Deadpool 2 might not be exactly the sequel we need, but it feels like the one we deserve. If the first outing was a scrappy, self-referential riff on the noble tropes of superherodom, the second is all that again, squared: a mega dose of meta (or is it a meta dose of mega?) rolled in radioactive goo and stuffed inside a cinematic piñata of fourth-wall breaks, severed limbs, and Yentl jokes.
Ryan Reynolds returns as the titular scamp — once a handsome Canadian human named Wade, now a heavily scarred vigilante whose altered genes have awakened the power to, among other things, constantly regenerate himself. But there are limits to what even he can fix. So when his happily-ever-after with longtime love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) goes sideways, he returns to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and soon finds Russell (Julian Dennison), a lost and angry young mutant who literally burns for justice.
The dumpling-shaped Russell may or may not be the inaugural member of a new crew Wade has dubbed — in a generous nod to gender neutrality — X-Force. Auditions yield more hopefuls, including the acid-vomiting Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård, marginally less terrifying out of his IT clown paint); a friendly dad-bod passerby called Peter (Catastrophe’s brilliant Rob Delaney); and Domino (Atlanta star Zazie Beetz), whose special gift, she claims, is good luck.
They’ll need some to take on Cable (Josh Brolin, making his second Marvel-villain appearance this year after Avengers: Infinity War’s genocidal Thanos). Cable — a fierce, leathery slab of man granite with a bionic arm and a Nike-shaped scar under one eye — has come from the future to set perceived wrongs right. Which cannot stand, of course, without Deadpool’s permission, and that’s about as much plot as any reviewer can prudently reveal.
What doesn’t count as spoilers: Several characters, including Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and Blind Al, are back (so is T.J. Miller’s wry sidekick Weasel, though the actor’s recent personal troubles have already gotten him nixed from the next installment). Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick also return as coscreenwriters, alongside Reynolds, though director Tim Miller has been replaced by David Leitch, a longtime stuntman who honed his wham-bam-on-a-budget style with last year’s Atomic Blonde.
Blonde was deliberate pulp, but its fight scenes had a messy, bone-crunching veracity that DP2 mostly trades in for chaotic cartoon violence. There’s a numbing sameness to the casual bloodshed here that makes the viewer almost long for the relative calm of the first film’s lengthy pop-culture digressions. It’s in Deadpool’s DNA to channel the wild id of a 12-year-old boy — a very clever one who happens to love boobs, Enya, and blowing stuff up. Which is dizzy fun for a while, like eating Twinkies on a Gravitron. Eventually, though, it just wears you out. B