The less audiences know about Deadpool 2 going in, the better, so everything that follows will refrain from the kind of details that would spoil the experience. So what should you expect? Violence, profanity, a surprising amount of genuine heart, absurd stunts, juvenile jokes, meta-reference overload, heavy CGI-laden fights, delightful cameos, and the kind of surprises that will leave your jaw on the floor. Frankly, though, “surprise” is a word that should be forever-stricken when describing anything involving Deadpool’s history. It’s a franchise that would never have been were it not for leaked test footage during 2014’s San Diego Comic Convention. It’s a franchise that would never have been were it not for lead actor Ryan Reynold’s tenacious action to keep the film alive in the hearts of Deadpool fans the world over. The Merc with the Mouth, nicknamed such for his fondness for oversharing via diarrhea of the mouth, is the head of a franchise that should never have been. However, if Deadpool 2’s an indicator of the strength in front of and behind the camera in understanding the character (and its audience) – Deadpool isn’t going anywhere and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since the events of the original film, unkillable assassin Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) splits his time between taking contracts on bad guys across the globe under the moniker Deadpool and spending time with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the love of his life. Before he can settle down in domestic bliss, soldier-from-the-future Cable (Josh Brolin) crash lands in the present intent on hunting a kid named Russell (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison). Though devoid of a moral compass, Wade manages to find himself stuck between the boy and the future man, unaware that the ramifications of his choices ripple through time.
Sitting in the director’s seat for Deadpool 2 is Atomic Blonde director and John Wick co-director David Leitch, who makes sure the audience knows he’s in control from the start. Opening in a kick-ass musical fashion in the vein of the initial outing, Deadpool 2 executes (no pun intended) its cold open in a manner that feels both completely new and appropriate for the wall-breaking assassin. Unfortunately, after the opening sequence concludes, the story slows down to a crawl in order to set up the catalyst that propels the core narrative forward. While the loss of momentum drags the experience for a brief period, it’s absolutely necessary to get the pieces set on the board. At the same time, it also feels like an excuse for meta jokes and comic references. Just like DP himself, even at his most his rewarding there’s an aura of something cheap and meaningless. That’s not to suggest that the script by the trio of scribes – returning writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, with Ryan Reynolds co-writing – lacks an engrossing, compelling story. Once it gets moving again, it moves like an unstoppable force, relentless hitting you with jokes and action shots until the literal end of the credits. Frankly, you’re going to wish for an intermission just to catch your breath. By the end, you’ll either be stunned by the absurd stunts, be laughing from the ridiculous jokes, or be shocked by just how much Deadpool 2 manages to cram into its near two-hour runtime without feeling bloated.
One of the major pluses Deadpool 2 has going for it over other Marvel franchises pushing ten-plus years in theaters – one having a pretty major time at the cinema at the time of this writing – is that the standard rules don’t apply. The band of misfits that sign up to join Deadpool’s narrative ride are the perfect embodiment of the type of homicidal screwball antics that follow Deadpool everywhere he goes; whereas any other film would require either an enormous leap of reason or a slog of a set-up. The Deadpool films can afford an “f-it” attitude since the first movie establishes that it exists within, yet apart, from other Marvel films and audiences roll along with it. Just look at Zazie Beetz’s Domino, a mutant whose ability is to harness luck in her favor, or Terry Crews’s Bedlam, a mutant who can create and control a biological-electromagnetic field – two characters that fit within the pre-established world of Marvel films. Folks, let me now introduce you to Lewis Tan’s Shatterstar, an alien from the planet Mojo who’s far more advanced than anything on Earth. Looking for an explanation? You won’t get one. As for Brolin’s Cable, if you don’t know who he is from the comics, don’t expect much of a backstory here either. If the rumored X-Force film happens and Brolin sticks around, if he’s not too busy destroying the Avengers in his role as Thanos, maybe audiences will get some idea of who Cable is. This is the exact kind of narrative shortcutting that killed comic films in their infancy; however, because of the large swath of comic films in the cultural zeitgeist, audiences require less suspension of disbelief and Deadpool 2 takes full advantage of it.
Without question, Deadpool 2 is a completely engaging, unrelentingly funny, stupidly ridiculous cinematic experience. Depending on where you sit philosophically, the onslaught of references, meta references (Cable’s gun goes to 11), meta-meta references (is it Stewart or McAvoy?), and self-awareness (THIS IS A MOVIE!!!) will either border on grating or push you straight into annoyance. However, that’s sorta the purpose of Deadpool as a character. He’s a man without filter or thought and remains the only comic character who can pull off the sheer magnitude of self-referential material without breaking the audience’s suspension of disbelief. In fact, it’s one of the things that endeared the theater-going audience to Deadpool in the first place. So while it may seem cheap for the writers to return to that well, it’s once again directly in character and thereby forgivable. Hell, it gives us the gift of an end credits scene that is *the* end credit scene of them all. No need for any more after this. Truly, if Deadpool 2 can be summed up, it’s in an exchange between the Merc with the Mouth himself and returning X-Man Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) when Deadpool proclaims that rules were made to be broken.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.