Author’s note: This is a spoiler-free review and I expect the comments to be the same. No hints, no annoying references, no “spoiler warning” followed by text that others might accidentally see, no spoilers whatsoever. Spoiler comments will be ruthlessly deleted and the more egregious ones will result in temporary bans. Use spoiler HTML tags if you must, but that’s it. —TK
It was a long time coming when 2016’s Deadpool finally hit the big screen, and it resulted in one of the most entertaining, exciting, and goddamn hilarious superhero films of all-time. It established that, when carefully curated and lovingly created, there exists a solid place for raunchy, violent-as-hell (but goofily so) R-rated superhero fare that spent much of its time poking fun at the larger comic book cinematic universe. Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of the character was note perfect, replete with nonstop, breathless joke delivery, regular fourth-wall-breaking, and terrific physicality.
Inevitably, a sequel arrived. Reynolds returns as Wade Wilson, now living in domestic bliss with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and touring the world righting wrongs in vulgar, hyper-violent fashion. But life takes a dark twist for him, and Wilson ends up embroiled in a weird, wild series of events that involve a time-traveling mutant from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin), a depressed, angry orphan who gave himself the unfortunate name Firefist (Julian Dennison), and puts him at odds with his on-again, off-again friend Colossus (Stefan Kapičić). There’s a whole lot that goes on in Deadpool 2, as it switches between the streets of New York to a supermax prison for evil mutants, juggling Cable’s mysterious vengeful mission with Deadpool’s harebrained quest for redemption. It also features a few of the original film’s returning characters — TJ Miller as Weasel (a thankfully small role), Karan Soni as the overeager cab driver Dopinder, and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al. Throw in a variety of newcomers — Zazie Beetz as Domino, Terry Crews as Bedlam, Lewis Tan as Shatterstar, and a host of other more surprising appearances that should definitely not be spoiled — and Deadpool 2 is jammed to bursting.
The hardest part is collecting all this talent and lunacy and molding it into some semblance of a cohesive narrative, and in that sense, Deadpool 2 is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some unusual moments that drag in the script (penned by Rhett Reese, Paul Werneck, and Reynolds) and director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) sometimes struggles with the pacing, making it feel like a weirdly uneven film. It has a number of more dramatic moments than its predecessor, and while they may be there in service to the narrative, they never quite gel. Of course, it’s altogether possible that that awkwardness is scripted deliberately and it’s part of a larger, more meta-context. Who the hell knows when it comes to this franchise.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Because when Deadpool 2 works — and it works far more often than not — it’s a fucking riot. It’s profane and insane and unpredictable. Its gags and one-liners are so fast and furious that it’s almost impossible to catch them all, making repeat viewings delightfully necessary. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there were a couple of scenes that made me laugh myself to literal tears, to the point where I heard a woman behind me, in the throes of giggling hysterics whisper, “Oh god I’m gonna pee” and bolt out of the theater. It’s fucking uproarious, and that’s thanks to the terrific joke writing, but also some superlative comedic timing and performances. Reynolds once again shines as Deadpool, mixing a blaze of comedic skill and improvisational ability, but his co-stars are all equally gifted. Soni’s Dopinder goes to more high-strung, unhinged heights, and while Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead isn’t as heavily featured as I’d have liked her to be, she’s still outstanding.
Kapičić’s Colossus and Brolin’s Cable do great work as the straight men amidst all this unfettered craziness as well, but the film’s real standout is Zazie Beetz as Domino. Her timing is flawless, and her combination of facial expressions, humor, and physicality virtually guarantees her as a new favorite. There’s a strange, patient gentleness to much of her delivery that would seem at odds with her penchant for ruthless violence, but it’s so carefully balanced together that she comes off as a wholly unique character that I completely fell in love with. The assumption is that Deadpool 2 sets the stage for an X-Force movie, and if that includes Beetz, then I’m all in.
Deadpool 2 is a breath of fresh air amidst the heady drama of the other film franchises, and it manages to not-so-gently poke fun at all of them. Between Fox’s X-Men, Disney’s Avengers, and Warner Bros’ Justice League, no one escapes unscathed. It’s a welcome diversion from a genre that can sometimes drown in its own self-seriousness, and it does so very well. Yes, the film stumbles here and there, but they’re forgivable missteps when the larger film is so damn fun. I’m already looking forward to future viewings to catch all the gags I may have missed the first time around. Deadpool 2 isn’t a perfect film but fuck it — when it makes me laugh that much, who cares?