The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Michael O’Sullivan’s review of “Deadpool 2” click here. Review contains mild spoilers.

My favorite line from my favorite TV show is the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard: “Always try to be nice. Never fail to be kind.”

Deadpool is clearly also a fan of “Doctor Who,” because the red-spandexed, profane, overtly sexual, patently offensive master of the slice-and-dice is the kindest superhero of them all.

“Deadpool 2,” a sharp, surprisingly sweet, better-than-the-original sequel, picks up pretty much where the previous film left off. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) has embraced his new life as a superhero who drops F-bombs as easily as bad guys. He still talks to the audience, still has a snappy (usually rude) quip for every conversation and still loves his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).

This time, Deadpool is up against Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-traveling guy with a chip on his shoulder and one mission: to prevent the deaths of his wife and daughter.

The best way to do that is, of course, to travel back in time and kill Firefist (Julian Dennison), the mutant who will eventually do the deed, while he’s still an awkward teenager. His mission is an honorable one: Who among us wouldn’t go forward or backward in time if it meant we could save a family member’s life? The thing is, Deadpool has developed a reluctant kinship with Firefist and believes that he can turn the kid away from a murderous path.

Cable looks at Firefist and only sees a future murderer. Deadpool, having experienced a loss of his own, looks at the feared, misunderstood Firefist and sees a kid living in a world of hurt.
You can be good without empathy, you can be nice without empathy, but you cannot be kind without it. Most superheroes are nice and most superheroes are good, but most of their motivations come from a desire to protect, to defend, to enact some level of morality that is greater than themselves. Deadpool doesn’t want to save Firefist out of a sense of justice but because he knows what it’s like to be Firefist.

The modern resurgence of superheroes, like their historical origins, has reflected and responded to the world at large. In 2011, we got Captain America fighting for what’s best about America (and then in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” we saw him struggle with how much government surveillance keeps us safe but sacrifices liberty). We got Wonder Woman as we saw a shift in the relationship and representation of women and power. Netflix has brought back Luke Cage at a time when black men seem anything but bulletproof. So why do we need this Deadpool, and why do we need him now?

The Deadpool of “Deadpool 2” doesn’t fight for big, ambiguous ideas, but for one kid in whom he sees himself. He has what so much of America, on every part of the political spectrum, is missing: the ability to try to empathize (not agree) with where someone else is coming from and why. Deadpool is not nice; his goodness is debatable. But he fights against despair, and that’s the worthiest battle of all.

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