Often in cinema, when a superhero from the comic book realm becomes hugely popular, there will be a certain number of people that will say it was mostly down to the actor or actress who imbued the role.
In actual fact, most comic book characters could easily be played by multiple actors. As such there are many male actors other than Chris Evans that could have pulled off Captain America. And probably hundreds of ladies that would have been just as good or even better at playing Black Widow than Scarlett Johansson.
I say this, not to diss these actors, but to illustrate just how rare it is to have the merging of actor and comic book character be SO perfect that literally 99.9% of the available actors on the planet would not be able to pull it off. Hell, for most of the last 30 years I believed there were only two: Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron-Man.
But after watching Deadpool back in 2016, I’m convinced there is now a third. Ryan Reynolds absolutely nails the foul-mouthed antihero, bringing the best of himself and elevating it to eleven. Sure, there was a great script and it helps that it was an entirely new type of superhero; but goddammit, Reynolds more than earned his paycheck when Deadpool went on to earn over $780 million worldwide off a $58 million budget.
But with success and two years of hype, the expectations for the sequel are sky high. And though Deadpool 2 makes great strides to try and reach them, it doesn’t quite meet the ground-breaking impact of the original.
Two years have passed since the events of Deadpool. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) has become a gun-for-hire who spends his days travelling the world killing bad guys. Living the good life, he soon decides to start a family with his girl, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).
But Wilson is soon dragged back into the world of superheros when Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) enlist him to deal with Russell “Firefist” Collins (Julian Dennison), a troubled teen with a penchant for fire. But Russell is being hunted. Specifically by a crazy one-armed time-travelling mercenary called
Josh Brolin Cable (Josh Brolin).
With a bunch of new mutants at his side, including Domino (Zazie Beetz), Deadpool must save the kid, stop the bad guy, and hopefully not get shot in the face too many times.
Of all the heightened expectations that people have for Deadpool 2, at the very top must be the comedy. And its success there is undeniable. Returning writers Rheet Reese and Paul Wernick (with additional writing done by Reynolds himself in his screenwriting debut), have infused into the sequel the same self-aware absurdity that was present in the original. Running the length and breath of American pop culture, there is almost no target that is out of bounds, with gags poking fun at the failure of the DC universe and one hell of a reference to Basic Instinct.
I’ve written enough about how well Reynolds fills out the Deadpool mask, but his return to the big screen is accompanied by several characters from the first film. While their roles aren’t hugely expanded upon, it’s still fun to see Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), Dopinder (Karan Soni) and Weasel (T.J. Miller) make a return. Especially since, unlike the first film, the trio get to hang together in several scenes and bounce off each other with abandon.
But the bulk of the screentime is given to the newcomers, with Brolin’s Cable in particular playing the straight man to Reynolds’ Deadpool. This alone makes Deadpool 2 a far stronger comedy piece than the 2016 original, as Deadpool’s OTT antics now don’t exist in a vacuum. Indeed, Brolin’s ability to remain completely expressionless is all the more impressive as he still manages to bring a great deal of sympathy and compassion to his tragic backstory.
At the other end of the emotional scale is Dennison’s Firefist; a young lad who struggles to deal with the abusive treatment from his orphanage’s headmaster (Eddie Marsan). It’s a great performance by such a young actor, showing that Dennison possesses acting skills that stretch far beyond mere comedy. That said, in terms of writing, it’s clear the writers have lifted his character direct from Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople; where Dennison also plays another sassy young boy who wants to be a gangster.
But the downside is that, though both these characters are the catalyst that kick off the main plot, neither actually appear until nearly 25 minutes in. As such the beginnings of the movie, while important, feels sort of like its just spinning its wheels, thus negatively impacting the overall flow of storytelling.
Unlike the first film, Deadpool 2 doesn’t have the same “come out of nowhere”, bomb-like effect on mainstream cinema. But after 2 years, and a joke-per-second rate that would rival Airplane, there’s still nothing else quite like the “Merc with a Mouth” on the big screen.