Deadpool 2 is a family movie. We know that because, very early on, Deadpool himself says it. Of course, that’s an odd thing for a character known for excessive violence, naughty language, and occasional nudity to announce. But Deadpool, the writers, and the director spend the bulk of the film trying to live up to that promise, albeit it in very unconventional and roundabout ways—but with the same Deadpool you love at its heart.
So if you loved the first movie because of the pop culture references, fourth-wall breaking, and crazy R-rated madness, don’t worry; there’s plenty of it in Deadpool 2. If you’re not into all that, though, the sequel smartly dials each back just enough to give the weightier stuff that’s in there more impact. Where the first movie often felt a bit excessive, the sequel is slightly more constrained but concerned with quality over quantity. The result is a consistently funnier film with way more surprises and emotion.
Directed by David Leitch from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and star Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool 2 is mostly about the titular Merc With a Mouth (Reynolds) trying to protect a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison) from a futuristic soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) by forming a team called the X-Force, made up of characters like Zazie Beetz’s Domino, Terry Crews’ Bedlam, and Bill Skarsgard’s Zeitgeist, among others. The reasons for Deadpool protecting the child and Cable wanting him dead are the first seeds of the film’s family themes, but to say more would be a bit too spoiler-y.
The film opens with an extended pre-credits scene structured similarly to the first movie, just with bigger, deeper emotional stakes. It propels the film into a tightly structured first act focused on character motivations, which unfortunately leads to a second act that loses a bit of that momentum. It’s almost as if the narrative is forced to play catch up to the stakes and, to compensate, a few long talking sequences are inserted. One of those is great while the others are just plain boring.
But boring scenes are few and far between in Deadpool 2, especially since the film is filled with so many insane surprises. The references, cameos, winks, and moments of self-awareness in Deadpool 2 are so memorable, they tend to overshadow the film’s more substantial themes. So while we’re engaged with the family elements and introduced to new characters like Cable and Domino, ultimately their impact feels overshadowed by the “oh shit” moments that happen every five to 10 minutes in the movie.
Of course, this is all predicated on how much you like the hero and his sense of humor. Some, like myself, enjoy Deadpool just to see how far things get pushed and how shocking the character can be. On the other hand, if you couldn’t care less about being grossed out, snickering at Hollywood gossip, or laughing at a random comic book references, this isn’t the film for you.
Those crazy moments come in many forms, but maybe the most unique in Deadpool 2 is the soundtrack. Composer Tyler Bates takes what could have been a traditional superhero score and really gives it a “Deadpool” touch with some lyrics, a chorus, and a few other odd additions. The song choices are equally weird and funny, with a particular focus on Broadway musicals. Juxtaposing show tunes with violent action is just one way Deadpool 2 keeps its unique nature while not going too far over the edge.
Edge is relative, though, when you’re talking about Deadpool. There are moments in Deadpool 2 that are shockingly sad and incredibly happy, and could, potentially, get you a little misty-eyed. But Leitch and his team never let those feelings take away from the film’s irreverence. A big emotional beat is almost always followed by something crazier than everything else you’ve seen before. A few of those tonal shifts don’t work, but for the most part, any time things go over the edge, they’re dragged right back, then pushed back again. Everything has a well-meaning balance.
In the end, Deadpool 2 is a tighter, smarter, better version of its predecessor. The writers and director scraped almost all the fat off the bones and injected adrenaline into what remains. That goes for the action, the jokes, and the violence—but also the heart. Deadpool has always been about heart, but now with Deadpool 2, he’s about family too.
Deadpool 2 opens May 18.
Oh, and definitely stay for the end credits sequence. Holy shit.