DEADPOOL 2 (8.5 out of 10) Directed by David Leitch; Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wenick and Ryan Reynolds; Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, and Julian Dennison; Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material ; Running time 111 minutes; In wide release May 18, 2018.

While fans of the Deadpool comic knew exactly what they were getting themselves into with the first movie, the vast majority of moviegoers only briefly knew of him from his god-awful depiction in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Thus, the fact it was so well received was somewhat of a surprise despite the heavy and clever marketing. And with success like that, it was only natural that a sequel would be making its way to the big screen, but could it even begin to capture the lightning-in-a-bottle that was the first film? For the most part, yes, and while still a completely funny and enjoyable experience, it can’t quite live up to the original.

With lots of fun references, Easter eggs and sight gags, the best way to approach Deadpool 2 is not knowing much of anything outside of what was shown in the trailer. It picks up an unspecified amount of time after the first movie (but assuming a few years based on the ages of the characters), and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is happily traversing the globe murdering bad guys to his heart’s content. With a loving partner at home and being able to do what he does best, everything seems to be coming up roses for our anti-hero. Leave it to a grumpy time-travelling mutant from the future, Cable (Josh Brolin), to throw a monkey wrench into Deadpool’s life as the Merc with a Mouth is forced to stop Cable from murdering a young mutant who may or may not grow up to become a serial killer.

One of the funniest things about Deadpool in the comics is that he is self-aware of living in a comic and gets to break the fourth wall and give a nod and a wink to the reader that he knows exactly what is going on. The same has been done in the video games and to an extent, the first film. Deadpool 2 takes full of advantage of this and continually clues us in that he knows what’s up.

This approach wouldn’t work if the characters weren’t so charming and the writing so well done, but thankfully that is hardly the problem here. All the jokes hit hard and will leave audiences gasping from air from laughing so hard. Yes, it’s over-the-top with the violence, language and innuendo, but everyone going in should already expect this, and if someone didn’t, then what the hell are you doing at this movie? The laughs start from the opening scene and last until the credits roll. I literally left the screening in pain because I was having such a good time.

Much the same as Robert Downey Jr. has become Tony Stark, so too has Ryan Reynolds become the real-life personification of Deadpool. From how he acts in real life interviews to his social media, Reynolds was born to play this role and it perfectly suits him. Also fantastic is relative newcomer Julian Dennison who plays the young mutant Cable is after. More well-known in Australia and New Zealand, he perfectly nails the angst of a troubled teen dealing with powers he can’t control, deftly pirouetting between anger, sadness and sarcasm whenever and as often as necessary. Keep an eye on this kid, because he is going places.

Is it perfect? No. At two hours, it’s a little long, and the second act specifically drags in places only to pick up as the climax approaches. And some of the references and in-jokes are a little too on-the-nose and kind of beat the audience over the head when they could have been subtler.

And of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that T.J. Miller still makes a few brief appearances as Weasel. Considering what a horrible person he is and the completely reprehensible things he has done in real life, every time he was on screen, it was distracting and ripped me out of the experience. It’s somewhat surprising they left his scenes in when they could and should have been cut.

Deadpool 2 is an uproarious, filthy, blood-soaked action comedy that absolutely fulfills what everyone was looking for in a sequel to the hilarious first entry in what will hopefully be a long-lived series. Despite a few missteps, it stands as one of the better superhero movies and is a nice emotional palate cleanser after the feels we got from Infinity War. Go see it multiple times ‘till you can quote it non-stop. Just keep the little ones away.

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Tags: cable , josh brolin , ryan reynolds , xmen , deadpool