What, you didn’t think there would be a Deadpool sequel? Look, nobody makes $720+ million worldwide by subverting both its own source material—and by extension, entire superhero movie genre—and doesn’t try to do it again. Heck, even if the first Deadpool lost money, there would probably still be a sequel with double the original budget because that’s just how superhero Hollywood rolls. One can be forgiven for going into this this with low expectations, given how the first Deadpool worked so perfectly that following it up would almost certainly result in a watered-down effort with “corporate made us to it” written all over it. But a funny thing happened along the way: those mutants and crackheads and mutant crackheads who made the first movie managed to bottle lightning again and create a sequel that isn’t just as fun, irreverent, foul and self-aware as its predecessor. It also managed to tell a story with substance, consequence and emotional heft. Until, well…we’ll get to that.
But first, the story: Wade Wilson is the super-mutant mercenary Deadpool, who is virtually impossible to kill. He’s been spending the last few years waging war on organized crime, but one night he fails to kill everybody on the scene, and so his work follows him home. In the crossfire, Wade’s girlfriend Vanessa is slain, and in his despondence, Wade tries to explodes himself, apparently forgetting that unless he’s reduced to atoms, he ain’t gonna die. Picked up and rehabilitated by the X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Wade gives fighting the good fight a shot, and tries to save the young mutant Russell Collins from a orphanage that is really a cruel conversion therapy center for kids with superpowers. Wade ends up botching that particular deal, landing himself and Russell into super-prison. That’s where they are assaulted by the time-traveling cyborg Cable, who comes from a future where Russell kills Cable’s family. Cable is going to pop Russell before that can happen. But this being a Deadpool movie, everything goes sideways. Russell gets buddy-buddy with the unstoppable villain Juggernaut, Deadpool assembles a mutant strike force of his own, and the whole thing ends with an acoustic version of A-Ha’s “Take on Me.” Roll credits. See you at Deadpool 3.
This is the kind of stuff that could only have worked in a Deadpool movie; like if the makers themselves had Cable’s time-traveling gear, jumped into the future, saw what they could get away with and then jumped back to the present and got to work. Typical of most sequels, there is a lot of harder, faster, better, stronger movie-making going on here, with additional characters, higher stakes, and a much bigger appetite for destruction. It’s all the sort of thing that could easily overwhelm the wit and perception that made the first movie so freaking spot-on, and reduce Deadpool 2 into just another overstuffed superhero spectacle that doesn’t really know what to do with itself. And yet, it doesn’t, and there are a couple of key reasons for that.
The first is Russell, a kind of lovable kid who’s had a rough ride so far in his young life and is being punished for having formidable mutant powers he never asked for nor wanted. It’s not really his fault he can cause mass destruction with a thought. And he doesn’t deserve the kind of treatment he gets by those who have already given up on him (which includes our new anti-hero Cable, BTW). The only person who seems to understand Russell even a little bit is our hero Deadpool, mainly because he’s told to by his girlfriend. But more importantly, Wade genuinely connects with Russell and is willing to die to make sure this (somewhat) innocent kid has a chance at becoming a better person than Deadpool and all of the other killers and weirdos he hangs out with. That takes heart. And who would have thought that a Deadpool movie would ever have heart?
The second reason is Vanessa, who dies in the beginning of the film and serves as a kind of guardian angel for Wade—some times telling him what to do, but mostly acting as a silent presence that drives Wade to be more than just a merc with a mouth. For the first time, we have a real conscience worth listening to in Deadpool’s world (sorry, Colossus, you still don’t count, tovarisch), and the impact is tangible. By the end of the movie, we start to see that Deadpool’s willingness to sacrifice himself to protect Russell is in large part so he can reunite with Vanessa on his own terms. When Wade finally does get a glimpse of his departed sweetheart, we are treated to a scene of unexpected tenderness between two people who honestly love each other and won’t let a little thing like the mortal coil get in their way. It all leaves us thinking two things: How did we ever get a scene this good in this kind of movie? And are we really going to end this on a downer?
The answer is already embedded in all that came before it. This is a movie where Deadpool introduces the loved/hated mutant group X-Force and then figures out how to only give them about five minutes of screen time. This is a movie where the patter between Deadpool, Cable, Russell, Domino, Al and Weasel has been even more sublimely weaponized. And this is a movie where the cab driver Dopinder finally get this first kill and gets to take part in a slow-mo hero walk with the rest of the gang.
No, this movie isn’t going to lose sight of itself. And if you need any proof, just wait for the moment of truth, which happens in the post-credits scenes, of all places. Ever wonder what happens when you give a guy like Deadpool time travel? You will. And you will thank him for it.