Deadpool 2 is bigger and smarter than its predecessor, a film known for making a big splash with its extraordinarily limited budget but sharp and magnetic depiction of our favorite mouthy merc. But being bigger and smarter doesn’t mean it’s better. This is an experience that has gone from slick and effortless to something that is working exceptionally hard for your approval.

Most of the time it works. The vast majority, really, but it also slips up in areas it had previously nailed. It struggles under the weight of dealing greater ambitions with the increase of support from Fox and Marvel while simultaneously trying to expand the Deadpool’s depth, giving it a foundation able to hold up any X-Force/bottom-of-the-barrel-tier spinoffs that might come from this. It never quite buckles, but it’s noteworthy in that it necessarily pulls back territory from the gleeful and irreverent comedy and action that made the 2016 original such a hit.

It picks up right after the events of the first film, finding Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) enjoying his life with the successfully rescued Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). He’s been working his way through being a mercenary, exacting his version of justice whilst turning a profit. Two years of this bucolic existence, however, and it all goes wrong, leading Wilson down a dark path that leads him right to the awaiting arms of the D-string X-Men Colossus (Stefan Kapičić), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna).

All the while, it’s a delirious, swirling ride into one wild circumstance after another that eventually brings a young pyrokinetic mutant named Russell Collins (Julian Dennison), time-traveling cybernetic soldier Cable (Josh Brolin), and luck-imbued Domino (Zazie Beetz) into the fold. And it’s hard to look away. Director David Leitch brings his same attention to detail in action that made John Wick such an irresistible film to this project.

He highlights the oddly happy-go-lucky slant in Deadpool’s combat, err, style, which may come across as simply gruesome in other less capable hands. There’s minutia to how he deals with Domino’s particular powers, which is to say making luck (really, she is subconsciously a powerful telekinetic) appear both logical and exciting. It’s something Wilson himself even bring up while chasing a convoy through busy city streets as Leitch and the stunt team make it all digestible and delectable, whipping around to showcase just what her ability actually means before somehow still surprising us each time.

Obviously, both characters have a lot to do with the actors portraying them. Reynolds, as much as Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Robert Downey Jr. are for their comic book alter egos, is Deadpool, a roguish and handsome and charming and funny fella with an alluringly rebellious bent. And he brings the heat once again. And Beetz is the best version the character could hope for, being charismatic and confident in equal measure. Let’s hope she gets more time to shine in a spinoff.

Deadpool 2

A special mention also has to go out to Dennison. He made a breakout performance in Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi’s Hunt For the Wilderpeople and continues to be a noteworthy young talent. He’s sardonic yet warming while still playing into the tormented and both subtly and overtly indignant facet of his backstory. (Special mention also goes to Brolin for physically embodying Cable but also lacking the fervent commitment of the character, unlike his turn as world-ending Thanos.)

This is all while furthering skewering tropes and clichés that comic books and comic book movies have unfortunately become known for. Some of the best bits would be spoilers to talk about (all right, all of the best bits including the best post/mid-credits scene in recent memory and a legendary cameo that has passively been built up for the past 18 years), but if you’ve been digging the marketing for the movie (and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t), then the gags of the actual film is going to be right up your alley.

Unfortunately, some of the trope dissection doesn’t quite stick the landing. One of the most common and egregious shticks against women is continued here, regardless of how it’s played out. The exploration of the Wilson side of Deadpool ends up feeling like a gigantic speed bump rather than a further rewarding weaving of his character’s tapestry. And while the LGBT+ representation in Negasonic and Yukio’s relationship is refreshing, Yukio’s fall into the Asian girl hair stereotype is just another addition to the litany.

Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2, however, is not a straightforward aggregate of its effects and desires. It’s more like you add two and two with a splash of whoops and then multiply it by panache before shaking it up in a tin with some animal crackers and ice and somehow it comes out as a joyous breeze. You can see the strings and gears moving in the background a bit more clearly this time, but everything in the proscenium is just as enjoyable as it was before, even if you have work a little harder to get there.

Final Score: 8 out of 10