Bigger and better… well, except for the nudity.
Sequels can be a tough game to get right, and that’s never more the case than when the first film is a surprise success. What worked naturally the first time around is at risk of feeling forced and overly thought-out in a follow-up as filmmakers hope to capture lightning in a bottle a second time. The sequel to 2016’s Deadpool deftly dubsteps that issue, though, by delivering another carefree, gleefully ridiculous, and comically violent romp through superhero comics and pop culture.
Deadpool aka Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) has been living the life of an avenger — note the small ‘a’ — and taking down bad guys around the globe with his guns, katanas, and aggressive insults. He returns home for his anniversary with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and the shared decision to bring new life into the world, but their joy is cut short when a group of assassins comes calling. Distraught and devastated, Wade finds new purpose when he’s asked to help an angry young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison). That effort, in turn, becomes protection duty when a soldier from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives looking to kill the teen.
Outgunned by both Cable and circumstance, Wade assembles a super-powered team of his own to take down this futuristic villain. Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), and Peter (Rob Delaney) join Deadpool as the non-gender discriminatory X-Force. (Take that X-Men!)
Fans of the first film will be hard-pressed to dislike Deadpool 2 as it’s every bit as fun, bloody, and self-referential as the original. “Fuck Wolverine” says Wade at the very start as a death-focused Logan music box spins slowly before our eyes, and it’s only the first of many mentions of Marvel comics, movie characters, and actors. While numerous jokes require knowledge of specific comics and movies, though, there are plenty more that require only a sense of humor. Reynolds’ wise-ass delivery once again finds a perfect home with the character and his surroundings, and the rest of the cast — both returning and newcomers — keep apace beautifully with matching snark and one-liners. This is a movie that will only benefit from repeat viewings as gags and jokes are bounced around at record pace, and a few briefly glimpsed cameos might be missed the first time around too.
The script (by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds) is packed with gags, but as with the first film they enhance and enliven the narrative rather than distract from it. Its only real misstep is the pre-credits murder of a returning character that’s lazy, cliched, and more at home in a Chuck Norris movie from the 80s, but to its credit, the film does some interesting things with it before ultimately resolving things in a satisfying manner. The script keeps things moving forward by creating a new dynamic between Wade and those around him, and while it threatens to lean more emotional than feels right for the character the blend of tragedy, sarcasm, and honesty works surprisingly well. An underlying theme here involves the idea that pain shows us who we truly are — how we react to suffering reveals our true nature — and the film walks a fine line with these darkly personal beats and gags involving prison wallets and toddler dick.
Wade’s arc isn’t nearly as big this time, but these new characters give him mental and emotional fields to play in that were previously absent. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) return mostly to receive a barrage of insults while the newcomers become a surrogate family of sorts that brings both warmth and humor. Nagasonic’s girlfriend Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) stays on Deadpool’s good side too. It’s heavier on the latter — the warmth is somewhat generic in the vein of the Fast and Furious franchise — but it’s hard to complain about that when we’re getting sequences like the one highlighting their big rollout into their first mission together. You’ll never look at another superhero team-up the same way again.
It’s still far from a big epic we’ve come to expect from most comic book superhero movies, but director David Leitch shows that John Wick and Atomic Blonde were no flukes when it comes to crafting exciting action scenes and engaging downtime. Deadpool, Cable, and Domino get the best of the former with some wonderfully chaotic and carnage-filled sequences, and the mayhem covers all the bases with guns, blades, fire, vehicles, and spatulas.
The film stands on its own (well, alongside its predecessor), but it makes for an interesting comparison to the likes of the recent Avengers: Infinity War. The two actually share more than just Brolin in the villain role including an approach to death that tries to have it both ways — death is weighty and dramatic, but also what’s death really in a world featuring superpowers and time travel? Where each lands on that particular issue will be up to viewers, but Deadpool 2 takes the edge thanks in large part to its built-in irreverence. We’re taught early on not to take anything seriously, and while that makes the emotional beats a bit harder sell the balance between dark and light lands far stronger.
Deadpool 2 isn’t as subversive as its predecessor — it’s the second one so it can’t be — but it’s every bit as much fun. It laughs at itself, it laughs at Reynolds (seriously, stay for the end-credits scene), and it laughs at the pseudo seriousness of comic book movies in general. You’ll most likely be laughing along with it.