Following the breakout 2016 box-office hit that was Deadpool comes the obligatory sequel that sees Ryan Reynolds return to the role he was born to play. What a shame it is, therefore, to report that this second adventure is twice as big and half as fun as its predecessor, failing to recapture the original’s anarchically entertaining verve. The basic plot, without giving anything away, sees a grieving Merc with a Mouth begrudgingly having to protect an angsty teenage firestarter (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison) from the time travelling cyborg Cable (Josh Brolin), who’s on a Terminator 2-esque mission to save his future by altering our heroes’ present.
The original director Tim Miller jumped ship over “creative differences”, that handiest of Hollywood catchall phrases, and with him went a general sense of momentum, and any hint of restraint. This time, John Wick co-director David Leitch is behind the camera, leaning on the same writing team, with the addition of the lead star, who now shares a scriptwriting credit with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Their modus operandi for chapter the reeks of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, as they merrily try to double-down on what made Deadpool such a success. The writers have thrown in every foul-mouthed quip and sarcastic one-liner they could conceivably muster, and prayed that some would stick. Depressingly, the joke hit-rate is severely diminished this time around, and the zingers frequently fall flat or come off as glaringly try-hard. Worse, the barrage of puns come so thick and fast that once the Bond-spoofing title sequence is over, it quickly begins to feels like one huge in-joke intended to pummel you into submission, a tsunami of gags that needed some serious reigning in. Accidently or not, the film even zeroes in on its biggest flaw when our anti-hero breaks the fourth-wall (as is his custom) and calls out: “that’s just lazy writing”. This sequel may be lacking, but you’ve got to admire how accurately meta the lead character remains.
Not that there isn’t fun to be had, namely an out-of-left-field parachuting sequence that escalates into an unexpectedly horrific climax, featuring a surprise, blink-and-you’ll-miss-the-gorgeous-bastard cameo. There’s also one of the best post-credits sequences in recent memory, which conceivably predicts the outcome of Avengers: Infinity War’s as-yet-untitled sequel. But these bright spots only highlight how the film ultimately feels like a collection of inconsistently funny sketches, and how comparatively wearisome the rest of the schtick has become. Plus, as a rule of thumb, if you have to bide your time until the end credits to get the biggest laughs, something went wrong somewhere… Hopefully next time the creative team will spend as much time abstemiously killing their darlings as they do developing their admittedly excellent marketing campaigns.
Deadpool 2 | Directed by David Leitch (US, 2018) with Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz. Starts May 17
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