In the beefed up, more densely populated Deadpool 2, an expanded talent budget means Ryan Reynolds’ chattering ‘Merc with the Mouth’ gets to assemble his own super-team (named ‘X-Force’, because ‘X-Men’ is sexist). One of his recruits is Domino (a breezy Zazie Beetz), whose power is to be permanently in Fortune’s good books. She is effortlessly lucky: spinning cars whizz past her, guns in her face jam and a blustery day blows her parachute in just the right direction (prevailing winds turn out to be a not-minor plot point). In Reynolds’ rearguard mutant franchise, 20th Century Fox have found their own Domino.
Fox’s remaining comic book properties, not yet assimilated by Marvel’s Borg-like reach, range from calamity (Fantastic Four, X-Men: Apocalypse) to competent blandness (X-Men: First Class). None have captured public imagination like, say, Guardian’s of the Galaxy’s tiny talking tree. But Reynolds’ passion project, nearly killed at inception by studio scepticism, has bloomed, 2016’s under-funded and underwritten (can anyone remember the third act?) Deadpool using scrappy underdog snark to bat above its league.
Boosted ambition and resources mean Deadpool 2 is bigger, wider, more inventive and audaciously meta, presumably closer to the original vision of Reynolds and screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. Atomic Blonde director and stunt veteran David Leitch, who did uncredited work on John Wick, steps in to handle a more set-piece heavy story than the first.
Deadpool’s self-aware, smart-alecky, sometimes grating routine is its most obvious quality, but its greatest asset is its unpredictability. Marvel Studios’ Infinity War serves its storytelling like a stingy waiter who clears your starters and presents the prize gammon, before snatching it away from your hovering fork. Deadpool 2 dunks you in fudge nut Haribo sundaes the minute you sit down. It’s generous, attention-deficit entertainment. Here’s a gag! Here’s a cameo! Here’s a guy getting his arms cut off! Here’s Catastrophe’s Rod Delaney with a moostache! Not everything hits — Reynolds and the writers need to learn to let a joke breathe — but there’s so much. Deadpool 2 is a sweary, Cher-y, brain-scattery blast.
This isn’t a serious film, it goes without saying, but it does some story work better than its MCU rivals. The franchise’s gags are the draw, but it also has the most believable romance out of any modern superhero film. It is impossible to picture Scarlet Witch and The Vision actually getting down to business, but Reynolds and Morena Baccarin (Vanessa) have a flirty, dirty chemistry. Very early in the film, something very bad happens to Vanessa, and Wade’s dysfunctional anguish over it has an emotional grit that much of the Marvel material lacks.
In need of some redemption, Wade stumbles on Russell, an angry, abused kid with fire in his fists (played by Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison). Basically Pyro, but not a douche. He’s being chased by a time-jumping future soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin with a ‘Winter Soldier arm’), who blames the kid for his personal darkest timeline. The fucked-up Wade sees some of himself in Russell, and goes to bat for him.
Deadpool 2 has heart, but handles themes of family, damage and guilt with a light touch, which actually sneaks them through better. It is difficult to feel much of anything watching Marvel and D.C. films, but in Deadpool 2 the sense of hurt is actually, in occasional moments, sort of moving. The surprises just keep on coming. Conor Smyth
Deadpool 2 is out on wide release.