soon. As we move forward, Deadpool is a helpful finger on the pulse. He reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, but also doesn’t hesitate to point out grandstanding. As someone who’s somewhat bored of the ‘edgy’ approach to superheroes but also enjoys a dash of dark humour, it was ideal. The film is sceptical but never cynical. Self-indulgent, but in all the right ways.