Deadpool 2 isn't shy about calling out the competition. Within the roughly 2-hour runtime of this movie, the titular character openly mocks Batman vs. Superman, the DC universe, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even the X-Men movies that he (loosely) shares the same universe with. There is no math to support this, but it feels like half the jokes in this movie rely on pop-culture knowledge for them to be funny. It begs the question: if the Deadpool franchise is so reliant on being "meta," how are these films going to fare in 10 or 20 years? Luckily for 20th Century Fox (and the audience), the endless stream of references are only part of what make up this movie, with the rest being filled with much more memorable action sequences compared to the first outing, some genuinely heartfelt moments, and, thankfully, some solid humor to fill out the runtime.
Deadpool 2 kicks off some unspecified time after the first movie, with the immortal, smart-ass mercenary Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) shooting and slashing his way across the globe as care-free as ever. Things take a dark turn fairly quickly after a tragic event shakes up Deadpool's life (I really can't say more), leading Deadpool to try to ditch his mutant power of re-generation and finally bite the bullet. His suicidal mission is interrupted by the X-Men - or I should say, the two X-Men that we got in the first movie, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) - who try to give him meaning by bringing him into the superhero fold. It isn't long before Deadpool finds himself in trouble again when he sticks up for Russell, a young, misunderstood mutant with fire powers (Julian Dennison), and finds himself in the crosshairs of time-traveling bad-ass Cable (Josh Brolin), who wants the boy dead. From this point on, the movie is almost non-stop action and jokes.
Ryan Reynolds is given more room to flesh out his character in this movie, a welcome change from the original film. Although Deadpool's death wish is often played for laughs (as is everything on this adventure), there are some quieter moments in which we get to see a different side to the wise-cracking killer. As Cable points out later in the film, Deadpool chooses to deal with his sorrow through his humor, and more than a few times, we get to see this facade crack, revealing a broken man within. His attempts to reach out to Russell are particularly touching, and overall, Deadpool has a more satisfying arc this time around.
The strength of the narrative is supported by a real upgrade in the action set-pieces. Director David Leitch, one of the geniuses behind the original John Wick, clearly puts a lot of effort into bringing Deadpool's personality into his fighting style. Two scenes in particular stand out. The first, is the opening montage of Deadpool kicking ass, culminating in an extended shot of a gangster running away from the mercenary while he cuts through his goons in increasingly gory ways in the background. The second takes place after Deadpool assembles his X-Force to help save Russell, and follows mutant Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose power is succinctly described as "luck". As Deadpool rambles on to Domino via earpiece about how luck isn't a superpower, Domino effortlessly infiltrates an armored convoy, dodging explosions and various misfortunes. One wishes that every superhero movie had even one action scene that matched the creative-flare David Leitch attaches to every fight scene in this movie.
The most uneven part about Deadpool 2, and what ultimately led to me enjoying it less than I might have, is the humor. That's not to say that this movie isn't funny. There are some really hilarious scenes and running gags, such as the ill-fated first mission of the X-Force and Deadpool's repeated insistence that Cable is racist, but it is truly distracting how much name dropping there is throughout the film's run-time. Jokes about Jared Kushner and Hawkeye are bound to appear dated in only a few years time, and some of the jokes seem dated already. Making fun of Batman vs. Superman has already been done to death, and another extended joke tackles dub-step, which hasn't been relevant since 2012 (and I'm being generous). For every clever joke in Deadpool 2, and there are plenty of good jokes, there is one joke that is little more than a pop-culture reference and another one relating to dicks, balls or assholes. At one point Deadpool calls Cable Thanos, a reference to Josh Brolin's other superhero role. That's all there is to the joke though, no punchline, no riffing. Its actually just a pop-culture reference. And that feels pretty lazy.
Regardless of the uneven jokes, the toilet humor and sometimes distracting song choices, I did have a really good time with this movie. While the emotional beats didn't exactly tear me up, it was nice to have something genuine to break up the action and jokes with. Some of the jokes really land, and almost all of the action sequences do, at the very least making this enjoyable popcorn-movie fare to set the mood for the rest of the releases coming out this summer. If I can make one recommendation - see this movie as fast as possible. This movie may not have an expiration date, but a large portion of the jokes do.