The man who cuts my hair has seen the first Deadpool movie 18 times – he plans to make it a nice, round 20 before he watches the sequel this weekend. He’s seen every superhero movie from the last decade at least four or five times (I imagine there’s a spreadsheet), but Deadpool, he says, is special.
I’ve only seen Deadpool once, and I thought it was fine. It introduced a much-needed change of tone – action-comedy with the emphasis on ‘comedy’ – at a time when superhero movies were losing momentum. Marvel had just churned out the lacklustre Ant-Man and Age of Ultron, while DC had completely screwed up its rebooted Superman franchise (the lamentable Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad followed shortly after).
Since then, however, it’s been business as usual, with Marvel rejuvenated by blockbusters including Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy. DC has salvaged a shred of dignity with Wonder Woman; and Fox has released the superlative Logan.
Even in this company, Deadpool 2 shines. David Leitch, director of John Wick and sexy, fighty spy caper Atomic Blonde, gives the fight sequences the finely choreographed grace of a scatological ballet. First-class stunt-work (he started out as a stuntman himself) coils seamlessly around the CGI, and while there’s nothing quite as impressive as the stairwell sequence in Atomic Blonde, it’s rarely less than spectacular.
Ryan Reynolds (who produces and co-writes as well as stars) has charisma in spades, successfully performing a high-wire act that straddles dick jokes and acute mental trauma.
Deadpool works best alongside a straight-man, a Laurel to his Hardy, and this time he gets two, with Stefan Kapičić returning as Colossus and Josh Brolin arriving from the future as inscrutable super-soldier Cable; both are excellent, as is powerful young mutant Firefist, wonderfully played by Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison.
It surpasses the first movie in every respect: the sad bits are sadder (there’s even a genuinely weepy moment), the jokes virtually all land, and a fourth wall-breaking sequence involving “cleaning up the timelines” is a joyous send-up of the superhero multiverse.
I may not have watched Deadpool 18 times, but the character does have a special place in my heart: many years ago, he was the star of the first comic I ever bought. Many years, many hundreds of comics and many thousands of pounds later, I no longer read Deadpool comics: this film is a nostalgic reminder of how good he can be.