‘Dead­pool 2’ is a much bet­ter movie than the orig­i­nal.

Not-so-heroic mu­tant rounds up a team to do some­thing ... nice?

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Mick LaSalle

“Dead­pool 2” gets most of its ug­li­ness out of the way in the first five min­utes. In a flash­back se­quence, ex­plain­ing events that led up to our hero’s at­tempted sui­cide, we see him show­ing up in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions and killing every­body. Like a mass shooter or other homi­ci­dal ma­niac, he presents him­self un­ex­pect­edly and lays waste to a night­club, to a board­room, etc. He al­ways has his rea­sons.

Fi­nally, af­ter shoot­ing lots of peo­ple and cut­ting lots of throats, Dead­pool tries blow­ing him­self up, some­thing he prob­a­bly should have done first. And with

that, the movie shifts. “Dead­pool 2” be­comes less vi­o­lent and a lot fun­nier. It be­comes a much bet­ter movie than the orig­i­nal “Dead­pool,” not an ac­tion blood­bath with laughs, but a knowing spoof of the su­per­hero genre.

Bet­ter still, the jokes ex­tend beyond the in­su­lated world of su­per­heroes. There are his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences, al­lu­sions to cur­rent events and sur­pris­ing mo­ments of ab­surd hu­mor that make it seem as though screen­writ­ers Rhett Reese, Paul Wer­nick and Ryan Reynolds were riff­ing off of each other. The movie has a free-flow­ing feel­ing to it, as though it were be­ing made up on the spot, ex­cept that it moves quickly, like some­thing that has been planned well and trimmed to the es­sen­tials.

The new “Dead­pool” takes a page from the X-Men se­ries. Rus­sell ( Ju­lian Den­ni­son) is a teenage mu­tant, in a school for mu­tants, who freaks out un­der the stern hand of the school­mas­ter and starts throw­ing fire­balls ev­ery­where. That’s his spe­cial power, be­ing able to fling de­struc­tion. Mean­while, an all-pow­er­ful, time-trav­el­ing mu­tant named Cable ( Josh Brolin) has arrived to kill the young mu­tant.

For some rea­son, Dead­pool, who has never re­ally cared about any­body but his girl­friend (Morena Bac­carin), takes a sym­pa­thetic in­ter­est in the young man, de­spite the kid’s be­ing a pretty nasty char­ac­ter. He de­cides that he wants to pro­tect young Rus­sell, and to that end he sets out to as­sem­ble a crack team of su­per­heroes — ex­cept this is a “Dead­pool” movie, so the su­per­heroes aren’t all that su­per or heroic.

In the orig­i­nal movie, Dead­pool was ob­nox­ious, cru­eler and more men­tally ill than arch, but “Dead­pool 2” smooths out some of his rough edges. Di­rec­tor David Leitch in­tro­duces a lighter tone, and the story com­pletes the ef­fect. This time, Dead­pool is an un­der­dog, fight­ing a force greater than him­self, to pro­tect some­one who maybe de­serves it and maybe doesn’t. It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how the ad­mir­ers of the first movie react to this switch. This time, it’s pos­si­ble to root for “Dead­pool” with­out want­ing to take a bath af­ter­ward.

At one point, Dead­pool is in a bar, drown­ing his sor­rows, as he talks to Weasel (T.J. Miller), his bar­tender and part­ner in crime. He is de­pressed to the edge of sui­cide, lament­ing the var­i­ous rock stars who have died. “But,” he says, “at least we have Bowie.”

Oh, yes, the film­mak­ers ac­tu­ally fig­ure out a way to get a laugh out of the death of David Bowie as Weasel and an­other bar pa­tron ex­change glances and de­cide that, in Dead­pool’s cur­rent state, it’s best not to break the bad news.

That’s the sense of hu­mor at work here, caus­tic and un­ex­pected. A thin, pale young man en­ters the room, and Dead­pool starts calling him Jared Kush­ner. Some­one asks Dead­pool if he’s com­pleted a task. He an­swers, “Mis­sion ac­com­plished? Well, in a Ge­orge W. sort of way.” In one scene, he’s thumb­ing through su­per­hero re­sumes, and the first one in the pile — not in closeup, but in medium shot, so you can eas­ily miss it — is a picture of Ruth Bader Gins­burg.

De­spite the fast pace, there are stretches in the movie’s mid­dle hour that drag in terms of in­ter­est. But “Dead­pool 2” gets bet­ter as it goes along. It in­tro­duces a win­ning new char­ac­ter, Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose su­per­power is be­ing lucky, thus mak­ing a virtue out of any un­likely good thing that might hap­pen to her. Best of all, there’s the parachut­ing se­quence, in which Dead­pool takes his new su­per­hero team out on a test run — with hi­lar­i­ous re­sults.

Marvel

Domino (Zazie Beetz, be­low left), whose su­per­power is be­ing lucky, is part of Dead­pool’s (Ryan Reynolds) new team try­ing to save a young mu­tant from Cable (Josh Brolin) in “Dead­pool 2.”

20th Cen­tury Fox

20th Cen­tury Fox

Ryan Reynolds stars in “Dead­pool 2,” with Colos­sus (right, voiced by Ste­fan Kapi­cic).

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