3 (out of 4)
The original Deadpool is the highest grossing X-Men film ever and no one saw it coming. Apart from three Bryan Singer films (the two originals and Days of Future Past) and last year’s Logan, 20th Century Fox’s portion of Marvel rights hasn’t made an enormous imprint on modern cultural phenomenon of superhero films, especially with Disney further monopolizing the box office calendar every year.
Yet somehow Ryan Reynolds spewing sarcasm in red spandex tapped right into the domestic zeitgeist – the result was middling, with humor ranging from sharp wit to the lowliest, most smug self-awareness you’d see from any given Seth MacFarlane joint. But we got a decent origin story, some time for smaller X-Men characters and an enjoyable if overrated reflection of our popular interests. The new sequel improves upon just about everything that came before. With a director of considerable style at the command (David Leitch, long-time second unit director for various blockbusters and the auteur behind the baddassery of John Wick and Atomic Blonde), a fatter budget, smart casting, a good villain and an alright story just for kicks, Deadpool 2 surpasses its predecessor with ease.
Stakes get set pretty fast when Wade Wilson's fiancée Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) bites it in the opening scene. Embracing emotional underpinnings similar to the first Deadpool, the sequel trades a love story for family film tropes. Wade seeks redemption by attempting to set flame-handed Russell Collins (Hunt for the Wilderpeople's New Zealand treasure Julian Dennison) down a better path in which Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-traveling super soldier, won't have to murder the young boy in order to save his family that ends up killed by his future firey fists. Brolin's turn here marks the distinguished actor's second Marvel villain in a month as he brings another sympathetic bad guy to life as interesting as the universe-toppling Thanos in Infinity War.
New faces like the super-fortunate Domino (Zazie Beetz) are welcome additions to X-universe, but regardless of the increased budget, extended cast and thicker runtime, Deadpool 2 still feels quaint, hand-made and audacious. The jokes are mercifully less abrasive – even with a handful too many outdated references, the metatextual elements are more subtle and satiating than round one of the R-rated anti-hero antics. Leitch's hand in the fight sequences is unswerving and up to his own standards – the major second act set piece is both chaotically hilarious and inventively thrilling.
Like 22 Jump Street, as a meta-sequel Deadpool 2 is as inspired as you can get in terms of modifying and renovating all the elements that worked in the original while telling a very different story. The opening credits sequence parodying Bond and the Marvel-esque post-credit stabs are some of the film's funniest segments. The film in between has plenty to guffaw at, but Deadpool 2 makes room for actual character development before poking fun at DC and the MCU – it's nice to know Reynolds and Leitch have their priorities straight.
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