It’s not often a sequel surpasses its predecessor, but Deadpool 2 improves on the original in pretty much every way; packing in funnier jokes, better characters, and even some genuinely touching moments.
This is even more impressive given the pressure to deliver the goods the filmmakers were presumably under after the break-out success of the first film, which grossed a staggering $738 million in the global box office on top of glowing reviews.
Co-writer, producer and leading star Ryan Reynolds steps back into his role-of-a-lifetime Deadpool suit for the follow-up which takes place a few years after the events of the first film. The wise-cracking anti-hero and his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) are living in blissful domesticity and have decided to start a family when a tragedy tears them apart.
A rock-bottomed Deadpool is taken in to Professor Xavier’s estate where the goody-two-shoes metal hulk Colossus and feisty Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) nurse him back to health and try to transform him from a mindless mercenary to an X-man.
On his first official outing, while wearing a slightly demeaning ‘X-men trainee’ high vis vest, Deadpool is tasked with trying to diffuse an out-of-control teenage mutant Russell (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison), who has fiery superpowers.
Needless to say, Deadpool's negotiating skills leave a lot to be desired and the pair end up locked up in a high-security prison. Their run of bad luck continues with the added complication of a cyborg soldier from the future, Cable (Josh Brolin), who is hot on their tails.
Deadpool realises he'll need some help defeating this nemesis and assembles a not-so-crack-team he dubs X-Force ("Isn't that a little derivative"?, one of his recruits asks.) The stand-out newbie is Domino, played with effortless charm by Atlanta star Zazie Beetz, a mutant whose power is luck and looks much more impressive on the screen than that sounds.
There's also a scene-stealing cameo from Catastrophe’s Rob Delaney who plays Peter, the ultimate average Joe who has no super-powers but just answered Deadpool's superhero call-out for something to do.
The addition of the new characters could have been overkill, but Beetz, Brolin and Dennison all bring essential elements to the proceedings that the first film was lacking in.
The action-packed two-hour running time whizzes by and there's barely time to catch your breath between the snappy dialogue, obscure pop culture references, irreverent, fourth-wall breaking comments and the inventive, ridiculously violent action scenes.
There are also some genuinely emotional moments that may take you by surprise, broken up with self-referential gags, of course. Case in point is a poignant, prolonged death scene in which a character utters the line "the Academy are watching".
Never resting on its laurels, Deadpool 2 will surprise and entertain in equal measure.