What distinguishes Deadpool from most other superheroes is that he swears, kills people, and breaks the fourth wall. That is also, of course, what distinguished the first Deadpool film from its dozens of siblings way back in 2016. Deadpool 2 grapples with the question all sequels face — what now? — and comes up with the usual answer: more of the same.
This boisterous second helping of Deadpool aka Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) and his super-cancer powers (his body regenerates quickly and thus cannot be killed) begins with a tragedy before the opening credits, a tragedy so profound that the credits themselves can’t believe it. The credits are underscored by a 007-style Celine Dion song, though, so you shouldn’t be too sad. Wade keeps his dark, snarky sense of humor even when he’s trying to find some way to kill himself.
His challenge this time, apart from immortality, is two-fold. First, there’s an angry 14-year-old mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison, from Hunt for the Wilderpeople) who’s unwilling or unable to control his ability to shoot fireballs out of his hands. Deadpool would just as soon kill him (that is his solution to most problems), but the third-tier X-Men who’ve let Wade join them on a trial basis are opposed to shooting children. When Wade learns that the lad has been abused by staff at the home for young mutants where he lives, he’s glad he didn’t kill him and kills some of the staff instead. This, too, is against protocol, and Wade and Russell are both put in mutant prison, where they put a collar around your neck that disables your superpowers. (What if your superpower is being impervious to superpower-disabling technology? CHECKMATE, MOVIE.)
Deadpool’s second challenge arrives soon thereafter in the form of Cable (Josh Brolin), a hunky soldier from the future sent here on a Terminator-style mission. With the aid of X-Man Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and a new batch of mutant friends recruited for the purpose, Wade must stop Russell from becoming a monster while stopping Cable from snuffing Russell out before he has a chance to reform. Wade’s new team, called X-Force, ends up being deployed mostly for humorous purposes, but one standout is Domino (Zazie Beetz), a well-trained fighter whose superpower is being lucky, which Deadpool can’t believe is a real thing. Also returning, though in limited roles, are Wade’s blind roommate Al (Leslie Uggams), his douche-bro bartender Weasel (T.J. Miller), and his faithful taxi driver/assistant Dopinder (Karan Soni), whose new thing is wanting to be a superhero, too.
David Leitch, director of Atomic Blonde and co-director of John Wick, is at the helm here, with returning screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick joined by one Ryan Reynolds (his first writing credit). That’s fitting, given that Reynolds’ public persona closely resembles Deadpool’s and that these films love to blur the line between fiction and reality. (Blink and you’ll miss the fact that Deadpool’s autograph reads “Ryan Reynolds.”) But while the movie uses meta-references and digs at its competitors to poke fun at the genre, its satire is, at best, medium-sharp — funny but not especially pointed. In fact, the funniest thing the movie does (I won’t spoil it) negates its entire existence.
Leitch knows his way around action scenes, and the fights and stand-offs are duly impressive, punctuated by Deadpool’s sarcastic commentary and the franchise’s non-aversion to — indeed, its embracing of — blood and guts. Less impactful are the heartfelt moments involving Wade and his beloved Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a relationship that borders on unnecessary amid the anarchy and revelry. The movie is most enjoyable when it’s just being goofy: Deadpool flirting with everything that moves; a guy with no powers (Rob Delaney) joining X-Force because he “saw the ad”; Wade’s ongoing obsession with Wolverine. I think Part 3 will need to up the ante and actually be a superhero movie (not just a spoof of them), maybe by introducing a solid villain or giving Deadpool a particularly unusual challenge. But that’s their problem, not mine.