You know when you go to the movie theater with that friend who’s already seen something 17 times? And while the movie is showing he’s constantly poking you in the ribs and says things like, "Hey, check this next scene out."
You’re in for a similar experience with "Deadpool 2." Only it’s not your annoying frenemy interrupting you, it’s Deadpool himself.
The smartass, subversive superhero played by Ryan Reynolds is back. Like its 2016 predecessor, the sequel thrives on crude humor and extreme violence, as a snide Reynolds-as-narrator winks to let us in on the joke.
“In every film there’s a point when the hero hits rock bottom,” Deadpool reminds us, recounting in flashback a time of deep despair following a plot twist involving his fiancée Vanessa (played by Morena Baccarin). Deadpool then blows himself up to the tune of “All Out of Love” by Air Supply.
In an early scene, upon arriving at a maximum-security prison for mutants called the Ice Box, Deadpool quips, “I wonder what gang I’ll be in? Is there a sorting hat?” In another aside to the audience, we’re told we’re being served “a steaming bowl of foreshadowing.” Later, in the third reel just before the climactic battle, Reynolds cues fans for what's become a staple of the genre: “big CGI fight coming up.”
In short, if you like your comic book movies self-consciousness with a serious side of snark, and you can stomach dismemberments and decapitations, “Deadpool 2” is for you.
Of course, the original comic book character, which debuted in 1991, was known for breaking the fourth wall. But in the hands of Hollywood, Deadpool’s meta-referencing becomes an art form. Expect knowing allusions to exterior pop cultural universe and one-liners about nearly every nerdom under the sun (and other suns), from Wolverine and Star Wars to Batman and The Terminator. An opening credit sequence manages to lampoon both James Bond and “Flashdance.” Dolly Parton’s "9 To 5" plays during a fight scene in a Hong Kong bar. One of the sickest jokes occurs after Deadpool has lost his legs; they regenerate but they’re toddler-sized, providing fodder for a “Basic Instinct,” leg-crossing visual gag that cannot be unseen.
In this installment, Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson -- he’s the scar-covered, mentally deranged, katana sword-wielding mercenary with super strength and the ability to heal himself — must prevent the time traveling, bionic-armed Cable (Josh Brolin, also seen as arch-villain Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War”), from killing a kid. “So dark,” Deadpool deadpans, during an early fight with Cable. “You're sure you're not from the DC Universe?"
The kid in question is Russell (Julian Dennison), a chubby, angry and abused mutant boy who can throw fireballs from his hands. Hence his handle, Firefist. Why save him? Here comes the film’s quasi-serious message: “Kids give us a chance of being better than we used to be,” Vanessa says. “He needs you.”
To stop Cable and rescue Russell, Deadpool assembles an X-Men like team, a “super duper f---ing group: tough, morally flexible and young enough to carry their own franchise for 10 to 12 years.”
He wants to call it “X-Force.” “Isn’t that little derivative?” quips one of the misfits, Domino, played by relative newcomer Zazie Beetz from TV's “Atlanta.” (Another X-Force member is the sadly underused Terry Crews.) They parachute onto a convoy, jumpstarting the film’s best action sequence that takes up a good chunk of the second act. This over-the-top car chase fight nicely showcases the chops of action thriller David Leitch (“John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde”). Leitch replaced Tim Miller, director of “Deadpool” and originally slated to helm the sequel, before being axed partway through the production due to “creative differences.” What, too few potty jokes?
What emerges from the rubble of this particular battle is a terrific new character, Domino. While Deadpool goofs off and makes soliloquies to the audience, this black, female, badass mutant, whose superpower is the ability to manipulate luck, gradually steals the show.
Also returning to the sequel is Weasel, Deadpools’s best friend (T.J. Miller); prisoner/friend/maternal figure Blind Al (Leslie Uggams); mutant Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand); and solid steel CGI-ed Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapičić). “Deadpool 2” partially takes place at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, so be on the lookout for X-Men secrets and surprises. Also stick around for the post-credits scenes. Without giving too much away, I will say that one gag provides sweet redemption for Reynolds and his bad decision to play Green Lantern, that superhero dud from 2011. (Another post-credit scene depicted Deadpool offing a Baby Hitler. Apparently that crossed the line, even for this franchise, and was cut.)
Is Reynolds’ constant chatter funny? Often. When it becomes annoying and tiresome, and it does, fear not! Deadpool calls attention to this very fact. It’s as if by addressing its own gauzy, meta-fictional overlay, “Deadpool 2” wants to absolve itself from criticism. It is hard to find fault with a film so desperate to be self-deprecating, and so brazenly self-aware of its own derivative nature.
Or maybe, in the words of Deadpool himself, it's "just lazy writing."
"Deadpool 2" opens locally Thursday, May 17. Here's a trailer: