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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Film review: Deadpool 2 is rated 'R' for riot

Anti-superhero sequel turns the irreverence up to 11

Avengers: Infinity War hasn’t even had the time to drop off the top of most international box office charts, and there’s already another Marvel character preparing to leap onto screens this weekend. If the high ideals, shiny heroes and downbeat ending of Infinity War weren’t to your liking though, you could hardly expect a better antidote than Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds’s wisecracking “merc with a mouth.”

The character is both an antihero in the traditional literary sense, and an antihero in the more modern sense of “everything a superhero movie usually isn’t.”

The first movie, which grossed almost $800 million (Dh$3.2 billion), was the highest grossing R-rated film in history, and the highest grossing X-Men film ever, despite the main franchise’s usually more family-friendly ratings. The unexpected leap from Reynold’s unfancied, niche, fan boy passion project (the star also co-writes, produces and was crucial to the project ever getting off the ground in the first place) to full-blown Hollywood blockbuster meant that the pressure was on for Reynolds and the team to deliver second time around, and they do so with aplomb.

They have wisely avoided the temptation to dramatically up the circa $60M budget and try and compete with the main Marvel Cinematic Universe on its own terms – a decision that led to the first movie’s director, Tim Miller, quitting the project as he wanted to make a slicker, $150M version, unlike Reynolds and his co-writers.

It was exactly the right decision.

Of the many things the character of Deadpool/Wade Wilson could be described as, glitzy and high-budget isn’t among them. So, instead of an Avengers-lite, we get a two-hour, foul-mouthed Ryan Reynolds comedy-set, in which he just happens to be wearing a costume, carrying a couple of swords and frequently offing bad guys in varying brutal ways.

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This movie does see Deadpool assembling a team of super-antiheroes, the imaginatively named X-Force, and a universe-esque franchise of sorts is inevitable. Don’t worry though – this team are largely so incompetent you won’t be needing to make many character notes. The only ones you’re likely to see in any future movies are Josh Brolin’s Cable, a cyborg supersoldier from the future who shares many similarities with Deadpool himself, and Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose super power is “being lucky.” Deadpool, naturally, is quick to point out that being lucky isn’t really a super power, and certainly not a very cinematic one only to be swiftly proved wrong in probably the movie’s most cinematic sequence: post-modern winks all round.

The new team’s goal, meanwhile, is nothing so noble and epic as saving the universe. Ostensibly, they’re trying to save a teenage mutant from giving in to his demons. In reality, unbeknown to his new cohorts, the mission is really about reuniting Wilson with his lost love.

Better than the first?

The sequel is perhaps even funnier than its predecessor. Reynolds' addition to the writing team this time around has blurred the line between the actor and his fourth-wall-breaking character even further, and the irreverence towards the whole superhero genre that marked the first film is turned up to 11 this time.

The movie sends up superhero movie conventions, largely by indulging in them itself while pointing out the ridiculousness, and the film doesn’t spare anyone when dishing out venomous jibes at its peers. DC are hapless victims of one of the movie’s best gags at the expense of Cable, Marvel – in particular the X-Men themselves aren't safe, Disney gets jabs - thanks to a running gag about plagiarism in the soundtrack from Frozen, and even Hollywood’s efforts to close the gender and race divides are derided - everyone is fair game in Deadpool’s unrelating game of pop culture subversion.

The film is gloriously irreverent, gratuitously and graphically violent, often crass and juvenile, and above all belly-achingly funny. There were maybe too many dumb jokes cancelling out the smart ones for the film to be quite as clever as it thinks it is, but balance is good, right?

Do leave the kids at home though. It shouldn’t need saying, but if you are unfamiliar with the first movie, and the previous sentence wasn’t enough of a warning, this isn’t your typical superhero romp by a long way. And besides, the youngsters wouldn’t get the pop culture gags anyway. Alas, Barbara Streisand’s Yentl just isn’t a common reference point for your average millennial.