In contrast to Marvel/Disney’s measured, pass-it-forward rollout of the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’, Fox’s treatment of the slice of Marvel Comics’ rights it controls has shifted into ‘try anything’ mode. Generally conceding that Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) was a misstep after Bryan Singer’s first series entries, Fox had Singer tinker with the timeline in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), which shunted everything that didn’t work in any of the films into an alternate reality. While mainstream Marvel aims for convergence in big team-up efforts like Avengers: Infinity War, Fox takes risks with its film and TV X-Men spin-offs, including the elegiac Logan (2017) and the experimental Legion (2017-). In the offing are the horror-themed The New Mutants and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, revisiting material bungled in The Last Stand.
Certificate 15 119m 12s
Director David Leitch
Nathan Summers / Cable Josh Brolin
Wade Wilson / Deadpool Ryan Reynolds
Vanessa Morena Baccarin
Domino Zazie Beetz
Negasonic Teenage Warhead Brianna Hildebrand
Vanisher Brad Pitt
Zeitgeist Bill Skarsgård
Redneck #2 (as Dickie Greenleaf) Matt Damon
Weasel T.J. Miller
Bedlam Terry Crews
Peter Rob Delaney
Redneck #2 Alan Tudyk
Russell Julian Dennison
Shatterstar Lewis Tan
Deadpool, introduced in the X-Men comics in the 1990s, has been a frame-breaking surprise hit on several runs of his solo title. Ryan Reynolds first played the role in the middling X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), which is revised in a funny black-out gag here, and fits into the X-Men film universe as a scattershot gadfly, poking fun at the series in particular and superhero cinema in general.
When grim cyborg Cable shows up in the person of a scarred, metal-armed Josh Brolin, Reynolds cheerfully greets him with, “You’re dark – are you sure you’re not from the DC Universe?” The polar opposite of downbeat, slightly pompous Logan, Deadpool 2 opens with Reynolds’s cancer-ridden, unkillable wiseass mocking an action figure of the skewered Wolverine and promising to one-up Hugh Jackman’s onscreen demise by blowing himself literally to pieces. These are scooped up by steel-skinned stooge mutant Colossus in order to drag the protagonist into something closer to a story than the thin, jokey Deadpool (2016).
Tim Miller, director of the first Deadpool film, has been replaced for this follow-up by stunt specialist David Leitch, billed in the snark-heavy Bond-parody opening credits as “one of the guys who killed John Wick’s dog”. The story is complex enough for a straighter film, with the reluctant, inept hero prodded and poked into taking a moral stand to protect a chubby, rage-fuelled teenager (a very funny Julian Dennison) from the Terminator type who wants him dead.
An extended feint introduces a team of characters assembled by Deadpool to rival the X-Men, a couple of whom (Zazie Beetz’s Domino, Lewis Tan’s Shatterstar) originate from the same 1990s run of the comic (commercially huge, artistically dire). Beetz wryly fits in with the tone, while Tan and a bunch of others are made the butt of gruesome, effective jokes that clear the decks for more classic X-folk to show up. The Juggernaut – Professor X’s evil stepbrother – overwrites Vinnie Jones’s damp-squib version in (yes, again) The Last Stand, though his exit includes an anal assault that’s among a gusher of gay-panic jokes now probably past their tell-by date.
Reynolds’s underlying sweetness takes the edge off the comic’s homicidal self-pity, though the endless shtick (partially from the pen of Reynolds himself) has a miss-to-hit ratio of about three to one. The film has hectoring, wearisome stretches – with some routines poor enough for a Wayans brothers joint – before things gel in the midpoint assault on a jail convoy. However, in the climax, Reynolds milks a parody of Jackman’s chatty death scene until the udders are dry. A final fillip of self-flagellation has Deadpool use a time machine to intervene in Ryan Reynolds’s timeline, perhaps consigning Green Lantern (2011) to an alternate universe.