When Jim Gordon fretted about “escalation” in Batman Begins, he nailed the expectations by which many superhero sequels still stand or flail. Even the redoubtable MCU stumbled with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s overload, though Avengers: Infinity War showed how to escalate at cosmic levels. Happily, Wade Wilson’s return flaunts more of the latter’s confidence than the former’s fumble. Deadpool’s butt-based humour is cruder, obviously, but Rob Liefeld’s relentless wise-cracker has long been comfy with the risks and rewards of everything in immoderation. And so it proves on screen.
Bloodier, funnier, and even more meta than its predecessor, Deadpool’s second dip harnesses that appetite for excess, holds on tight and scorches suspicions that his last outing’s success was a freak case. Despite fears that a ‘Deadpool effect’ would kick in following Wade’s 2016 bow, a merciful dearth of awkwardly adult-tinged franchise fare has since left the original looking like a one-off. But, with energetic handling from new director David Leitch (John Wick), writers Rhett Reese/Paul Wernick and co-writer/lead ass-hat Ryan Reynolds have – er – pulled the ’Pool off again. This is the rare comedy sequel that doesn’t just equal the original: it betters it, with bells and ball-sacks on.
Whether you attribute those bulging pleasures to upped character stakes or snigger-quakes, Deadpool 2 keeps the juice flowing from the opening slaughter and Bond-goosing titles to the moony-themed final scrap and beyond. Taken as an engine for laughs, it’s a turn-the-air-blue blast. Yet there is a plot here, of scrappy sorts, with moments that are almost – whisper it – touching. After a straight-in-there piss-take of Logan, we find Wade slicing his way through gangsters and scout masters, quips and katanas sharp. At home, he and Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) have greased the toys in hopes of sex-baking a mini-’Pool – until a twist plummets Wade into depression. Suicide bids and ‘Careless Whisper’ references are involved.
Whisked to the X-mansion to recuperate by a funnier-than-before Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Wade’s spark is rekindled by an encounter with mutant kid Russell (Julian Dennison), who has fists of fire and rage issues. Deadpool’s protective interest heightens when half-cyborg/half-human beefcake Cable (Josh Brolin) gate-crashes from the future, intent on frying Russell for timey-wimey reasons. Several dust-ups later, Wade forms a mutant posse to unplug Cable, only for a bigger threat to emerge. With a mahoosive butt...
Wade’s mission involves his developing understanding that family needn’t be an f-word, but don’t panic: Deadpool 2 is a family film, but it isn’t a family film. The gags don’t just cut close to the bone, they know no bone. (Yes, there’s one about David Bowie’s death.) The set-pieces are stupendously, hilariously outrageous, peaking with the funniest air-borne sequence since The Incredibles’ cape montage and an episode best described as ‘Basic Instinct with weird baby legs’. And, with Leitch flexing Wick-honed skills, the action is extravagantly gratuitous, in a good way.
With a crowded posse of old/new characters to factor in, the plot risks looking almost as broken as Wade’s arm after Cable has wrapped it round his neck 25 times. But, as with the original, Deadpool 2 thrives on tone over narrative. The merger of merciless comedy, extreme brutality, priceless blink/miss (look, just don’t blink) cameos, intra-movie references and dubstep piss-takes (ask your dad) is tighter than Wade’s grip on Colossus’ ass. And, in their merrily over-the-top way, Leitch and the writers don’t forget to hone the characters. Luck ’n’ pluck newcomer Domino (Zazie Beetz) fares better than her fresh-minted X-Force colleagues with a few killer scraps, but keep your peepers peeled for invisible Force-fella the Vanisher’s face. Old hands benefiting from increased gag-time include Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and hapless cabbie Dopinder (Karan Soni), now re-tooling himself as an instrument of death.
If fringe characters suffer more, they aren’t wholly neglected, either. Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and her new, smiley squeeze (Shiori Kutsuna) are underused, sadly, but they get a decent climactic action workout. Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Dennison gives good temperamental teenager; Rob Delaney is a deadpan joy as hopeless Force-dude Patrick.
And even if Cable was always going to be Brolin’s other comic book turn of 2018, he still gets some seismic smackdowns and nicely tetchy one-liners. “Because of you,” he growls to Wade at one intimate juncture, “I’ll always know what a grown man with baby balls looks like.” Worried Deadpool shot his load at first thrust? Fear not: this wily, wicked return has plenty more where that filth-load came from.