When you realise that Russell in Deadpool 2 is being played by the guy who played Ricky in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it’s a short step to wondering how much better the movie might have been if Taika Waititi had directed it. Probably quite a bit better. Taika would have insisted on spending more of the budget on writers. Instead they spent all extra money on CGI, with all the usual results.
While I was waiting for the jokes, I mapped out the ways in which Deadpool 2 and Wilderpeople matched up. Overweight orphan kid with a terrible attitude? Check. Surrogate parental figure struggling with the loss of a loving partner? Check (sorry if that’s a spoiler…). There is no way that any of this is a coincidence. Which just makes it all the more puzzling that there isn’t an open call-out. This is Deadpool we’re talking about. It’s both nerdy and breathtakingly unsubtle.
Instead, it’s a crossover of Deadpool tropes and the inevitable encroachment of Marvel values, which is to say lots of CGI getting in the way of any chance of a performance. The one saving grace is that at least they haven’t caught end-of-the-world-itis. Deadpool 2 is still committed to the idea that you can get the audience invested by ending the world for one person, if you can just get them to buy the person.
Too bad they had to fridge Vanessa to get the ball rolling. Having done that, they leaned right into it by making the whole opening credits a piss-take of the usual fanboy screams of disbelief when the writers (sorry, The Real Villains) do something horrible just to up the stakes a bit. That’s funny enough to be getting on with, but they pitch it against a series of vignettes of Deadpool clowning up classic movie posters like Flashdance.
That’s still the real strength of these movies; they’re good at mockery and one-line asides to a knowing audience. There’s a whole end credits sequence where Deadpool gets a working time machine and instead of going back in time to save Vanessa - the OBVIOUS thing to do - he just uses it to pay off various petty scores with other superheroes, including the horrible version of Deadpool that featured in The Wolverine, and Ryan Reynolds’ feeling of joy that he’s got the role of a lifetime in the script for Green Lantern. Given that the Infinity War is probably going to get resolved with a big time machine reset, I can’t help thinking that this was all about winding up the first unit.
Whenever Deadpool 2 is in that zone, it’s great fun, but much as the backstory in the first movie got in the way of the anarchy, the front story gets in the way this time round. Deadpool is not supposed to be taking things seriously, least of all himself. Weirdly, the insouciance all winds up belonging to Domino, whose superpower is supposedly that she’s very lucky, but is really that she’s utterly unflappable. She doesn’t get much screen time, but just like Valkyrie in Thor Ragnarok she steals all the scenes they give her.