2018 | rated R | starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand | directed by David Leitch | 1hr 59mins |

Studio Pitch: Deadpool $

Now that pretty much everyone in Hollywood is attached to the Marvel Universe in some way, actors are constantly going on the interview circuit talking about how much of a fan they are of their comic book character and what a privilege it is to be part of this franchise. But nobody – nobody – out there looks like they are having as much fun as Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool. That fun is positively infectious. Even when it’s one-liners don’t always hit the mark or it’s self-referencing gets too on-the-nose, Deadpool 2 is a live-wire of a film bouncing around in all sorts of crazy places yet still remains one of the more character-focused and clearly plotted superhero movies out there.

Deadpool 2 is very funny. I would even say that unbound by the duties of origin story setup or a need to prove itself, it is even better than the first film. But let’s start with what Deadpool isn’t. It’s not as clever a deconstruction of the current superhero movie trend as it seems to think it is – or that Kick-Ass actually was. It calls out superhero conventions while participating in them, sidestepping any real skewering or substantive inverting of their formula. That Deadpool was heralded as “refreshing” and a “game-changer” when it came out speaks more to how self-serious and formulaic the Marvel franchise is. Deadpool 2 has a little more money and a little more freedom to bring it’s imagination to life and the result is a more relaxed and creative movie that lets the jokes flow instead of forcing them. This movie loves this character and has assembled a clothesline of really funny bits, bloody violence, name-dropping and parodies around him. But it’s biggest strength is still it’s free-wheeling tone, that allows Reynolds to flit through the story as the indestructible motor-mouthed hero who only half cares about whatever he’s doing.

We open with Deadpool’s Wolverine obsession more pronounced then ever. He’s slicing and decapitating his way across the world until tragedy strikes, the budget X-Men – again Colossus (a CGI creation) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) – try to drag him into the hero role and a fire-starting mutant teenager (Julian Dennison, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople in basically the same role) needs saving from a half-cyborg mutant from the future (Josh Brolin, Thanos: The Hands of Fate or Avengers: Infinity War). Deadpool 2 is a ridiculously busy movie that miraculously never feels too busy. The story behind the gags is more a web of 2 or 3 tracks that come together than a traditional hero’s arc plot. It is more substantive than the original’s revenge tale but still loose enough to indulge in insane seques.  A lengthy mid-section of the film where Deadpool recruits his own X-Force team and they parachute into San Francisco is one of the funniest extended comic set pieces I’ve seen in a good long while. It is hilarious, topped only by the movie’s meta universe-breaking post-credit sequence. Again, some of the one-liners don’t hit (at one point Deadpool calls the cyborg from the future John Conner instead of the Terminator) and are a little broad (a McRib joke, ugh, a lot of this stuff is very safe), but everything comes at such a machine gun clip that one that one that does hit (calling X-Men an outdated metaphor for racism in the 60s) is right around the corner. It frequently swings for the fences and manages to bang out a few scenes here that alone are worth the price of admission.

While it’s eye is place firmly on mad-capped comedy, the production made the right call to bring in action director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) to bring all the time travel, X-Men jokes, family themes, new character introductions and 4th wall breaking together in one surprisingly cohesive package. While there aren’t any exhaustive, single-take John Wick shootouts in Deadpool 2, Leitch approaches the film’s world seriously – which is exactly the right framework to hang this madness on. Leitch constructs the world of the film like a 90s action movie – but in the best possible way. It’s interesting how a mid-budget action film now recalls a pre-CGI summer movie from 2 decades ago were the set pieces were properly set up and paid off, the story had 3 act structures and characters didn’t get eventually lost inside over-blown epic battles. The action sequences are smooth and imaginative, playing with Deadpool’s body-breaking indestructibility in wild new ways.

This sequel has a bigger scope, but it’s still as bizarre and R-rated as before so it also has one foot in an indie attitude and a more modest character focused set of gags. It’s far more satisfying then your usual Marvel film where the jokes are just “Superhero does something mundane”. I got the impression Deadpool 2 is exactly the movie Ryan Reynolds wanted to make with this series. It’s a funny, thrilling and clever sequel. It is a total blast.