The first Deadpool felt less like a movie, and more like a proof-of-concept video. Sure, the 2016 comedy served as a proper origin story for the lewd Marvel anti-hero -- after Gavin Hood's X-Men: Origins -- Wolverine failed spectacularly at bringing the fast-talking mercenary to life. But Tim Miller's Deadpool also seemed to be convincing nervous studio execs that a foul-mouthed, hyper-violent, sex-infused and fourth wall-breaking superhero comedy could be successful if the suits just stepped back and let Deadpool be Deadpool.
As we now know, Deadpool made a fortune at the box office, demonstrating that Reynolds, Miller and co-screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were on to something positive. It feels strange to say, after two previous attempts at telling Wade Wilson stories, but Deadpool 2 finally is the movie where the creative team gets the greenlight to put the pedal to the metal and show how fast this puppy can go.
This makes Deadpool 2, by definition, the perfect sequel. It doubles down on everything that fans love about the original -- from the relentless meta humor to the gratuitous comic-book bloodshed -- while also correcting a few of that movie's blatant issues. Blessed with an actual budget, Deadpool 2 expands on the scope of the character, introducing a bevy of beloved Marvel heroes and villains who occupy Deadpool's corner of the comic universe. (It also feels like it was filmed on more than one set, immediately elevating it above the production values of the original Deadpool.) And, impressively, Deadpool 2 ends up being funnier than the original, assaulting its audience with a consistent stream of wickedly insightful jokes that lampoon everything from the current landscape of comic-book properties to Reynolds' own roller coaster ride as a celebrity, both on the screen and off.
Prepare to see Deadpool 2 twice, because the screenplay's best lines, tragically, will be buried by the roaring laughter of a sure-to-be-raucous movie theater crowd.
The sentimental core of Deadpool remains intact for Deadpool 2, and is even enhanced in ways I didn't expect. The sequel eagerly wants its audiences to care about Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), the contract killer who had a grudge to settle in his debut film. And so, for reasons I can't reveal without sharing a juicy spoiler, our hero finds himself in a spot where he has lost a lot and needs to find new reasons to continue living. Reuniting with Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Deadpool discovers that purpose when he encounters Russell (Julian Dennison), a hot-headed teenage mutant who claims he's being abused by the leader (Eddie Marsan) of an anti-mutant program.
That's the least of Russell's problems. Unbeknownst to both Russell AND Deadpool, the kid also is the target of a lethal hunter named Cable (Josh Brolin), who has traveled from the future to eliminate Russell because this very powerful mutant becomes the cause of too much pain and suffering in Cable's time. Yep, Deadpool 2 blatantly rips from Terminator, sending a virtually unstoppable killing machine back in time to remove a future threat before the kid is able to make his first kill, and realize how much he likes it.
The amount of story trying to be told in Deadpool 2 slows the film's pace ever so slightly in the first act, as screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick set the table with a lot of plot points that asked to be explored. Wade (Ryan Reynolds), Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Dopinder (Karan Soni), Weasel (TJ Miller), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and the X-Men get valuable face time as the movie also tries to establish Russell's plight and Cable's motivations, all while slinging hysterical lines about heroes with moms named "Martha."
The plot streamlines, however, once Deadpool 2 establishes why Deadpool and Cable are at odds, prompting Wade to put together his own super team in the form of X-Force. It's here that we are introduced to the two standouts of Deadpool 2: Domino (Zazie Beetz), a lithe mutant fighter whose incredible superpower is luck; and Peter (Rob Delaney), a powerless suburban dweeb who happened to read Deadpool's recruitment ad and thought joining a team would be fun.
One crucial change happened behind the scenes on Deadpool 2. Director Tim Miller left the sequel due to creative differences, with John Wick helmer David Leitch stepping in as a replacement. This ups the ante on all of Deadpool's action and fight sequences (Leitch also did Atomic Blonde), to the point where the film's entire second act is basically one long action set piece that involves sky diving, stunt driving, fights on and around high-speed trucks, and the introduction of a classic comic villain. No spoilers.
The beauty of Deadpool 2, though, is that the success of the first movie has removed any shackles from Ryan Reynolds and his co-writers, encouraging them to confidently unleash the full force of this wise-cracking gnat of a superhero who admittedly fights "dirty" in order to do what he thinks is right. Because they know the idea works, Team Deadpool is able to push all the envelopes forward -- on meta jokes, on mutant mutilation -- because the line of acceptance has moved. We think we know what to expect. Reynolds thinks he knows what we expect. So they give us the unexpected, and it works very well.
Part of me wants to see Deadpool 2 a second time before finalizing a grade. Scenes that elicit laughs for their shock value will lose impact, but I can't tell if that will hurt the overall experience of this deeply satisfying sequel. As it stands, Deadpool 2 is an outrageous, surprising, hysterical, emotional, vulgar, creative and uproarious summer blockbuster that fans of this genre -- and of comedy, in general -- will devour.