When the first Deadpool hit theaters in 2016, it was a smash hit that made 783 million dollars. That a foul-mouthed, hard-R comic book movie where the main character was an unabashedly smarmy fourth wall-breaking asshole could perform at that level was something of a game-changer. The struggles of the film to even get made are well-documented, and Fox didn't have a lot of faith in it - but it killed with audiences and critics who loved the irreverence, and it helped inspire confidence in Logan which was also an R-rated film about a classic comic book hero that made boatloads of money while simultaneously being one of the best superhero films ever made.
Naturally, the surprising success of the first film quickly led to a sequel, complete with clashing creative visions, a director leaving the project and a year of frenzied gossip about who might appear in the film. Like its predecessor, Deadpool 2 is a money-printing machine and has been a hit with critics. Quite a few have even mined its goofball self-awareness for commentary on progressive social politics, with an actual review suggesting that "a subplot about a self-loathing mutant 'reform' cult is clearly a stand-in for conversion therapy." The movie is definitely fun and funny, but when it was over I left the theater feeling a little underwhelmed. Why is that? Is something wrong with me?
Mostly I think it's because this movie did what all underwhelming sequels do: took what made the original such a refreshing smash hit and did it again, only this time bigger and louder. Like the original, Deadpool 2 is also a wall-to-wall stream of winking references and relentless one-liners. The problem for me is that even in the first one only about half of those jokes landed. And while that ratio remains about the same for the sequel, the newness has worn off - it's almost like a stand-up act recycling the same material just slightly differently, and I for one fucking hate stand-up. Remember those witty opening credits from the first one? Well, they are back but with the tiniest of twists! Remember that scene from the original where Wade grows a baby-arm? That was pretty funny, so naturally in this one they re-visit it, only this time with baby legs - two of them!
So what really distinguishes this film from the original aside from a bigger budget, the inertia of success at its back and Josh Brolin as a vertically-challenged Cable? Well, not much. There is a hilarious twist on the classic film staple of the team-building montage that was probably the highlight of the movie for me. There is a funny over-long death scene, as well as the addition of some new characters, like Domino whose super power is being lucky - and those are pretty fun. But the kid around whom this film revolves, a chubby little Kiwi, didn't work for me at all. There is an extended scene in a prison that was obviously conceived of by production designers who time traveled here from the early 1990s (this may be an intentional send-up of Paul Verhoeven but I didn't like it).
The first Deadpool was elegant in its simplicity. Constrained by a middling budget, the entire film basically revolved around a single exquisitely staged action sequence set in and around an SUV. The story around that set piece was back-filled with non-stop jokes (quite a few of which didn't land given their sheer volume), a confident sense of its own detached coolness, and a running self-reflexive commentary on how silly the genre itself is. The sequel just doubles down on all those things that worked before, without offering much that is new. None of the action sequences comes close to being as carefully or entertainingly staged as the car scene from the first one (probably because bigger budgets tend to make filmmakers more careless in how they translate their ideas to the screen), and the shock value of all the cursing and the ultra-violence and the smarmy attitude have worn off for me. I am stupefied by the critics trying to dig out some deep social commentary from this film.
So is it funny? Of course it is. Is it entertaining? Yes. Does it do anything to improve on the original, or offer anything really new that might make it stand apart? Not for me, and I think the commitment to non-innovation just somehow left me feeling underwhelmed and less than satisfied with the film when all was said and done. Of course, it's also possible that, as I watched this in Indonesia, some parts were probably censored. Who knows? Maybe those were the best parts.