This review contains slight spoilers for Deadpool 2.
Sequels are scary. Writers, directors, and actors know it. The seasoned critics, rosy-cheeked fanatics, and everyday theatre-goers who witness the fruits — squidgy sun-wrinkled or sparkling superb — of their labor know it. Capturing cracks of lightning in a cinematic bottle is, generally, a One Time Only thing. Pushing a pin in what many (save a few curmudgeonly naysayers who thrive off negativity and will find anything to complain about) consider perfection of the Magneto-looking-at-Mystique variety is, usually, Kind of Impossible.
Except in the case of Deadpool 2, a sequel that forearm-flicks the figurative stacks of “Follow-Up Films Tend to Be Bad!” research papers off our metaphorical desks and subverts the standard — splitting both our sides and the sentiments of its story, proving that sequels aren’t always befitting of being tossed in the bin, along the way.
The cranked-up continuation of its 2016 original, the second coming of Deadpool is every bit as over-the-top and overblown as one would expect — and then some. Ryan Reynolds is back in the role he was essentially born to play; despite his disposition that’s as sweet as the maple syrup for which his homeland is revered, Reynolds lets spill from his mouth lashes of self-referential wit (there’s a fantastic moment where the film takes a stab at its own “lazy writing”), sarcastic winks, and sometimes unsavory rib-nudges with ease. Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool, undeniably, and with Deadpool 2, one can’t help but wonder how much of Deadpool is Ryan Reynolds.
Deadpool 2 sees Wade Wilson operating with a newfound sense of protective, paternal power when he 1) is separated yet again from his soul flame fiancee Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and starts to seriously consider the idea of becoming a father; 2) enrolls in an X-Men trainee academy and pulls at strings to craft a makeshift family to heal the hurt of being away from his love; 3) befriends and ventures to mentor the fiery 14-year-old mutant Russell (Julian Dennison); and 4) learns that Cable — a time-traveling, telekinetic, telepathic a-hole of galactic proportions — has made murdering Russell his top priority.
Wade, of all people in the world, thus takes it upon himself to protect Russell from becoming minced mutant meat, and to keep Cable’s cybernetically enhanced hands off him.
But he can’t do it alone.
Instilled with the verve of purpose, Deadpool taps his partner in all things remotely criminal, Weasel (T.J. Miller, who is kind of unnecessary in Deadpool 2, or really in anything at this point), to assist him in interviewing recruits for the X-Force, the vigilante group that will serve as Russell’s shield.
There’s the always lucky, probability-skewing Domino (a fantastic Zazie Beetz, who has the presence to become one of this year’s biggest breakout stars); the dad-liest dude you’ll ever see, Peter (Rob Delaney); the sword-wielding hero from out of this world, Shatterstar (Lewis Tan); the acid puke-spewing Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard); and the electromagnetic field-altering Bedlam (Terry Crews). The gang’s mission isn’t one easily accomplished, even with Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) on tap as their pseudo-B team, but when has a challenge ever kept the Merc with a Mouth and co. away?
Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick crafted a Matryoshka doll with Deadpool 2: it’s a commentary about the soul-brightening effects of choosing your own family tucked inside a story about misfit mutants finding strength in numbers hidden within a superhero movie inside a raunchy and R-rated superhero movie all encapsulated by a fourth-wall-breaking, meta-humor-heavy, cheeky-cheeky-cheeky outer layer. And director David Leitch capitalizes on this absurdity, using his past experience co-helming the hyper-violent phenomenon John Wick and the Charlize Theron-topper Atomic Blonde to lasso Reese and Wernick’s written words and splatter them across his cinematic canvas.
Rather than grabbing cash the ever-consuming public would happily dish out (regardless of any promised potential, if we’re honest) to see the Merc with a Mouth swing his katanas, shake his skin-tight-leather-covered bits and bum, and sic his super-duper group on his adversaries in a second turn on the silver screen, Deadpool 2 reaches its imaginative hands in a different direction: it remembers the smutty, sarcastic film it succeeds, grabs what made the masses fall scarred face over booted feet in laugh-out-loud love with it, and runs wild.
Is it the most flawless film, even by the frequently more lenient parameters of superhero genre, to have ever graced our humble cinemas? No. It could have benefitted from smoother delivery, and even restraint, in its bevy of jokes to help buttress all the non-seriousness and alleviate the weight of its jests. Like the relentless action in Avengers: Infinity War left some viewers drained, the rapid-fire wisecracks in Deadpool 2 might have a fair few fans walking away with a worn-out feeling. Sure, the pic would have gotten off the ground in a springboard first step had the initial 15 or so minutes been tighter and more refined. And of course, the few quips that sound like they come from the mouth of a shock jock rather than a superhero could have been clipped out.
But is it a satisfying sequel that solidifies its stance as Not Like Your Average Superhero Movie, inspires jaw drops and genuine laughs, and gives us nearly two hours of Ryan-Reynolds-in-his-magnum-opus-role goodness? Absolutely.