Not only must good sequels live up to the original, but they must also transcend it. “Atomic Blonde” director David Leitch’s “Deadpool 2” (**** OUT OF ****) makes Tim Miller’s “Deadpool” appear almost prudish, boasting thrice as much profanity, promiscuity, and pyrotechnics, including our protagonist’s smart-aleck asides to the audience. You’ve got to be a little warped yourself to appreciate Deadpool’s antics. Make no mistake, “Deadpool” started the next stride in the evolution of cinematic costume-clad crimefighters. Starting with several “X-Men” (2000) epics, sequels and prequels, “Spider-Man” (2002) sequels and reboots, “The Fantastic Four” (2005) and its sequel “The Rise of the Silver Surfer,” and then “Iron Man” (2008), “The Incredible Hulk” (2008), “Thor” (2011), “Captain America” (2011), “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Ant Man” (2015), “Doctor Strange” (2016), and “Black Panther” (2017), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has outperformed its venerable rivals in the DC Universe, spouting risqué humor with PG-13 restraint, engaging characters, all swirled with sensational CGI. Although “Deadpool” (2016) never takes himself seriously, Ryan Reynolds is seriously sidesplitting. Skewering everything and everybody as well as himself and the eponymous character, Ryan Reynolds qualifies as the perfect match with ‘the merc with a mouth.’ Shattering the status quo PG-13 barrier, “Deadpool” plunged gleefully into forbidden R-rated territory. Earlier, no Hollywood studio would have green-lighted such an unconventional movie. Nothing in the “Deadpool” universe is safe from our crimson clad crimefighter’s subversive sense of humor. If “Deadpool” ranked as the first exception to the rule, Hugh Jackman’s, R-rated, swan-song “Logan” (2017) confirmed superheroes could thrive in an R-rated universe. “Deadpool 2” delivers every dollar’s worth of its $110-million budget in energetic stunts, a James Bond opening credits parody, and a stouthearted Marvel character co-star who never lets Deadpool overshadow him. A minute under of two hours, “Deadpool 2” provides everything Reynolds promised during his after-credits “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” scene in the original.
“Deadpool 2” begins with Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds of “Green Lantern”), aka ‘Deadpool,’ struggling to keep his gal, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin of “Serenity”), out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, he cannot protect her when gunmen invade their apartment, and Vanessa dies from a fatal bullet! Tragedy strikes early in this rambunctious sequel, and Vanessa remains on ‘the other side’ for most of it! A grief-stricken Deadpool catches her killer, disposing of him painfully as only Deadpool can, and then he obliterates himself in a fireball inferno. As all Deadpool fans know, Deadpool is indestructible as long as he has his superpowers. Mind you, he cannot kill himself, courtesy of Ajax’s cancer treatments inflicted on him in “Deadpool.” Incredibly, Deadpool’s body rejuvenates itself! During a momentary absence, Wade visits Vanessa in ‘the other world.’ Initially, Vanessa had wanted to have a baby, but a bullet destroyed those dreams. Now, Wade Williams/Deadpool vows to save a child. This child is an obese teen with an attitude, Russell Collins (Julian Dennison of “Shopping”), who has suffered grievously at the hands of pedophiles in an orphanage. Russell can summon flamethrower fires from his blazing hands, and he vows to incinerate the perverted Headmaster. A sympathetic Deadpool befriends Russell, but the two land in ‘the Icebox’ Prison, where our hero loses his superpowers. He advises Russell to find somebody else. No sooner are they behind bars than a vengeful Cable (Josh Brolin of “Sicario”) appears. Cable storms the mutant prison located in an isolated snow-covered mountain range. An indomitable half-man, half-cyborg, equipped with massive firepower, he blasts away at Russell. A flashforward reveals Russell cremated Cable’s wife and daughter, after the teen had grown up. Cable plans to liquidate him before Russell grows old enough to harm his loved ones. However, Cable must bypass Deadpool, but Deadpool refuses to accommodate him.
Not only does grim-looking Cable resemble the Terminator, but he is also every bit as alarming. Deadpool compares him with ‘the Winter Soldier.’ A straight-forward, time-traveling titan on a personal vendetta, Cable has no tolerance for humor. Cable makes the perfect straight man, and the granite-jawed Brolin looks born to play the character. He disparages Deadpool as “an annoying clown dressed up as a sex toy.” Cable looks nothing like Thanos. Another Marvel character who hasn’t been seen since “X-Men: The Last Stand” appears in one of the more dynamic action scenes. After Deadpool abandons Russell, Russell forges a friendship with Juggernaut. Juggernaut is a muscle-bound behemoth who wears a lampshade helmet. Inevitably, Colossus and Juggernaut tangle, in a reprise of Colossus’s clash with Angel Dust (Gina Carano) in the original. Deadpool resolves to thwart Cable and rescue Russell during an armored prison convoy transfer. Assembling team ‘X-Force,’ a bunch of mutant half-wits, he uses them to hijack the convoy. Their mission is doomed from the start, and Deadpool must contend with trigger-happy Cable as well as the barbarous Juggernaut. Amidst all this turmoil, Russell’s chief adversary, the despicable Headmaster (Eddie Marsan of “The World’s End”), makes an unforgettable impression despite the modicum of time allowed him.
“Atomic Blonde” director David Leitch sets several exhilarating, over-the-top, acrobatic faceoffs to venerable Top-40 hit tunes. The action erupts with Deadpool’s world tour where he assails crime families everywhere and racks up a double-digit body count. Indeed, “Deadpool 2” bristles with more scenes of simulated cinematic violence than its predecessor. Leitch’s polished directorial flare; the top-drawer CGI effects; and Ryan Reynolds’ nonstop humor distinguish this superior sequel. The scene where Deadpool shoots Ryan Reynolds as he reads the “Green Lantern” screenplay is riotous. Not as atrocious as Reynolds argues, “Green Lantern” went belly-up at the box-office, and he maintains his contempt for it here as he did in “Deadpool.” “Deadpool” scenarists Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, along with Reynolds, make nothing easy for our protagonist. He suffers several setbacks. The Brad Pitt cameo highlights the hilarious “X-Force” debacle as well as the X-Men that Wade overlooks at the mansion. Altogether, “Deadpool 2” is far more entertaining and uproarious than “Deadpool,” and the writers create greater depth and spontaneity in this follow-up.