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Deadpool 2 sticks to parasitic roots

“Deadpool” was something of a breath of fresh air when it was released a couple of years ago. There he was, a Marvel character who didn’t want to be a Marvel character.

(For the record, Deadpool is a Marvel comicbook character but for contractual reasons, he’s not included in the cinematic Marvel universe, much like the X-Men.)

By 2016, we were awash in Marvel superheroes, so the world was more than ready for the smart-ass Deadpool whose insistent mantra was “I’m not a hero.” He went about proving that by making vulgar cracks and sarcastic comments, and flipping off everyone as he went about slicing and dicing all sorts of unsavory characters.

“Deadpool” was a very R-rated superhero movie, thanks to the language and violence he unleashed. But it was also very funny in a rude and crude and yes, clever way.

The big question for me in this sequel was whether a wise-cracking Deadpool was still needed in a suddenly joke-strewn Marvel universe full of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and quippy “Avengers,” especially Thor, who’s practically become a stand-up comedian in his last couple of movies.

The answer is a resounding yes, however. We may have become accustomed to our superhero movies having as many jokes as fight scenes, but “Deadpool 2” still delivers a singularly raunchy and very “meta” sense of humor that sets it apart from all the rest. And no matter how dark or dirty the joke, it’s always leavened by the charm Ryan Reynolds brings to the role of Wade Wilson/Deadpool.

Deadpool movies are much more about attitude than plot, but for what it’s worth, the storyline follows Deadpool’s effort to protect an angry teenage mutant boy from a time-traveling mutant man, named Cable, who he blames for the death of his family in the future. Deadpool decides to assemble a team of young oddball mutants to do the job.

“We’re going to form a super {expletive} group. We need them tough, morally flexible, and young enough to carry their own franchise for 10-12 years. Our group will be forward thinking, gender-neutral. We will be known as X Force.”

“Isn’t that a little derivative?”

“You’re absolutely right. Now, let’s go get our [expletive] on.”

Breaking the fourth wall has been a calling card of the Deadpool franchise, and it’s in overdrive in this sequel, as in this first confrontation between Cable and our (don’t-call-me) hero.

“Your time’s up, dumbass.”

“Well, that’s just lazy writing”

And so is the constant stream of pop culture references (“Fox and Friends” even gets a shout-out) and super in-jokes. Here’s a little more with Deadpool and Cable:

“You’re no hero. You’re just a clown dressed up as a toy.”

“So dark. Are you sure you’re not from the DC universe?”

(The DC universe of Batman and Superman, in the more recent movies, is generally seen as dark and humorless compared to the eye-popping fun-and-games of the Marvel universe.)

This meta-humor permeates the film, and begins in the very opening scene with an extended and very funny riff on Deadpool’s hatred for Hugh Jackman’s “Wolverine,” and doesn’t end until an even funnier post-credit scene skewers Reynolds’ own “Green Lantern,” a superhero movie that famously bombed.

There’s always a danger that these jokes could turn off a general audience that’s not quite in-the-know enough to get these barbs. But this fault, if it is a fault, can be forgiven to some degree by the original impulse behind the Deadpool comic itself, which was to puncture the natural pomposity of mainstream superhero comics. “Deadpool 2” is just being true to its parasitic roots.

And to be fair, most of the humor is not so self-referential. “Deadpool 2” is full of situational humor and snappy punchlines that do not rely on a PhD. in comics. Even the extensive action sequences are laced with comedic highlights, especially those involving the X Force.

All in all, this sequel is every bit as good as the original and gives me hope the trilogy finale will make Deadpool three for three. Here’s hoping he continues to give bad attitude a good name.

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