1. Deadpool 2, like any sequel worth its salt, gives you more of what you liked in the first film but varies just enough to keep it interesting. What I found fascinating about it was that the few risks it does take, the times it steps outside its self-referential wisenheimer nihilist world, were actually my least favorite parts of the film—the times I believed it least. There are times, bless its heart, when Deadpool 2 is downright open-hearted and sincere. I sort of admire it for these moments, all of which are well-played and well-intentioned. But is it too stay-in-your-lane-y of me to confess that every time Deadpool 2 started in on love and friendship and heroism, my eyes glazed over and I found myself tapping my foot, impatient for my mayhem? I think it might be, but it’s how I felt. Deadpool 2 is at its best when it cheerfully doesn’t give a shit. The more it cared, the less I did.
2. Anyway, Ryan Reynolds is back as Deadpool, and we should really reiterate here how absolutely perfect he is in the role. Reynolds, who not long ago was at Affleck-ian levels of open mockery, was always a star in the making, just trying to find the right fit and failing, over and over again. It’s fitting then that his definitive role was one he needed two tries at, finally getting it right with this second incarnation of Deadpool, a joke this film happily makes much hash of. Reynolds is an actor who is simultaneously full of shit and completely aware he’s full of shit, which, as harnessed by Deadpool, gives us superhero movie that sits outside itself, cheerfully tweaking itself in the nose. I’m not sure I need Deadpool to constantly be killing people to enjoy him; I think I’d enjoy Reynolds’ interpretation of Deadpool even if he were hosting a game show, or playing in a chess tournament. He’s welcome entertainment and company for two hours, no matter what, probably more.
3. ANYWAY … this time Deadpool suffers a pre-credits tragedy and spends the rest of the film trying to find his place in the world, if there is one, which is a heavy place to start with a character who at one point flashes his toddler penis at us. (Don’t ask.) His journey brings him across Cable (Josh Brolin, looking like a massive slab of leather), a time-traveling badass with a bionic arm who is trying to kill a teenage mutant (Julian Dennison) whom he claims kills his family years in the future. Along the way, Deadpool puts together his own group of X-Men, called X-Force, but their success as a fighting group is … minimal. And all the while, he’s speed-riffing and commenting on all the action, winking and cracking wise at every opportunity. It’s the first film, without the origin story.
4. The movie never stops leaping around and jumping for your attention, in a way that’s more winning and affable than it probably should be. A lot of this is Reynolds, but the expanded cast brings plenty to the table as well. Zazie Beetz of Atlanta is certainly the standout of the X-Force crew, as a mutant whose talent is “being lucky,” which doesn’t sound like a superpower but certainly feels like one when you see it in action. (It might actually be the best superpower.) Rob Delaney has a delightful small role as the least gifted but most relatable member of X-Force. And Brolin gives the film an added gravitas that it doesn’t necessarily need but certainly doesn’t hurt. But this is Reynolds’ show: He is grandmaster and main event of this circus, all by himself.
5. He also tries to add the weight and emotion to the film as well, both as co-screenwriter and star, and while I appreciated the effort, I’m not sure it was worth the bother. This is a film that works best when it’s entirely irreverent about its own irreverence, when it is constantly riffing on its increasingly large place in the comic book movie canon. (It even notes that it’s the reason Logan existed.) There was an excellent joke a while back someone made on Twitter—and you’ll have to forgive my lack of a reference, I can’t find the Tweet right now—in which someone pointed out that if Deadpool 2 wanted to replace T.J. Miller in the wake of his sexual misconduct allegations, they could absolutely do it with Christopher Plummer and it would completely work within this movie’s self-aware universe. (Man I wish they had tried it.) It’s tough to create a universe like that, and it’s that, not the love story or Deadpool’s journey, that sets these films apart. I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a post-credits sequence. But I didn’t want Deadpool’s to end. It’s all disposable, but in this franchise’s case, that’s a happy feature, not a bug.
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds, Rhett Reese
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Julian Dennison, Terry Crews, Rob Delaney, Karan Soni, Eddie Marsan
Release Date: May 18, 2018