The problem with Deadpool 2 is the same thing that made the first movie so great
The sequel to the surprise 2016 hit had to deal with something no other comic book movie has ever had to face.
If you're ever looking for a hard and fast rule about comedy and repetition, look no further than Sideshow Bob repeatedly stepping on a rake.
What starts off as hilarious is soon driven into the ground, simply because it is repeated so much. It does, eventually, become very funny again, because The Simpsons writers were geniuses and knew that timing was everything.
However... and we're not saying that the writers of Deadpool 2 aren't geniuses, but between two of three of them they've previously written the screenplays for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Cruel Intentions 3 and last year's Best Of Sci-Fi Horror compilation movie, Life.
The third writer of Deadpool 2 is Ryan Reynolds himself, which really should tell you everything you need to know, because if you thought this was going to expand a bit on literally anyone other than Deadpool, then you're dead wrong. Here's the plot, it is too complicated to explain, so we're just going to have Deadpool make a funny. And it'll probably be a variation of the same funny from the first Deadpool movie. Cool?
As of right now, we're stuck in that bit of the rake-to-the-face skit where it is no longer funny, simply because it has been repeated so much.
Normally, for comic book movies, the rules for sequels are easy. Be bigger. Be darker. Have more explosions and more expensive set-pieces. Have a big name (preferably Oscar-nominated) actor as the big bad guy. Continue setting up for a potential threequel.
However, Deadpool broke the mould from normal comic book movies by leaning far more into the comedy than the action, and by making a comedy, you inevitably have to make a comedy sequel, and historically comedy sequels tend to suffer simply because they invariably end up recycling the same jokes as the original.
And so we get to Deadpool 2, which tries to have it both ways, by going bigger (kind of) and darker, which runs counter-intuitively to being a comedy, because obviously you can have a dark comedy, but you can't be dark AND a comedy. Despite being a giddy thrill, nobody tried to play John Wick's puppy death for laughs, and for good reason.
As simplistic as that was, it was an easy emotional anchor for the audience to get on Wick's side, but when the writers try to do the same thing for Wade Wilson, he is so busy making snarky one-liners that it feels weird that we should be feeling emotions about the serious things that are happening on-screen, so instead we just feel... well... nothing.
The movie opens with Celine Dion singing over a James Bond-ish credit sequence. There is something funny about seeing Deadpool dance in the music video with Dion, but here it just seems like a funny idea, not fully thought through. The po-faced sexy-seriousness of the song is kind of humorous, but what exactly does Bond have to do with Deadpool?
Clip via CelineDionVEVO
The more-is-more ideology continued behind-the-scenes too, as Deadpool 2 director David Leitch actually co-directed the first John Wick, before moving on to similarly giddily-vicious action-thriller Atomic Blonde, as the first movie's director Tim Miller wanted the sequel to have a much bigger budget than the original, so he was promptly ditched and he is now moving on to the next Terminator movie.
(Sidenote: considering Leitch directed two of the best action movies of the last decade, the action scenes in Deadpool 2 are oddly very flat.)
And speaking of time-travelling robot-human mash-ups, One-Man Summer 2018 Villain Monopoly aka Josh Brolin rocks up as the Oscar-nominated big bad guy Cable, who is a big deal for fans of the comics, but here he just presents too many unanswered questions to anyone paying even the slightest amount of attention to the plot.
Cable travels back in time to assassinate Firefirst (Julian Dennison), for reasons that are kept in the dark until well into the third act, and at one point Deadpool asks Cable why didn't he travel back to kill him as a baby?
Ha ha! Wait... why didn't he do that? Just because you point and laugh at a plot hole, that doesn't negate it from being a plot hole. Deadpool loves nothing more than breaking the fourth wall and making a joke directly to the audience, but if you're going to be that smart and meta, then you need to nail the smart bit. Just being meta isn't funny or smart, it just becomes a 120 minute meme machine.
Memewhile (wordplay!, can I write Deadpool 3, please?), when the movie does manage to surprise us, there are glimpses of what made us love the first movie so much. It is only in hindsight that we see the trailers, the posters, every Ryan Reynolds interview, we see they've all been one well-thought out set-up to a series of plot punchlines that land perfectly. We won't ruin it here, but once you see The Parachute Sequence, you'll know exactly what we're talking about.
Other new additions are also fantastic, with a special shout out to Zazie Beetz as the lucky mutant Domino, who between this, her scene-stealing turn in Geostorm, and her appearances in Atlanta, needs to get headline her own movie ASAP.
All of that combined, and what we get is a movie that has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be, trying to obey the rules of a summer blockbuster sequel, while not breaking too far away from the punk-rock attitude that made the original so great. But there is nothing worse than a comedian laughing smugly at his own jokes, and that is what Deadpool 2 feels like.
Entertaining? Absolutely. Even at its least funny, Sideshow Bob getting hit in the face with a rake is still a little bit funny, but it is far too soon for it to already feel like everyone involved isn't even trying anymore.
Deadpool 2 is in the Irish cinemas right now.
Clip via 20th Century Fox