It’s only after the fifth or sixth pummelling of the fourth wall that Deadpool 2’s true triumph becomes clear. Despite gleefully dismantling its own immersion at every opportunity, the film somehow delivers an emotionally satisfying plot and great character development. It’s not perfect, with obvious pacing issues and a few glaring misses among the barrage of (occasionally ingenious) gags. But with the exception of the recent Jump Street films, there’s not much else out there offering this much comedic invention.

Ryan Reynolds returns as Wade Wilson (playing Ryan Reynolds). In an opening half an hour that struggles with pacing, it’s established that Wilson set off around the globe on a two-year mercenary-athon, murdering scores of bad guys with an overwhelming assault of wisecracks and katanas. As in Deadpool, Reynolds effortlessly steals the show, only this time giving the role some unexpected though much-needed pathos. The original might have been funny, but had an unmemorable story that was a vehicle for gags and has aged appallingly because of it. Deadpool 2 at least feels like it’s leading somewhere interesting. That’s partly thanks to Reynolds, but also thanks to a strong story and some killer supporting characters.

If the film’s perfectly-pitched marketing raised any question marks, it was that ‘big bad’ Cable seemed like just another miserable Marvel menace. Thankfully, a great character arc and lots of screen time sets him apart from the rest, anchored by a thoroughly enjoyable performance from new king of the brooding face, Josh Brolin.

T. J. Miller too is exceptional as Weasel, seemingly without even trying. The actor has sadly seen his stock plummet of late after a run of high-profile difficulties. Whether self-inflicted or not, it’s a real shame for such a comedic talent, who according to Ryan Reynolds is not likely to appear in Deadpool 3.

The pick of the new characters is Zazie Beetz’s Domino. Her superpower (luck) is regularly slated by Deadpool as “lazy writing”, but is one of the best ongoing gags in the film. There are some brilliantly inventive scenes, in which chains of implausible events keep Domino alive. Beetz’s effortless performance is the icing on the cake, elevating what might have been just a great character to an instant classic.

With such a large supporting cast though, the film can feel uneven. Returning characters like Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Dopinder the taxi driver provide a couple of laughs without adding anything to the narrative, but the film’s biggest disappointment is Julian Dennison of Hunt for the Wilderpeople fame. His character Russell Collins doesn’t make use of the deadpan wit that Dennison clearly has.

Overall, Deadpool 2 is funnier than the original, although not particularly leaner. There’s still sections where the story stumbles and others that feel bloated with comedy, but the far more frequent self-aware wisecracks elevate it over its predecessor. Plus, it has one of the most hilariously gratuitous scenes ever committed to screen centred around a skydive, encapsulating everything that makes Deadpool great in about three minutes. Even the finale manages to avoid fizzling out into a mess of CGI like so many other superhero films, despite there actually being a CGI boss fight (that Deadpool naturally calls out).

Unsurprisingly then, it’s a well-written film. What is surprising though, is how emotionally affecting the film is. We know Deadpool is a likeable killer-idiot, but this second outing almost makes him a loveable killer-idiot. There’s multiple moments that change our perception of the man behind the mask, and that can only be a good thing for the franchise.

With the success of Deadpool came studio confidence and a bigger budget, something that has translated into much-needed CGI improvements and a couple of brilliant cameos in its sequel. There’s some fantastic music dotted about too, including a bit of hilariously juxtaposed Enya and a soft, acoustic Take On Me. Most importantly and implausibly, Celine Dion wrote a genuinely good song for the film. Not even a filler song, a genuinely good one. Just take a second to get your head around that.

Writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Wade Wilson – sorry, Ryan Reynolds – are on top form in Deadpool 2. They usually know when to tone down the humour and when to lay it on thick, and are more confident than ever in breaking their own rules. Not all jokes are created equal, with a dubstep gag inexplicably landing about five years too late, but that’s par for the course in a film as aggressively irreverent as this. If you swing enough times you’re going to miss a few.  

No matter how enjoyable both Deadpool films are to watch, it will always feel like the writers had the most fun. And that’s ok, but it’s not a formula that most exceptional films should follow. What’s impressive about Deadpool 2 is how close it comes to joining them.

4/5

[CC image courtesy of BagoGames on Flickr]

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