Let me preface this review by saying that the original Deadpool is a film that I love deeply, and so my anticipation going into the sequel was pretty damn high. And with that in mind, to me, Deadpool 2 does everything a great sequel should do: it goes bigger story-wise, finds a way to open up its respective universe, and it leans into everything that already worked with the first movie (like the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke…”). But then, Deadpool 2 makes several truly ballsy decisions, completely subverting any sort of expectations one might have about “comic book movies,” and delivers up a raucous, raunchy, and oddly sweet story about the importance of family, and of course, maximum effort.

Much like the first film, Deadpool 2 opens with a proverbial banger of a scene, and then briefly takes us back in time to help fill in the blanks. This time around, the Merc with a Mouth (played again by Ryan Reynolds, who is clearly having the time of his life, and feels completely settled into the iconic character here) has taken it upon himself to help save a young troubled mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison, who was also excellent in Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople), who is done being tortured by a facility that utilizes nefarious means when dealing with young folks who exhibit special abilities. Their meeting goes south rather quickly, sending both Mr. Pool and Russell to a maximum security prison for mutants known as the “Icebox,” and that’s when the time-traveling Cable (Josh Brolin) shows up, ready to destroy Russell by any means necessary (which includes some nifty futuristic tech and weaponry).

If I’m being slightly vague on the plot of Deadpool 2, that’s by design, because there are so many damn surprises worked into the admittedly plot-heavy script, that I probably uttered “holy shit” to myself on at least three different occasions. That being said, the first 20 minutes of DP 2 feel a bit frenetic, but once everything settles down with the introduction of Russell, that’s when the sequel starts to come together, and director David Leitch gives fans everything they could possibly want from Deadpool 2, and quite a bit they won’t see coming, but should enjoy all the same. The action sequences in this film feel way more thought out than they did in the original movie, with Leitch’s previous experiences in the world of stunt choreography truly paying dividends in Deadpool 2 (there are a lot of great fight scenes, but there’s a montage set to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” that left me cackling like a maniac, and might be my favorite moment in the entire film). If you felt like the action in Deadpool never quite fully tapped into the Merc’s mutant tendencies, don’t worry, the sequel more than makes up for it.

As mentioned, Reynolds is really damn great in DP 2, and we get a much more fleshed-out version of Wade Wilson here, where he’s more emotionally grounded and we get a sense of what drives him as a man, not just a mutanized killing machine who wants nothing more than to slip into his Crocs after a hard day at work. He shares some lovely moments with Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa, but Deadpool’s interactions with Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) are just as goddamn delightful, with the stoic big guy’s penchant for doing the right thing working as the perfect foil to Wade’s rule-breaking tendencies that often result in someone (usually a bad guy) going home in a body bag. Brianna Hildebrand returns as Negasonic Teenage Warhead for Deadpool 2, although she feels slightly underutilized in this, but we do get a lot more of the eagerly optimistic Dopinder (Karan Soni), and that is a very good thing.

When it comes to the new faces in Deadpool 2, Zazie Beetz steals the show as Domino, and is an incredible addition to the mix. She may not get any huge character moments (we learn that she once lived in the same facility as the angsty teen mutant Russell and she has a heightened sense of luck), but Beetz is given several jaw-dropping action set pieces to prove Domino’s value to Wade’s ragtag X-Force team, and I hope we get to see more from her character in future Deadpool sequels. Brolin, who is having a helluva 2018 between this and Avengers: Infinity War, makes for yet another compelling villain with his portrayal of Cable, and I think after the emotional weight of the events from the last Avengers sequel, I was relieved that the stakes for Brolin’s character in DP 2 were much more personal than Thanos’ quest for dominance over the universe. Also, I really dug the look of Cable, so I must tip my hat to artist Mike Smithson for his incredible practical effects work on Brolin.

In a world where we do get a lot of similarities between superhero movies, the Deadpool franchise remains a beacon of originality, with the sequel delivering up a ton of unexpected surprises and deftly achieving the perfect balance of humor and heart. Deadpool 2 might seem a bit overstuffed at times, but nothing feels extraneous once everything in the script culminates in the finale, and I just loved all of it (I even shed a tear at one point). I’m so excited to see where the Deadpool series goes from here, and it’s really cool to see Reynolds take on a role that he’s truly meant to play, because there’s nothing but love for this character and this world in each and every single frame of Deadpool 2.

Oh, and yes, the post-credits scene in Deadpool 2 is truly one of the most mind-blowingly great stingers I’ve ever witnessed in any superhero film, so fans will definitely want to stick around for that.

Movie Score: 4.5/5