CS Soapbox: Will Deadpool disrupt the MCU?
Amidst a day of DC and Sony comics news, the internet is ablaze with excitement, but one of the most talked-about bits to hit the web was a tweet from Ryan Reynolds. The 42-year-old actor, known for his portrayal of the foul-mouthed Marvel antihero Deadpool, runs his social media accounts as though he really is the Merc with a Mouth, but his latest post has everybody fascinated.
That’s right, he’s had his first official meeting with Marvel Studios, home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now the rights to nearly every character spawned from the pages of the publisher’s comics, including that of Deadpool himself. A lot of speculation has amassed surrounding the meeting, with some deeming Reynolds’ “Anthony Stark” comment as a joke, while others are keeping their fingers crossed for the reboot treatment of the Iron Man franchise. The seemingly actual, and compelling, reason for the meeting would be the future of the Deadpool franchise.
Ever since the merger of Disney and Fox got underway early this year, audiences immediately began voicing their concerns over the potential watering down of the character, despite Bob Iger’s interest in keeping the films R-rated with the caveat that the “audiences will know what’s coming,” so the question now becomes:
How can Deadpool fit into the MCU?
First, one must look at tone for whether or not he can work alongside the other heroes. Deadpool is infamous for his violent, profane, offensive and irreverent nature, as well as his constant breakage of the fourth wall. The MCU has not shied away from a more humorous approach to its characters, with the Guardians of the Galaxy films being praised for the cast’s comedic chemistry and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man acting as a quick-witted smartass in the first Avengers and solo outings.
However, as problems have ramped up for the heroes in recent films, a more serious tone has taken over, focusing more on the direness of their situations and seeing the characters deal with a sense of loss and mourning as those closest to them have been dealt some fatal blows. But with the seemingly conclusive victory in Endgame, the heroes can now look to brighter days, and hopefully easier foes, which means a return to lighter fare for them.
This lighter tone would act as a perfect segue for Deadpool‘s entry into the franchise, with his gritty-yet-hilarious films pairing perfectly with other entries into the MCU, namely the untitled third installment in the Spider-Man franchise, the highly-anticipated Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which writer/director Scott Derrickson has teased will feature Lovecraftian horror while still tapping into some of the bizarre comedy of the first), and the fourth installment into the Thor franchise, Love and Thunder, which will see Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) return to write and direct after injecting the series with a comedic refresher in 2017’s Ragnarok. Going along with this, the next question to ask is:
How should the two franchises start to cross over?
Things start to get tricky here, as Deadpool has always existed alongside the X-Men universe at Fox prior to the franchise’s demise, with his sequel seeing cameos from the prequel actors in their respective roles (which is a whole other bag of questions better left unanswered). The existence of mutants, albeit not called as such, is prevalent in the MCU, the prime example being Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlett Witch, and her brother Pietro Maximoff, aka Quicksilver.
In the comics, they were both the children of X-Men villain Magneto, but due to Fox initially holding those rights, the Marvel films changed their origin story to being products of genetic experimentation at the hands of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Given that Marvel now holds the rights to the X-Men franchise and are discussing potential reboot plans for the series, they could potentially subtly retcon some of the MCU’s past in order to follow the source material more faithfully, but seeing as they’re over 20 films in, chances are slim such an effort will be made, which highlights the issue crossing Deadpool in can be.
His frequent references to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the iconic mutant Wolverine in the X-Men franchise, as well as Reynolds’ desire to star alongside him in an MCU project, and his connection to a franchise that already had its own Quicksilver does make it a challenge narratively of how to work him into the franchise, as a simple “Here he is” would be too much of a brain-hurting disruption in continuity. One of the biggest avenues to how this could all work out is the ending to Deadpool 2: time travel.
Given that Wade went back and changed parts of his – and Reynolds’ – life thanks to Cable’s time-shifting device, it could be further explained in a future MCU or Deadpool installment that doing so created an alternate timeline that crosses over with the new timeline the heroes are living in the wake of Endgame after Captain America chose to stay in the past with Peggy Carter to live a happy life. Some further details would need to be hammered out in said projects to nail the continuity, but it would make for an intriguing segue for Deadpool into the MCU aside from Doctor Strange’s multiverse-bending powers.
This explanation of getting Deadpool into the MCU would also open up avenues to potentially rewriting or recreating characters seen in previous X-Men or Deadpool films for a new iteration on the big screen, as was done in the first Merc with a Mouth outing in the form of Colossus. After appearing in the X-Men franchise portrayed by Daniel Cudmore, the character was given a retcon of sorts with a complete CGI overhaul, never being seen in his powered-down state and only in his very tall and very strong metallic frame.
The change helped bring a new side to the character not previously seen in his other iterations and the same treatment could be given to other MCU characters, not just the X-Men but also their villains and side characters. Imagine a giant, raging Hulk (possibly not portrayed by Mark Ruffalo) who could commit true R-rated atrocities in a Deadpool film!
Now some might think that introducing the character into a different franchise than its original home one would open the opportunity to recast the character for future projects, but the truth is Marvel would be fools to no longer cast Reynolds in the role that was practically created for him. His perfect comedic timing, charisma and love for the source material have made Reynolds one of the best-cast comic book performers in cinematic history, and his dedication to the character make him the only choice to play the role until he no longer can or is ready to move on, which let’s be honest he’d die before letting the latter happen.
What kind of tone should the films have moving forward?
With keeping Reynolds in the role, there would be no real need to change anything else about his character, with his costume still fitting into the same style as the rest of the MCU, similar to that of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of material and is still faithful to the source material. However, given his love for profanity and breaking the fourth wall, it might be tougher to fit him in other movies aside from cameos in which he is allowed the one or two f-bombs in a PG-13 movie.
One twist that would open numerous avenues for a new comedic element would be bringing him into another MCU project, such as an Avengers film, would be a full-on bleeping out of his profanity in the vein of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in which Aubrey Plaza’s Julie Powers was frequently bleeped out with a full black box over her mouth to prevent any lip reading for what she’s saying. Given Deadpool is frequently wearing his mask, a simple bleeping would suffice for the Merc with a Mouth, which he could respond in a fourth wall break by questioning such a thing happening and directly criticizing the House of Mouse for attempting to censor him.
This avenue was explored in the PG-13 re-release of Deadpool 2, Once Upon a Deadpool, with Reynolds’ character using a censor button to bleep out any expletive not fit for the PG-13 realm and the violence being toned down to exclude some of the film’s more intense gore, namely much of the popular X-Force sequence in which they all perish through gruesome accidents. Though some of it feels off given the work that was put in for the hard-R version seen in theaters, some of it does work well enough that it could be interesting to see a PG-13 version of the character explored through this lens.
It would be a better fit for the MCU characters to make cameo appearances in future Deadpool films, as he would be able to keep his R-rated level of profanity and violence and expose these more “innocent” heroes to Wade’s more dastardly and outrageous antics, just as Colossus has to witness all of the gory and swear-fueled mayhem he causes in the first two films.
Overall, Deadpool’s introduction into the MCU will be a bit of disruption, but one of a breath of fresh life more than that of a franchise-breaking effort. His zany comedy and fourth-wall breaking would act as a groundbreaking new forefront for the storied series, with further connections to other Marvel properties being a potential jump off point for more intelligent humor and an evolution of tone for both franchises.