I have an intense passion for movies, and I believe that film critics help people think better about the media they consume.
Deadpool was a phenomenon unparalleled by either comic or superhero films of its time. I truly think it was a masterpiece, and that comic book movies will be changed forever by it.
Needless to say, I had my doubts about the idea of a sequel. I reckoned that, for one, sequels usually suck. For whatever reason. But also, I wondered if they would be able to capture the same magic of the original Deadpool a second time. Marvel makes really good movies. But Deadpool is a character that's hard to get right.
Comedy is hard. If you have a snarky, uncooperative, 'doesn't play well with others' type, it's easy for them to become one-dimensional, and therefore boring. It's also hard to make a nigh-invulnerable super-powered freak seem to be in real peril. That is necessary, so the audience cares about what happens to the character.
Another thing I worried about was that, fourth-wall breaking can get old after a while. Once a character starts constantly reminding us about the fact that we're watching a movie, or reading a comic book, or whatever, it gets lamer because it sucks the magic of immersion out of the experience. We're deliberately taken out of the reality of the movie. For me, movies are escapism, I don't want them to make me think about the real world too much. I'm sure a lot of people feel that way.
But somehow, Marvel was able to well surpass my low expectations for this film, and even surpass my enjoyment of the original. I did not think that was possible. Before diving into what made the movie great, let's think about what makes Deadpool as a character so great. Why is Deadpool admirable to so many cosplayers? Let's take a closer look at this character.
The Trickster figure is an archetype permeating human mythology. Interestingly, in Norse mythology, Loki is supposed to be the trickster figure, but Marvel's version of Loki has him play a much more sinister role than he did in his original myths. So, Marvel needs a Trickster. And their main one is Deadpool. Why is that important?
The main role of the Trickster archetype is to call out other heroes, and through mockery, to dispense wisdom. No one likes being made fun of. But the Trickster serves to, by making fun of inherent absurdities in what we believe in, challenge us to find reasons to defend our beliefs anyway. They point out our flaws and internal inconsistencies, and then responding by dealing with these flaws makes us better people.
For example, one of Deadpool's greatest 'breaking the fourth wall' moments in this movie is his line about the X-Men being an 'outdated metaphor for racism in the 60's'. If that's true, why keep making movies about the X-Men? Clearly, the jape was intended to make us the audience think about the purpose of the franchise, in a world that has changed a lot since it was originally conceived. The movie is, in many ways, about challenging the X-Men as a franchise, and then seeing the X-Men respond to those challenges presented by Deadpool's 'call a spade a spade' style of humor.
In medieval times, English kings preferred to get bad news from their jesters. Laughter softens the blow of bad things happening, and comforts us in troubling times. Deadpool uses his humor to cope with his own messed up situation in life. Vicariously through him, the audience gets license to do the same.
A trickster is a character who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior. The Trickster openly questions and mocks authority, encourages impulse and enthusiasm, seeks out new ideas and experiences, destroys convention and complacency, and promotes chaos and unrest. At the same time, the trickster brings new knowledge, wisdom and many An Aesop. Even when punished horribly for his effrontery, his indomitable spirit (or plain sheer foolishness) keeps him coming back.
— TV Tropes - "The Trickster"
Mainly, the supporting cast is better in this movie. The new villain is more complicated and more human. Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Colossus, and other side characters have more depth. When they were introduced in the first movie, they were less developed. They antagonized Deadpool as mere representatives of the Lawful Good alignment, contrasting his Chaotic Neutral/Chaotic Good alignment. As such, they were flat characters. Now, they, by interacting more with Deadpool, are being forced to change by him, and they're also helping him change. It reminds me of this 'Just So Story': The Beginning of the Armadillos. In that story, a hedgehog changes to be more like a tortoise, who changes to be more like the hedgehog, until they both become armadillos.
This movie is what pulls Deadpool into the larger X-Men franchise, in a way that the first movie didn't. The first movie is great, as an introduction to the idea of Deadpool. But even as great an origin story as it was, the origin is just the beginning of a superhero's journey. This movie was about Deadpool maturing and learning. It was also about a loner learning to work with others, kind of like a less kid-friendly version of Lego Batman.
Superhero sequels are often better than sequels to non-superhero movies. In a regular movie, what happens is an original movie has a really great story that is complete. Then, because of the success of that original story, the studios try to (often in a hurry) write another gold mine based on that story. Usually this backfires, because the studios, in their haste to produce something that will make money, fail to capture something central to the heart of the original. That's why sequels have a bad reputation.
But, there are some kinds of movies where a sequel isn't really a sequel. For example, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was written as three books, so it made sense to make it three movies. In the case of Deadpool, we already have a lot of material from the comic books to draw from to make movies. Thus eliminating the common problem with sequels - hasty writing which distorts the message of the original. The message of the original Deadpool movie was not lost or forgotten here, it was enhanced, allowed to grow.
Deadpool 2 does what I thought was impossible - it surpasses the original movie. It plays up the importance of Deadpool as a Trickster. Deadpool and other characters have more depth and emotional maturity in this movie. It's about character development, which is a gradual process. Deadpool is challenged more in this movie. He is more vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. It also shows him opening up to social bonds and working with others, which is amazing character growth that feels authentic. Deadpool was about Deadpool being funny. Deadpool 2 is about Deadpool being funny for reasons that matter.