By most metrics, Deadpool and Deadpool 2 are tightly locked movies. They have the exact same score with critics on Rotten Tomatoes (83%), while the sequel is just one point higher on Metacritic (66 to 65). At the box office, the story is very similar, with the sequel posting only slightly lower opening weekend numbers and expected to have fairly strong legs even going up against the likes of Solo: A Star Wars Story. As such, finding any real consensus on which film is more "successful" (however you define that) is tricky.
Related: Read Our Deadpool 2 Review
But drilling down into what both set out to do - and how they achieve that - there's one clear winner. What makes Deadpool 2 a more well-rounded film, at least from this subjective viewpoint, is how it handles a core facet of Deadpool's ideology that felt squandered by the first: subversion.
- This Page: Deadpool Was Irreverent, Not Subversive
- Page 2: Deadpool 2 Delivers On The Original's Promise
Where Deadpool 1 Let Itself Down
Deadpool existing was, at the time, something of a minor miracle. Ryan Reynolds had been trying to get the character his own solo movie for the better part of a decade, but the legacy of Origins: Wolverine and aversion to the concept kept things uncertain until test footage leaked, proving fan interest in the project. From this vantage point, a lewd, R-rated superhero pastiche was a big achievement that Deadpool delivered on. However, that's not to say it was necessarily enough.
The movie opens with a hilarious send-up of opening titles, the camera spinning through a time-stopped fight scene full of Easter eggs as mocking credits played out, and then proceeds to present a violent action scene of the sort that just hadn't been seen in the mainstream superhero genre before; as bloody as it was cartoonish. Then Deadpool shoves two swords into the final foe and addresses the audience saying "You're probably thinking, 'My boyfriend said this was a superhero movie but that guy in the red suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kebab'. Well, I may be super. But I'm no hero." The promise was of something far from your standard superhero movie, yet what follows is a pretty standard superhero movie; there's a power-turned-affliction, a damsel in distress (whatever Vanessa says otherwise), and only the R-rated trappings and carefully tuned fourth-wall breaks to distinguish it.
This wasn't necessarily bad, but it saw Deadpool struggle to find a cohesive identity. It was highly irreverent, sure, but only ever managed a pretense of true subversion; in this case, the difference between pointing something out and acting on it. Nowhere in its origin story narrative did Reynolds, Miller or writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese offer anything truly innovative, with its concluding note being one of acceptance of the abnormal, a message that has been the backbone of the genre since Superman: The Movie. The film remains hotly cited, but it's not really any more overtly self-aware than the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy, which likewise spear tropes in a more metatextual way.
This doesn't hurt Deadpool as an action-comedy or superhero origin film, but its satire is broad - something that no doubt actually helped its success yet means it lacks a long-term impact. Enter the sequel...