From the moment Disney bought 20th Century Fox, and the film rights to numerous Marvel properties along with it, they had a Deadpool problem.
While we have known for some time that Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool would be moving from Fox’s X-Men universe to the MCU, the question remained about how the universe’s über-producer, Kevin Feige, would reconcile the MCU’s relatively family-friendly content with Deadpool’s trademark irreverence, which can range from refreshingly creative dick jokes to casual decapitation while wearing 8-inch heels.
It practically goes without saying that Marvel have big plans for their recent acquisitions, which includes the Fantastic Four and X-Men, with the former already boasting a director, Spider-Man’s Jon Watts, while the latter is being completely rebooted in the future, though it’s here that the creative headaches really begin.
It would not be a stretch to say that without Fox’s X-Men franchise, there likely would not have been a Marvel Cinematic Universe. Along with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, early X-Men movies contributed to a resurgence in superhero cinema, the effects of which we still see today. Even though the X-Men franchise went out with a disappointing whimper in 2019’s Dark Phoenix – or, if you want to be technical about it, 2020’s New Mutants, not that it makes a difference – it was still the end of an era.
While Fox’s mainline X-Men property was creatively and financially floundering in its final days, Deadpool was consistently setting R-rated box office records in his vehicles, making him pop culture royalty in the process. From a purely commercial perspective, there is no way Marvel could overlook Deadpool and the ear-piercing demand for a third entry. It is, and always has been, a franchise driven by audience demand…and some crafty leaking by Ryan Reynolds.
And speaking of Reynolds, the actor has become synonymous with Deadpool as much as Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man and Hugh Jackman is Wolverine (though, this role will inevitably be recast for the MCU), so there is no way to reboot the character without ticking off a large, vocal fanbase and likely diminishing your returns in the process.
This leaves Marvel with only one option: integrating Fox’s Merc with a Mouth into the MCU, unfiltered. Feige confirmed this in January, before elaborating further at a Television Critics Association panel in February, telling the audience “Other than Deadpool…we’ve not encountered a story, or storyline, or a character’s journey that a PG-13 or the tone we’ve been using up to this point has prevented us.” The fact that Marvel’s owner, Disney, a conglomerate that has a history of pawning off material that could blemish its family-friendly veneer, is willing to not only include Deadpool in the MCU, but actually maintain its R-rating in a universe that has previously refused to go beyond a character saying “Shit”, speaks to just how unavoidably profitable Deadpool is at the box office.
Lucky for Disney and Marvel, though, the X-Men franchise’s timeline was an absolute mess that Fox conveniently overlooked, which is surely something the new owners can exploit, not to mention Deadpool is a fourth wall-breaking wisecracker whose brand of meta-humour can play right into what would otherwise be a jarring leap from one shared universe to another. If all this was not enough, Phase Four of the MCU will begin to establish the multiverse, which seems like the most logical route for Marvel to take with Deadpool, but they have remained characteristically tight-lipped on the matter for now.
Ultimately, all we can do is wait for further updates, which might be a while given that Feige also confirmed filming will not take place until 2022 at the earliest.