After the first Deadpool enthusiastically flipped the bird (and hung a moon, and performed a number of other obscene gestures) at the comic-book-hero film genre, what could the creators of the follow-up do for an encore? Too much, as it turns out, though you can’t really criticize a movie like Deadpool 2 for being excessive, and so much of it lands that you don’t mind the overstuffing by the time it’s over.
Deadpool told an essentially simple love-and-revenge story, drenched in snarky attitude and unceasing cleverness in the writing, direction and acting. Deadpool 2 brings back everyone who survived the original and throws in a whole bunch more characters, to the point where a couple of the previous favorites wind up largely sidelined. The script by returning writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, joined by star Ryan Reynolds this time, is more plot-driven than its predecessor, which is to be expected now that Deadpool’s character has been firmly established and the gleeful shock value of this take on superheroics is no longer new. They had to work a little harder to keep things fresh this time around, and if the strain occasionally shows, it also pays off in big laughs, plenty of excitement and an emotional core strong enough to hold it all together.
Those who adored Deadpool’s hilariously self-deprecating opening-credits sequence need not worry when part two opens by jumping right into the action. This one gets to some pretty funny main titles too, which riff on established classics of the form and also comment on the major event that propels Deadpool into his latest adventure. Having discovered romantic bliss with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Reynolds’ scarred and sarcastic Wade Wilson now attempts to experience the joys of fatherhood, via his attempts to help troubled young mutant Russell (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison). Self-monikered Firefist for his destructive incendiary abilities, Russell is not the easiest child to foster, and Wade’s attempts to bond with him are further complicated by cybernetic soldier Cable (played by this summer’s Marvel-movie MVP Josh Brolin), who arrives from the future to destroy Russell for Terminator-esque reasons.
With previous director Tim Miller departed (to take on an actual Terminator movie), David Leitch steps into the breach and proves himself just as capable with this kind of heavy-CGI action as he did with the more grounded combat of John Wick and Atomic Blonde. The mayhem is swift, well-staged and well-shot, and sometimes quite amusing (not to give anything away, but Leitch evidently called in a favor from his stunt-doubling days for one of Deadpool 2’s funniest cameos). Leitch and his cast nail the right snappy rhythm for the dialogue as well, as the writers unload a barrage of fourth-wall-breaking quips and pop-culture references. Different viewers will have different favorites among these depending on their individual enthusiasms; personally, I applaud the team for throwing a little love at Guy Pearce in The Proposition and a little shade at The Human Centipede.
There’s also a barrage of characters as Deadpool 2 ricochets from the Xavier Institute (site of an especially inspired sight gag) to a supermax-esque prison to the streets of New York City and a number of other stops in between. Wade’s associates Dopinder (Karan Soni), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and Weasel (T.J. Miller) all return, along with steel voice of reason Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and attitudinal Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), the latter now with a new mutant girlfriend played by Shioli Kutsuna. (The lack of gratuitous makeout scenes between this couple is Deadpool 2’s one exercising of restraint.) Wade also assembles an X-Force team that includes Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård) and, most entertainingly, Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose particular X-power incites Deadpool 2’s most inspired merges of humor and chaos. Then there’s Eddie Marsan as a really nasty sort, and a late-arriving, familiar presence I wouldn’t dream of spoiling. (Given Dennison’s key role, Wilderpeople and Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi is the only personage who’s conspicuous by his absence here.)
Deadpool 2 has its unwieldy moments as it gets all these good and bad guys and gals in line, but it finds its groove by the second half—to the point where you can forgive a certain mixed morality to Wade’s central quest. (He wants to convince Russell that killing people, even those who’ve done you wrong, is bad, even as Wade and co. serve up an astronomical body count for our entertainment.) Flouting morals is all part of the Deadpool recipe, of course, and the sequel recaptures more than enough of the first film’s impish spirit to provide a big, raucous, bloody good time.
Also: You’ve probably seen people posting on-line that Deadpool 2 has the best closing-credits sequence in superhero-film history. And they’re right. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the theater when those end titles start playing.