It’s difficult to pin down exactly what is the secret to a comedy’s success, but a key factor is without doubt discipline. Whether it’s a standup honing the timing of their delivery, or a writer finding the right word for a killer punchline, everything that makes comedy work comes with restraint. Hell, it’s why improv is so difficult to get right.
With this in mind, the key to a successful comedy movie is the ability to make audiences laugh consistently for 90 minutes at least, while balancing a sometimes threadbare budget as well as the studio’s expectations – especially if it’s a potential franchise-starter. Take Deadpool for instance: in 2016 after a lot of back-and-forth over whether the movie would ever be made, it finally landed in cinemas with a very tiny (for a superhero movie) budget to recoup and a higher certificate than your standard – something that came with having more creative freedom to make the movie that Ryan Reynolds et al wanted to make.
The outcome wasn’t perfect, but it was still a very good movie and a pleasant surprise to many; the humour was spot on for a lot of people and a lot of this was down to the money put into Deadpool – or lack thereof. Audiences flocked to see the merc-with-a-mouth and made Deadpool the highest-grossing R-rated (15 being the equivalent here in the UK) movie of all time, worldwide. Of course, a sequel was greenlit almost immediately and so, in 2018, Deadpool 2 arrived in cinemas worldwide with a heftier budget, a much more aggressive marketing campaign and expectations of a full-blown X-Force setup to make this a proper superhero franchise.
Unfortunately, Deadpool 2 is a bit of a bloated mess overall. It’s not a bad movie as such, but the heart and love that had been so clearly put into the first movie was all but missing here. Being a sequel with bigger expectations on its shoulders, there needed to be an actual story this time; this means that there’s less room for the movie to really breathe, and while it’s still funny in places there seems to be a lot more miss than hit this time around.
The biggest problem with Deadpool 2 – and there are a few – is that, while it finally had the budget to be a proper superhero movie, along the way it forgot the discipline and restraint that made the original so fun. It’s not the first to make this mistake (The Hangover Parts II and III, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Men in Black II, I could go on) and it won’t be the last. The difference being that with the aforementioned examples, these pretty much killed their respective franchises. Deadpool 2 will be a box office hit, regardless of critical reception, and the movies will continue to roll out while losing less and less of its charm. Ultimately, the Deadpool movies will become much like the character himself: unable to die, no matter how hard it wants or tries to, doomed to tell the same jokes over and over again. It’s a tragic outcome for such a promising series, but if comedy is tragedy plus timing, then maybe we will look back on the Deadpool sequel and have a proper laugh one day.