Disney’s ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ Gambit Is Going To Pay Off

Arts & Celebrities

Much has been made of the slow death of Marvel’s cinematic universe; the superhero franchise that once dominated pop culture has been in terminal decline, but a masked savior has appeared on the horizon.

Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool proclaimed himself the “Marvel Jesus” during a Deadpool & Wolverine teaser that aired during the Super Bowl, essentially promising fans that he would fix the convoluted mess of Marvel’s multiverse and rekindle audience interest.

Reynolds will be joined by Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, who has become inseparable from the character in many fan’s eyes. Jackman already gave his “final” Wolverine performance in the somber, critically acclaimed Logan, but is returning for a more irreverent goodbye.

It seems likely that the gambit will pay off; the full Deadpool & Wolverine trailer is already the most-viewed trailer of all time, watched by 365 million online.

Why Does The Marvel Cinematic Universe Need To Be Saved?

The last Marvel movie (imaginatively titled The Marvels), bombed, and the overarching story of the MCU has been diluted by an abundance of Disney+ series that have left casual fans feeling fatigued.

The new phase of the MCU was leading towards a great conflict with supervillain Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors, but Majors was fired by Marvel Studios after he was found guilty on two domestic violence charges.

Kang wasn’t particularly well-received in the first place, as the character was introduced more than once, existing as infinite variants within the MCU multiverse and lowering the stakes.

It’s not all bad news for Marvel — the positive reception to Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and the season 2 finale of Loki prove that the franchise is still capable of dominating the discourse. However, those two entries were endings that concluded the stories of popular characters.

Nowadays, Marvel is left with few superstars to drive the franchise forward — Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is still a heavy hitter, but his presence is complicated by the influence of Sony’s “Spider-Verse” movies (Morbius, Venom and Madame Web) which are loosely connected to Spider-Man, and arguably add to audience confusion.

Essentially, the MCU has become bloated by an abundance of content, but hungry for a new superstar — the playful charisma of Robert Downey Jr. is still unmatched.

Ryan Reynolds might be the man to inherit Downey’s crown.

Why Are Deadpool And Wolverine In The MCU?

Disney bought 21st Century Fox in 2019, scooping up the rights to Deadpool, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four, which are all immensely popular characters in comic book fandom.

After Avengers: Endgame concluded the stories of Iron Man and Captain America, Marvel has attempted to boost the popularity of lesser-known superheroes, to varying degrees of success.

Now, Deadpool’s self-aware, meta humor gives Disney a great opportunity to freshen up their stale MCU formula and simplify the mess, with Deadpool tasked with cleaning the timelines.

Fox did a similar trick with X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), which saw Wolverine travel through time and cleanse the canonical inconsistencies of the franchise.

Thanks to the magic of time travel and the multiverse, any character can return to the MCU, even if they were introduced in another franchise; in fact, Marvel already played this trick in Spider-Man: No Way Home, to great critical and commercial success.

Ironically, Reynolds and Jackman have already played these characters on screen together, in a climactic fight scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). At the time, Reynolds depiction of Deadpool was unpopular and not accurate to the comics, as the “Merc with a Mouth” had his lips sewn shut and was depicted as a tortured, silent antagonist.

It took a great deal of effort from Reynolds to bring a more faithful version of the character to the big screen, along with the violence, sexuality and crude sense of humor that defines him.

Much has been made of Deadpool’s R-rated shenanigans supposedly damaging Disney’s family-friendly MCU formula (the tonal clash is directly referenced in the trailer), but studies show that Marvel movies are far more popular with millennials, Gen X and boomers than they are with younger generations.

Thanks to the influence of the internet, Gen Z and Gen Alpha have developed their own cultural tastes that are darker, weirder and more absurd than earnest superhero blockbusters.

Will The ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ Gambit Pay Off?

I think it’s safe to assume so — it seems likely that the pairing of snarky Deadpool and gruff Wolverine will spark chemistry, and resonate with longtime superhero fans; Deadpool 2 had a similar “buddy cop” dynamic between Josh Brolin’s Cable and Reynolds’ Deadpool.

Technically, Marvel Studios is mining some vintage nostalgia, as Jackman’s acclaimed Wolverine performance in the X-Men films helped establish superhero movies as a commercially viable genre, along with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies.

Marvel has experimented with self-serious films like The Eternals and joke-heavy films like Thor: Love & Thunder, but the franchise is generally viewed as formulaic and “safe.” Marvel Studios stands in stark contrast to superhero comics, which are often wildly experimental and unabashedly weird; perhaps Deadpool can shake the dust off.

Marvel also suffers from a unique problem within the superhero genre, as MCU shows and films are, generally, pretty terrible at depicting superpowers! This is a relatively recent problem for Marvel films, but it is very noticeable during climatic battle scenes.

Often, MCU heroes and villains will shoot gooey energy beams at each other, and it isn’t clear how much damage they’re doing, what their limitations are, or if they’re winning. Sometimes, it’s unclear what their powers even are.

It sounds silly, but the fact that Deadpool and Wolverine are armed with simple pistols and blades will surely make for stronger, cleaner fight scenes; the viewer needs to understand the impact of a hit.

Deadpool & Wolverine is bound to give the MCU a surge of much-needed adrenaline, but the film also marks the final stop of the nostalgia train.

Once Jackman retires from the role permanently, there needs to be some great casting choices for the future members of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and whatever villain they face off against (hopefully, Doctor Doom).

If Marvel can pull off the casting, Deadpool might be wreaking havoc alongside more traditional heroes for many more years to come.


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