When it came out in 2016, the first Deadpool felt like a revelation. Not only was it a raunchy sex comedy masquerading in red tights, but it was proof positive that there was still an audience for R-rated, mature superhero movies. We had seen this before, of course, in movies like Blade and Darkman, but the deluge of PG-13, family-friendly blockbusters from the past two decades had buried that truth under an avalanche of box office receipts.
Deadpool did far more than freshen the air at the local multiplex, though. It even did more than re-establish the R rating as being commercially viable for superheroes: a truth that Logan would shortly thereafter run with to massive critical acclaim and commercial success. First and foremost, Deadpool was a phenomenal movie.
And lest we forget, it really, really didn’t need to be in order for audiences to buy into the premise. Deadpool had been cultivating a loyal audience since his first appearance in the pages of New Mutants #98 in 1983: an audience that had grown at an incremental rate since the internet caught on to his endlessly meme-able antics. Those who knew about and cared for the character had the rug pulled out from underneath them with the abominable X-Men Origins: Wolverine and everything from the “leaked” test footage to the marketing assured them that this would be a faithful rendition of the character to the big screen. All it really had to do was show up in a theater near you and it would make back its incredibly modest budget.
It’s that part, its budget, that was ultimately the one great flaw with the film. Understand, the characters – and especially Ryan Reynolds as the camera-mugging lead – were all exceptionally well-chosen. The costume was a dead-ringer for the comics and the script was one of the sharpest that we’d seen in years. Fox was sufficiently invested in the premise as to let the team to make the exact movie that they wanted to make: something more akin to Sausage Party than First Class.
That hard-earned studio leniency, however, came at a price. For stuffy studio executives, Deadpool still seemed to be an uncertain bet, and the fact that it was rated R meant that they couldn’t sell as many tickets as they could have if it had been rated PG-13. To combat this uncertainty, they slashed whatever the necessary budget was down to the marrow: certainly not enough for everything that they wanted to do with the film, and does it ever show, too.
There’s a reason why there was so few X-Men in the movie, despite the fact that Deadpool himself visits the normally bustling X-mansion. There’s a reason why the few that do show up aren’t any of the famous ones from all of the recent X-movies. There’s a reason why Deadpool’s world feels strangely small and empty. And there’s a reason why the big blowout fight scene at the end of the movie can’t help but feel underwhelming compared to similar scenarios playing out in better-funded films.
The movie might lampshade the issue through its trademark humor, but there’s no getting around it. Deadpool was coasting on fumes the first time around. They had barely enough money to bring their version of the character onto the big screen. The CG was minimal and, where present, clearly low-end (the lack of proper texturing on Colossus’ body was a clear giveaway of this). The fight scenes were oddly subdued for something with a hard-R rating and a lead sporting every conceivable weapon type on his person. The spaces failed to feel fleshed out and lived-in on any level because they simply didn’t have the money for necessary warm bodies to put on screen.
The movie worked in spite of its budget, cutting corners where it could and plowing through on the overwhelming strength of its writing. And there is no doubt whatsoever that with some extra cash thrown its way, it would have been an even better film than what was ultimately released into theaters.
Deadpool 2, however, does not have this problem. Undoubtedly owing to the first movie’s overwhelming success at separating movie-goers from their hard-earned cash, the film has a markedly and obviously larger budget this time around, and all of that money was put to exceptionally good use. The cast, especially the principle one, has been massively expanded on, making the world at last feel like a place where more than just the same five people live. The famous X-Men do make a brief gag appearance, further adding toward that lived-in feel. The special effects (including an impressive array of pyrotechnics and Colossus’s now realistically-textured body) have clearly been upgraded from the bare-bones renderings we were treated to two years ago. Overall, it feels like what the first movie should have been all along: that is to say, properly funded.