Avengers fans went overboard on spoiler-phobia last month, acting indignant if the slightest detail were revealed about a superhero movie which, apart from its ending, follows formula to a tee: big CGI bad guy wants a magic doodad to wreak untold swaths of destruction, while heroic and magically endowed characters fly around, hurl energy bolts and punch him and his lackies in an attempt to save the world and/or universe. Deadpool 2 is a little different: tonally, you know what to expect if you saw the last one, but in most other areas, you do not. Spoilers matter a little more here both because gag punchlines land best the first time, and because so many of them have a WTF “Did they really just do/say that?” quality you'll want to hear others' reactions around you. I will do my best not to reveal anything of the sort here, while attempting to address in broader terms what makes Deadpool 2 an overall success beyond just being f***in' hilarious.
As you may have guessed from the marketing, this is a movie that's attempting in some ways to kick-start a larger universe; just as Batman V Superman was a bit of a backdoor Justice League pilot, Deadpool 2 will familiarize you with X-Force, a team that's getting a spin-off movie next. The nature of Deadpool, however, means that said spin-off could be almost anything: while a long stretch in the middle of this film feels like it takes place in the X-Men cinematic universe, it begins and ends solidly in the reality-warping realm of Deadpool, wherein antihero Wade Wilson can freely step outside the action and discuss the oeuvres of actors Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman. Much of the story feels like a team-up book, with Deadpool and his fourth-wall breaking existence guest-starring in someone else's creation, but there's a sense that he may be wreaking so much havoc that X-Force would have to start over again next time regardless.
The downside to this approach is that any supporting characters you liked (or hated, in the case of many viewers and now-persona-non-grata TJ Miller) get their screen times cut way down. Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), Negasonic (Brianna Hildebrandt), and Weasel (Miller) get maybe 2-3 scenes apiece, though cabbie Dopinder (Karan Soni) and metal mutant Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) fare better. The latter in particular gets some really interesting development, as Deadpool's oft-inquired-about pansexuality seems to hint here at more than just a team friendship. The upside of this format is that in the X-Men realm, Deadpool actually faces jeopardy, thanks to anti-mutant collars that completely dampen his (and anyone else's) super-abilities. They prove to be a particular liability when a time portal spits out Cable (Josh Brolin), a gun-totin' Terminator-esque mutant from the future, who's looking to change history by killing a mutant kid (Hunt for the Wilderpeople's Julian Dennison) apparently responsible for something terrible somewhere down the line.
Obviously longtime comics readers know Cable is usually a good guy, and this is where the story gets interesting, and distinct from the other superhero movie now in theaters that has Josh Brolin being grumpy and huge. Deadpool 2 doesn't really have a super-villain...nor a superhero, come to think of it. It has plenty of super-people who let their own shortsightedness get in the way and lead them into conflicts, but nothing so simple as an obvious antagonist procuring a glowing whatsit. Rather, the metaphor here is for (extremely) effed-up families that fight. Zazie Beetz's absurdly lucky Domino is a standout, and if you haven't been watching Atlanta, a new breakout star you'll remember. (Also, expect female-attracted fans who've just turned old enough to see R-rated movies on their own to buy up her posters in droves.)
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick generally manage to recapture the magic of the prior installment, and Ryan Reynolds is credited alongside them as a writer this time as well; his many improvised marketing stunts appear to have proven his bona fides at putting the right words in his own character's mouth. Director David Leitch makes the stunts bigger and crazier, but he still knows that he's primarily making an extremely R-rated comedy, and lets the boom-boom stuff serve the humor beats rather than vice-versa. The mid-end-credits sequence, as many have already stated, may be the best one of all time. It's certainly the most ambitious.
There's a lot of speculation as to where the X-movies go next, what with New Mutants playing up a horror angle, Wolverine apparently dead until the next reboot, and an X-Force that may or may not follow up on any groundwork set here, not to mention a seemingly inevitable Disney merger. Deadpool 2 contains things that push content limits beyond anything Disney that I've seen maybe ever, but it also leaves you with the idea that Deadpool can be anything moving forward. I for one am happy to see it keep playing in its own unique corner of the universe, though it'd be cool if somehow Fox and Sony could get together to okay a Spider-Man crossover, or figure out exactly who owns Gwenpool.
R-rated comic-book adaptations are all too easy to mess up, and even those that get it right—think Kick-Ass--can whiff the sequel. Deadpool 2 could easily have coasted, but its foul-mouthed family spirit is a crowd pleaser. Assuming your crowd is full of crazy SOB's like me.