It doesn’t surprise me that “Deadpool” became a massive success two years ago. One only need consider its place in the superhero movie timeline, including its significance for those, like me, who grew up these movies in the early 2000s, namely Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy. Even before its release, I knew the first film couldn’t be just one R-rated diamond in the rough of PG-13 fodder that fueled its funny bone. A sequel was inevitable, because you simply can’t box all of Ryan Reynolds into one movie. With “Deadpool 2,” Reynolds and company get to have more fun than before, doubling down on action and humor, while narrative and emotion are catered to just enough to avoid repeating what has already worked.
Following the critical and commercial success of Wolverine’s swan song in “Logan,” Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) desperately tries to one-up his franchise counterpart with this much-anticipated sequel. With a bigger budget and a director well-versed in action (David Leitch), Deadpool sets out to make “Justice League” look like another “Sharknado” installment. Albeit borrowing numerous plot threads from better movies, including “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Looper,” every “Terminator” movie, and even “Logan” itself, “Deadpool 2” is a tiny step above its cherished predecessor.
Recycling countless time travel subplots means introducing Cable (Josh Brolin, playing his second Marvel baddie within three weeks), a metal-armed warrior from the future who travels to our present to eliminate a young mutant in order to prevent the death of his family. Enter the save the child, save the world bit from “Logan,” where Wade is prompted to save 14-year-old Russell (Julian Dennison) from Cable’s wrath by recruiting a team of mutants dubbed X-Force, including fan favorite Domino (Zazie Beetz, in a star-making turn), whose manipulation of luck makes for some pretty kick-ass moments, much to Wade’s surprise.
Those looking for a more original story this time will leave the theater underwhelmed, but “Deadpool 2” serves up plenty of robust action and metatextual humor to dash any ounce of boredom. Leitch proves to be a terrific asset in the director’s chair, imbuing rigorous stuntwork and heady set pieces with style, something that the first film was lacking in. Slow motion is utilized bit too much, often when a scene doesn’t really need it, but Leitch does get a kick out of it whenever a pop music track is played.
Reynolds, who also serves as producer and co-writer, includes developments and variations of jokes from last time, but he leaves more than enough room for beats and zingers to lambast our current zeitgeist. Multiple viewings would be required to memorize every last quip, but upon initial viewing, the most memorable of the bunch includes references to dubstep, Winnie the Pooh, and one of the greatest mid-credits sequences in the superhero genre.
“Deadpool 2” is such a hodgepodge of inspiration that any semblance of plot is almost irrelevant, but for a “Deadpool” movie, such is hardly a criticism. These films are first and foremost about the appeal of its loud-mouthed, fourth-wall-breaking antihero, who once again walks away with the entire movie. Reynolds’ passion and commitment to the character is the sole reason why this franchise works, and it’s hard not laugh along even as his character succumbs to the very tropes he lampoons. Drama undercuts comedy, and comedy undercuts drama, but it’s all worth it for Reynolds’ ceaseless charm.