Late last year, Disney confirmed that they’re spending $52 billion to snag the majority of Fox’s film and TV properties. This means endless possibilities for Avengers and X-Men to frolic together in money-making, world-endangering bliss. We might someday see Mystique shape-shift into The Hulk to fight Mr. Fantastic. But in this seemingly boundless world, there’s no room for Deadpool.
At least not now, and probably not until Ryan Reynolds hangs up the swords or drastically alters the character. He and Tim Miller carved out an R-rated, violently comic niche for the superhero, but in doing so they’ve also cordoned him off from the rest of the Fox/Marvel universe.
In X-Men: Apocalypse, Professor X quipped that his grandfather planted the tree Scott Summers had just split in two with his uncontrolled eye-laser blast, saying as it came crashing down that it was probably his favorite tree. And that’s about as cheeky as the X-Men movies ever got. Meanwhile, Deadpool is “accidentally” giving us a quick glimpse of his unicorn-based masturbatory habits.
X-Men movie jokes stem from sarcasm, momentary self-effacement, and Wolverine’s “getting too old for this” schtick. Deadpool’s jokes come from two feet south of his mouth. That, in a nutshell, is why he’s relegated to sharing a cinematic universe in name only, technically existing alongside the mainstream X-Men as long as he never comes into meaningful contact with the major players of those films.
He will, for the foreseeable future, and probably forever, be a stand-alone movie character. Deadpool cites his relationship with Charles Xavier’s crew with a curiously empty mansion, a tertiary hero from the turn-of-the-century X-Men movies (played by a new actor), and a snarky new recruit that fits better in his world than in Jean Grey’s.
To look at why Deadpool’s future is probably a lonely one, you only have to look at his past.
As our own Michael Walsh recently pointed out, the Deadpool of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the worst ever introduction of a hero and a tragic mishandling of the character. We could chalk it up to being dated (less than a decade ago!), but it’s still the version of Deadpool Fox thought would work in a standard Wolverine movie. Tame. Hokey. Van Wilder with dad jokes.
Yes, the standard Wolverine and X-Men movies have evolved since that time, but if anything they’ve moved into darker, richer territory. Fox’s superhero franchises still have the PG-13 air of legitimacy to them, which means they’re about as open to tossing Deadpool into the mix as they are a drunk Roger Rabbit.
When Magneto manipulated the Golden Gate bridge in X-3, Deadpool would have been doing the Cha Cha Slide on a tugboat shouting about how slippery his eel is. When Wolverine woke up in a strange bed in the 1973 of Days of Future Past, Deadpool would have been taking selfies with a Polaroid camera. Can you imagine what he’d have done after Thanos snapped his fingers?
The other major strike against Deadpool suiting up in fashionable yellow and black is his ability (really, compulsion) to break the fourth wall. It simply can’t happen in a standard Fox/Marvel superhero property. Captain America can’t punch the arc reactor out of Iron Man only for Deadpool to turn to the camera and tell the audience to stop chewing their popcorn so loudly.
If Deadpool ever were to break out of his stand-alone jail for a future Marvel movie, it would have to be for a brief interlude, a la Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, where he’s vital for one sequence and then largely disappears from view. Even then they’d almost assuredly have to pull back on Deadpool’s throttle—not to bring him in line with the severity of the other heroes, but at least to get him on the same tonal playing field.
On the other hand, it’s far easier to imagine a major Marvel hero getting minor cameos in a future Deadpool movie (unless there are none…) than to imagine Deadpool operating at any level in one of theirs. But isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t it better that there’s room in the sandbox for different types of superheroes with different maturity ratings and different styles? Disney’s mutant power will soon be a near-complete monopoly on Marvel. In a world where we’re served shawarma six times a summer, it would be nice to have a chimichanga once in a while.
Images: 20th Century Fox