In my review of the original Deadpool, I noted that "it walks an incredibly fine line between 'enjoyable' and 'annoying as hell' without somehow toppling into the negative." I was also preemptively wary of any movie that tries to mirror the Deadpool style without the fun and charm. Presenting Deadpool 2.
It's not all bad. Ryan Reynolds is still perfect for the titular role, and Josh Brolin is a solid addition to the cast (shoulda been you, Avatar's Stephen Lang). It just feels like it was cobbled together in a few months. Reynolds had years to make Deadpool a reality; I'm sure executives were begging for a sequel the second the box-office numbers arrived in February of 2016.
Our story resumes with Deadpool, also known as Wade Wilson, taking out nasty criminals worldwide and being his usual fun-loving murderous self. But when his antics get girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) killed, he enters a deep dark spiral of self-hate. After ending up in Mutant Jail, he meets a young boy self-nicknamed Firefist (Julian Dennison) and is confronted by time-traveling soldier Cable (Brolin); each, in their own way, force the depressed merc to reconsider his choices and attempt to make his dead lover proud.
If that seems both complex and aimless, it is. The movie is really just an excuse for Reynolds to crack wise, for Brolin to establish himself as Deadpool's best frenemy, and to set up a future superteam to rival and possibly spar with the X-Men. Accordingly, we get more Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) of the actual X-Men, along with Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), Negasonic's girlfriend and an unabashed new buddy for Wade.
This, of course, is exactly the trouble we expected a Deadpool sequel to get into. The original was a shot-in-the-dark surprise success; now Deadpool is the captain of a franchise. As such, he needs a team; he needs recurring villains; he needs to fit more firmly into the X-Men cinematic universe, as opposed to making fun of how little they're acknowledging him.
Because beyond The Avengers and maybe Black Panther, Deadpool is now the most bankable commodity in comic book movies. Audiences rejected X-Men: Apocalypse outright, but Deadpool 2 has already made $312 million worldwide. The appeal of the character fades a little when he's joking about box-office records rather than rejection notices.
But then there's a terrific MacGruber-esque sequence that introduces a crew of X-Force hopefuls, including Rob Delaney as casually intrigued regular guy Peter. Even more memorably, we get Zazie Beetz as Domino, a mutant with the power of luck who inspires some of Deadpool's best organic lines. And, despite how tired and forced it feels at times, there are inspired moments and bits of dialogue that channel the original. There's an ever-growing list of comic-book-movie tropes to lampoon; it's just hard to balance all that while setting up the World of Deadpool.
I will say that, given time constraints and the inevitability that audiences might frown the second time around, director David Leitch (notably uncredited for his directorial work on John Wick) and screenwriters Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds do about the best job possible. The end-credit sequences, in particular, will tickle all the nerds who've been slagging Reynolds for years. But again, that's part of the problem; this also feels like lazy fan service that capitalizes on 2016 enthusiasm and a seemingly endless desire for all things Marvel.
Deadpool 2 contains multitudes; when the rest of the audience laughs at the eighth meta joke of the last 12 minutes, you feel like a curmudgeon. When they're silent at the third dubstep joke, you feel vindicated. I enjoy many things comic book-y, but a movie like this really makes you wonder when the train comes into the station. All things must pass, but something tells me Deadpool isn't going anywhere. Let's just hope the next one finds a fresh way to stand out.