In many ways, “Deadpool 2” is an improvement on its predecessor. Like the first film in the series, it’s largely a comedy, because of the torrent of snark that the protagonist (Ryan Reynolds) spouts, onscreen and in voice-over, from beginning to end—and because much of the action, even when it deals with earnest matters, is shaped to match these antic attitudes. The drama of “Deadpool 2” is more sharply focussed than in the earlier film. The first “Deadpool” set out the protagonist’s grim origin story: suffering from terminal cancer, he was subjected to an experiment that left him with regenerative powers and superheroic abilities, but also disfigured him. That movie’s director, Tim Miller, brought a sense of whimsical style to it, albeit one that remained tethered to a bro-moralistic underpinning that undercut the ribald humor. In “Deadpool 2,” that element of sentiment is darkened from the start with loss, grief, regret, and guilt, a sort of black hole of despair that drives the action with a simple and directly propulsive energy; but the elements of the plot itself undermine and trivialize the gravity of its theme.
Early in the film, Deadpool, clad in his skin-tight and face-obscuring suit, his crossed swords bound to his shoulder blades, dispatches evildoers around the world and returns home to his fiancée, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who declares her desire to have a child with him. But some of the criminals he’s been pursuing burst in on their home; Deadpool fends them all off—except for one, whose gun, aimed at Deadpool, is jolted by a cream-cheese spreader that Deadpool flings, and kills Vanessa instead of him. In his guilt and grief, Deadpool commits suicide, gorily exploding himself—but Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) the Eastern European-accented metal man, helps Deadpool to pull himself back together and brings him in as one of the X-Men (albeit as a mere trainee, as he’s so often reminded).
The center of the action is a young mutant named Russell Collins (played by Julian Dennison, the actor who shone in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”), a.k.a. Firefist, who lives in a sort of orphanage-cum-reëducation camp for mutant children and is abused there by the headmaster (Eddie Marsan) and his staff. But Firefist is the nemesis of another mutant named Cable—played by Josh Brolin, the villain of “Avengers: Infinity War,” whose very presence here presages crossovers (Deadpool even jokingly calls him Thanos). The half-bionic Cable has