Sure, superhero movies have been filling theaters and streaming services for a while, but 2018 in particular was an absolutely huge year for the genre. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe came Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man & The Wasp. After a 14 year wait, The Incredibles 2 finally arrived. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse proved one Spider-Man per movie wasn’t enough, Aquaman proved the DCEU could produce a good movie, and Venom proved you could somehow have a cannibal superhero and keep things PG-13. Even the direct-to-video market was busy with DC offerings like Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Batman: Ninja, and Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay. But the best Marvel movie of the year, we’d argue — not without knowing it’s a potentially controversial choice — was Deadpool 2. And the bloody, hilarious sequel is not only streaming free on Freevee, but it’s tearing up the charts. It’s currently the second most watched movie on the platform, beating out other superhero fare like its predecessor Deadpool, and 2017’s Logan. It’s bested only by the animated classic Shrek.
The best Marvel movie of 2018 opens with Deadpool ready to end it all. Why? A flashback unveils the same kind of unapologetic carnage and fourth-wall-breaking humor that made the first film famous. Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson tears through yakuza, bikers, and mafia bosses; aided by the unexpected and perfectly curated hits like Dolly Parton‘s “9 to 5” and Enya’s “Only Time.” Unfortunately after all the bullets and swordplay dies down for a few moments, the calm comes with the tragic death of Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) at the hands of one of Deadpool’s targets.
What unfolds is truly, as Wilson tells us in his narration, a movie about the formation of a family. The hopeless Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) does his best to bring Wilson back from the depressive brink by making him an X-Men trainee, which brings Deadpool to his fateful encounter with Rusty (Julian Dennison), who we soon learn is fated to become one of the world’s most destructive mutants. Add into the mix Josh Brolin as the time-hopping Cable, the introduction of Domino (Zazie Beetz), the shortest life of a superhero team just about ever, a perfectly timed cameo of pretty much all the X-Men, Brad Pitt going out like a squirrel on a wire, the very first live-action Marvel depiction of a same-sex relationship between two superheroes, a live-action Juggernaut who was actually worth the wait, the best and longest non-death death scene of a character since Paul Reubens’ character’s epic death in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, and some of the best mid-credits scene ever, and you have the wonderfully death-filled genius that is Deadpool 2.
But seriously, how could we possibly argue Deadpool 2 is the best Marvel movie of 2018? With competition like Black Panther? Avengers: Infinity War? Spider-Msn: Into the Spider-Verse? Ant-Man & The–well, no that’s a pretty easy win.
Of all the big studio superhero movies released in 2018, Deadpool 2 was the perfect fusion of greatness found in other super-people flicks, along with — by their very nature — elements those other genre offerings just couldn’t give. Without any room for argument, Deadpool 2 was the funniest film of them all. Like Infinity War, it delivered a huge cast of heroes and villains including Deadpool, Domino, Cable, Colossus, the X-Men, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Firefist, Yukio, Juggernaut, X-Force, Black Tom Cassidy, Omega Red, and more. Like Infinity War, it gave us the merciless deaths of so many superheroes. But, unlike the MCU flick, which mostly had its heroes blow away like so much sawdust; it gave us satisfyingly chunky and bloody endings in wood chippers, helicopter blades, and bus windshields.
But no, in all seriousness, it isn’t just the gore that Deadpool 2‘s R rating allows for that makes it the best Marvel movie of 2018. It is — and no we’re not kidding — the surprisingly powerful emotion of the film. While we’re used to Wade Wilson being at least 85% wiseass, his agony feels completely genuine in Deadpool 2. Perhaps the most brilliant moment in the film is when — after catching up to Vanessa’s killer Sergei (Thayr Harris) — Deadpool unexpectedly embraces him. It fools us just for microsecond into thinking that Wilson is going to spare him, and then of course the Merc-with-a-mouth steps into traffic; making his first attempt at suicide and killing Vanessa’s killer in the process. In spite of the set-up, the moment is completely humorless and it’s meant to be. It’s perfect, and the reason we believe in Deadpool’s mercy for that tiny slice of a second is that for just that long, it’s real.