Fair warning: considerable spoilers follow – read after watching.

I mean, if you needed a palette cleanser after that bummer of an ending (in a good way) of Avengers: Infinity War, you couldn’t ask for much better than Deadpool 2: a big budget blockbuster superhero movie packed with jokes and pop culture references that steadfastly refuses to take itself too seriously.

We pick up with Wade Wilson/Deadpool (played again by the born-for-this Ryan Reynolds) a couple of years after he kills Francis on the not-a-helicarrier (wink-wink) and find he has been working as a mercenary for hire, taking down bad guys all over the world. However, after one of the missions goes awry, Deadpool loses someone he loves and finds himself trying to figure out who he is.

That search takes form in the rescue of a teenage boy, orphan Russell Collins (played by Hunt For The Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison), who is being pursued first by the X-Men for attacking the skeezy headmaster at the orphanage where he lives, and later by complicated would-be villain Cable (played by Josh Brolin; big month for him). After Wade and Russell are locked up together, Cable attacks the boy but is held off by Deadpool.

The prison ruined, Deadpool puts together a super-team – the X-Force (we’ll get to them in a minute) – to protect Russell from a second attack by Cable while the prisoners are being moved. But their actions lead to a prison break and Russell teams up with a surprising ally (more on him in a minute too), forcing Deadpool and Cable to team up to stop him from killing the skeezy headmaster, which would lead to the death of Cable’s family in the future.

Okay, a lot to unpack there.

I mean, the storyline is fine. I guess. I don’t know, you tend not to measure the success of a film like Deadpool 2 by the strength of its story. Structurally speaking, these films are made in the image of some of those huge eighties-style action flicks; you wouldn’t pick apart the story telling in The Terminator or Rambo or Commando, and you can’t really do it here.

For me, I was amazed by how many elements of the story were kept away from the public. As I went in to see the film, I had no idea why exactly Cable was after this kid, or even who this kid was (Dennison is actually playing a well-known mutant named Firefist); the death of Vanessa, Wade’s girlfriend from the first film, before the opening credits was a massive shock, played perfectly by the credits themselves (similarly to the first film, none of the credits have names, instead reading things like “Directed by HOLY SHIT IS SHE DEAD?”); and from what I can remember, none of the third act was included in any of the trailers or promotional materials.

And to be honest, those weren’t even the biggest surprises.

In the second act, Wade puts together a super-team: super-lucky femme fatale Domino (Zazie Beetz), electro-manipulator Bedlam (Terry Crews), shockwave creator Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), acid-vomiter Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), invisible man Vanisher (Brad Pitt, no seriously) and Peter (Rob Delaney), who just saw the ad. And all of them – every single one of them with the exception of Domino because luck – dies horribly shortly after parachuting out of that plane in the trailers. Even Brad Pitt, who you only see for a second or so after he crashes into a power line.

Even more surprising, Russell teams up with a surprisingly large ally – the insanely popular character Juggernaut, who appears here as a CGI character voiced by Reynolds himself. Juggernaut famously appears in X-Men: The Last Stand, played by Vinnie Jones, but is given a much more comic accurate treatment here, even if he is a little more foul-mouthed.

I could go on and on with a list of things in this film that were both surprising and entertaining – the brief cameo by the X-Men cast of James MacAvoy, Evan Peters, Nicholas Hoult and co; the post credits scene in which Deadpool kills Ryan Reynolds after accepting the script for Green Lantern; the myriad references to the MCU (“Black Black Widow”, “Brown Panther”, “shut it, Thanos”, give me a bow and arrow and I’m Hawkeye”) – but suffice to say that the number of jokes and references and easter eggs made for the geekiest cinema experience I’ve had in a while.

The core of Deadpool 2 is much the same as the first film – and Reynolds’ take on the character is just as funny and entertaining as ever – but it is these little (and some big) surprises that made the film a delight.

Deadpool 2 is directed by David Leitch from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds, and stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Brianna Hildebrand and Stefan Kapicic – as well as a literal ton of cameos. It is in cinemas now.