By the 2010s, there were two film studios producing films featuring superheroes from Marvel Comics. These are 20th Century Fox, with movies on “Fantastic Four” and the more popular “X-Men”, and Marvel Entertainment’s own Marvel Studios, creator of the multi-film setting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring heroes that make up the Avengers and all other that do not fall with the X-Men’s mutants (this includes Spider-Man from Sony-Columbia as of 2017). For a time, it seemed Marvel Studios (under Disney) is driving Fox and its “X-Men” films to the ground box office-wise, until Ryan Reynolds starred in surprise hit “Deadpool”.
The titular Marvel character, a mercenary and ex-special forces operator subjected to a classified superhuman empowering project that gave him a resilient healing factor that both saved him from cancer but also addled his mind, was a smash hit with readers and theater audiences for his 2016 film (where he was played by Reynolds). The conceit of a trigger-happy antihero whose in-universe insanity is manifested by the character’s awareness that he is a fictional person in a fictional narrative made for ridiculous comedy gold; so did the gory injuries he suffers and survives thanks to his near-immortality sort of regeneration.
If the first “Deadpool”, a runaway box-office success especially considering its low budget, was an absolute darling with the fans, then the sequel that premiered on May 18 is all of that and more. Picking up on the status quo from the original movie, but two years later, we see Deadpool, real name Wade Wilson, real-world name Ryan Reynolds, living the successful life as a mercenary whose job takes him around the world to meet (mostly criminal) people…and kill them. Still, he gets off-game days too, and an escaped mobster gets revenge later by murdering Wade’s fiancée Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).
That’s a sudden death for a prominent supporting character throughout the first “Deadpool”, (even the opening “credit” sequence goes Meta on what happened) but it has the intended effect of Wade falling into a terminal depression. His explosive suicide attempt does not take (though it does give him a near-death experience with Vanessa), and he is taken in by Collossus (voice of Stefan Kapičić) and the X-Men (cameos here). They try to steer Wade to a productive direction by having him help intervene in mutant-related situations, and his first outing to do just that is what kicks off the plot.
Deadpool meets angry mutant orphan Russell (Julian Dennison), who wants to kill his orphanage’s headmaster as revenge for abusing him in their custody. When Wade “reacts badly” to this revelation, both he and Russell are arrested and thrown into the “Icebox” mutant prison. Strapped with a power-negating collar that suppresses his healing factor (leaving his terminal cancer unchecked), Wade finds himself in deep doo-doo when the prison is attacked by Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-travelling cyborg soldier from the future who wants to kill Russell in his past (our present) for murdering his (future-time) family. “DC-Universe” dark stuff, complains Deadpool.
From the very start, with all the trailers and previews that were released before the film itself, Reynolds, who also co-wrote and co-produced “Deadpool 2”, was keen to really turn up the meta-fiction, cultural references and fourth-wall breaking up to eleven. Thanks to the directorial skill of David Leitch, everything he envisioned must have been materialized in the movie. Well, there was a Disney joke that was cut on account of ongoing negotiations, but that is beside the point. The point is, this movie is beautifully engineered to squeeze the laughs out of its audience in between the action set-pieces.
Take one of the trailers for example. It foreshadows a future Fox Marvel film called “X-Force”, and its shows a film scene where Wade recruits other mutant mercenaries to help him protect Russell from Cable’s vengeance. His ad hoc team is played by some big action-movie names (Brad Pitt?). Deadpool brands them the X-Force (while “ripping” the “Black Panther” salute) and deploys them to rescue the meaningful mutant kid from a prisoner transport. Long story short, the only X-Force recruit that matters in the movie is the “luck-powered” Domino (Zazie Beetz), who carries her own load of the action scenes.
In closing, there’s just so many things to see and catch in every split-second of every scene in “Deadpool 2”. Things from Wade calling Cable “Thanos” (Brolin actor allusion) to aping the Sharon Stone scene from “Basic Instinct” are par for the course in this near-surreal “super” antihero adventure. The action scenes also steal the show with their time-appropriate tones of exciting and rib-tickling, and there is also the undertone of heartwarming from when Wade (remembering his NDE with Vanessa) feels a familial bond with the angry Russell, and how that affection can change the future where Cable comes from.
Lest we forget, Brianna Hildebrand, who plays breakout “Deadpool” character Negasonic Teenage Warhead, also reprises her role in this sequel, though her airtime is a tad limited and also shared with Japanese-Australian actress Shioli Kutsuna as her girlfriend Yukio (a different sort from the character in 2014’s “The Wolverine”). That said, we encourage those who have plans to watch “Deadpool 2” to consider the MCU production practice, and not to leave their seats for at least the early part of the end credits. You will be treated to some awesome self-depreciative Ryan Reynolds black humor before you leave the theater.