I was never much into the X-Men growing up, preferring instead the many other superhero programming that came out in the 90s and eventually the 00s. I also can’t speak with any authority here as a comics guy as my experience with Deadpool as a character comes entirely from his crossover comics with Hawkeye, but I will endeavor to do my best since the internet has made everyone a Deadpool expert the past few years. Deadpool originated in 1991, a creation of the universally beloved Rob Liefield and Fabian Nicieza as a Deathstroke rip-off. None of that is really important though, because it wasn’t until 1997 when Deadpool got his own series, did he slowly start to develop into the wacky fourth wall breaking “merc with a mouth”.
His journey to the big screen was equally rough, showing up in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine played by Ryan Reynolds in what should have been the characters big break and introduction to the masses. Instead it was hampered by the fact that the film was complete garbage, Reynolds’ performance as Wade Wilson notwithstanding, and the genius decision to silence a character whose defining trait is his dialogue. The film was quickly forgotten and the rest of the X-Men universe basically made it non-canon, but for a while, it seemed like any potential of the early part of that film would just be missed. But in strode an unlikely savior, Ryan Reynolds himself. Hardly beloved by film fans for his poor choices in films (Definitely, Maybe and Buried excluded), Green Lantern, and for largely playing insufferable characters (and by me for his contributions to the score and premise wasting Smokin’ Aces), his tireless promotion for getting a solo film made is what made this a franchise instead of Gambit is still nonexistent. And while I try not to comment on promotion and let films stand for themselves, there is no series that does it better than Deadpool does from the posters to the trailers, commercials, publicity stunts, etc.
It may be a big budget superhero franchise now, but it felt like a passion project. You could practically see the holes in the first film the way it would wallpaper over budget deficiencies, featured mostly D-list X-Men characters and would get bogged down in overlong and pace/tone killing dramatic scenes, but it was better than “crude, 4th wall breaking superhero movie” could have been and certainly showed a lot of promise. Reynolds was perfect in the lead role and in general, the film was wonderfully cast with even T.J. Miller rising to a level of “not bad”. Did it deserve all the praise showered on it for breaking up the formula of superhero films, not at all. Maybe in a world where Guardians of the Galaxy or Super didn’t exist Deadpool would have felt original, but instead it was just a fun payoff to years of hype and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For better or worse, Deadpool 2 goes for bigger and more than the first installment. It greatly expands the cast including bringing in bigger names such as X-Force and packs in cameos galore. Combined with more expensive and more frequent action scenes it increases the scope and naturally expands the universe it is building. Granted those action scenes are a very mixed bag, which is disappointing since David Leitch (the co-director of the fantastic John Wick and director of the letdown of a John Wick spiritual successor Atomic Blonde) has stepped in for Tim Miller, proving once again that pouring lots of money into action doesn’t magically make it more memorable or interesting. There’s a joke in the movie about a fight being a big CGI fight and yet I couldn’t help but think there were scenes with more (and frequently laughable in the case of Domino’s big scene) that make the joke fall flat.
Which makes a perfect transition to the main question, is Deadpool 2 funny? It’s still very much reliant on the same crude, violent, frequently inappropriate, immature, 4th wall-breaking, in-jokey nature of the first, but the last two aspects have been given quite the boost and all in all, it’s a far more consistently funny film. It feels far more confident in Deadpool as a character (understandably so) and not having to feel like it has to hold backout of fear the audience won’t get the joke (which between this and Infinity War indicates that this is becoming a trend). There’s plenty of jokes that don’t work, but the script is smart to keep throwing them out there to make sure the misses are overwhelmed by the genuinely hilarious ones. Reynolds dominates the film from a humor standpoint and it really should not be overlooked or forgotten how easily Deadpool could have been an insufferable character.
From a dramatic standpoint though… boy does this film still not work there. In the last film I thought I could excuse the lengthy scenes of ill-fitting dramatic scenes as budget wallpaper, but here it just becomes even more clear they are actually meant to be a major part of the character and something we take seriously. The film tries to draw sympathy out for Deadpool as a character and make him into a dramatic figure and it doesn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the movie and slows the pace to the crawl. You can’t spend an entire movie poking fun at cliché only to unironically embrace it and expect us to feel something. Cable is about as ill-placed for much of the film too as his ultra-serious mindset is played straight far too long before he’s actually well integrated into the film. Eventually, it becomes clear to see how he and Deadpool could have played off each other well in the comics, but I wish we had more time in the movie to see Josh Brolin and Reynolds do their thing together, it just felt like a too little, too late this time out.
If you are wondering about the all the new additions, well what about them? They all get drowned under Deadpool’s wake. Domino’s interesting enough and they have their moments, but along with the returning characters (Colossus being best served, Negasonic Teenage Warhead being reduced to basically a prop) they merely serve as people for Deadpool to play off of. That’s fine, but it did leave me wanting more out of them especially as we sit through the 10th Deadpool dream scene. The film’s not as tight as the first film, it has all the same problems as the first film, but the humor and uniqueness are enough to carry it for me. Because while I felt people were overpraising the first for being a “breath of fresh air for the superhero genre”, Deadpool 2 instead steps into its own as something recognizably fresh. It’s rough and full of missteps, but it also was capable of getting bigger laughs out of me than most anything and there’s nothing else like it on the market.