Deadpool 2 is here and it's awesome… but despite Wade thinking he's fixing the X-Men movies timeline, we think he made things worse.
This Deadpool 2 article contains spoilers. We have a spoiler free review here if you prefer.
Let’s just get it out of the way: Deadpool 2 is hilarious. Perhaps even more so than the first movie, Ryan Reynolds and David Leitch’s follow-up to the Merc with a Mouth’s last big screen adventure is unapologetically irreverent to the point of self-parody. Quite literally so during the movie’s demented post-credits scene, which culminates with Reynolds’ 2018 Deadpool popping up during the climax of his first appearance as Wade Wilson: 2009’s largely forgotten X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
It takes a special kind of pedantic geek—welcome home!—to recall that before Reynolds became a box office darling in a saucy little red and black getup, he appeared in the first and worst Wolverine spinoff, a standalone prequel that is arguably the root of most of the X-Men films’ continuity woes. For it was X-Men Origins: Wolverine that introduced Wade as a post-Vietnam American special-ops motormouth circa 1979… who then has his mouth literally sewn shut as he becomes a guinea pig for the film’s mad scientist villain.
Hence our joy of seeing the proper Spider-Man lookalike showing up in that film to do to not-Deadpool what someone should have done to that film’s whole screenplay: execute it in the crib. Before the horrible fight between Logan and Cycloptic-Deadpool can even start, Real-Deadpool pulls out a 9mm and puts the imposter in the ground for good. It’s a delirious moment causing so much laughter that it’s easy to miss Reynolds shout, “I’m cleaning up the timeline!”
But did he really fix it? We rather think he made an even bigger mess of things. Intentionally so. Because if you thought the X-Men movies timeline was confusing before, well you obviously haven’t met Cable. So where exactly does Deadpool 2 fit? Even in the presumably present day of 2018, that can still be a headscratcher.
Set in 2018 with the 1990s’ X-Men?
Another one of the comic highlights of Deadpool 2 is when Wade Wilson tries being an X-Man superhero for a day. And really, it lasts for more like an afternoon. After waking up in Colossus’ X-Mansion, Wade is his usual flippant self when he hijacks one of Charles Xavier’s wheelchair and zips around the main floor. It’s clearly a modern context since Charles has installed a requisite portrait of President Barack Obama among all these other “dead white guys.” (We imagine Donald Trump is in no danger of winding up in the Xavier collection).
However, when Wade begins to vent that there are no other X-Men around other than Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, there is a quickie insert shot of a few of the notable X-Men from 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse and next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix hanging around. Namely James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Nicholas Hoult’s Beast, Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops, and Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. They quickly shut the door before Deadpool notices them.
It’s a nice gag… except it makes the timeline even more confusing because they’re supposed to be the “young X-Men.” And to make this aging timeline work that means they’re specifically the X-Men from the early ‘90s, about 25 years before Deadpool 2 is set. Hence new recruits like Negasonic, Wade, and Negasonic’s super-awesome girlfriend Yuki. This is further muddled because when Wade tries on Xavier’s Cerebro headdress, he remarks, “It smells like Patrick Stewart.” That is because, nominally speaking, after the year 2000, the X-Men are supposed to look like the cast of the original X-Men films and not their younger selves. In 2018 Xavier should be pushing 80.
This is likely a mistake of casting necessity (Fox wants the younger faces to be the new, defining image of the X-Men), but it is only the tip of the timey-wimey iceberg here that will give us all headaches.
Deadpool Shouldn’t Have “Fixed” X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Here’s a little less than hidden secret about X-Men Origins: Wolverine—it is the black sheep of the X-Men movie universe. Even in a franchise that gave us the toxic X-Men: The Last Stand just three years prior to it, the first Wolverine movie is widely considered one of the worst superhero movies ever, including by Fox. Which is ironic given that it introduced us to Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool and spawned a franchise that ended with one of the genre’s very best films in Logan.
Be that as it may, pretty much all of the X-films since 2009 have ignored Origins. Hence despite being introduced as a young teenager in that 2009 movie, 2011’s X-Men: First Class also starred a very adult Emma Frost (played there by January Jones), even though it was set 17 years earlier in 1962. Similarly, the first Deadpool didn’t bother addressing why Wade Wilson was powerless and young (relatively speaking) in 2016 when he was supposed to be a natural mutant in the 1970s, as per X-Men Origins. And then it was “all” officially retconned in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse. In both films, time travel is used to fix a lot of problems the franchise, which begins by going to 1972 in Days of Future Past and erasing all the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, and then X-Men: Apocalypse redoes Wolverine’s origin (yet again) as a consequence. It also occurs in a scenario that entirely erases the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine from continuity.
… And yet, by having Deadpool go back in time to 1979 and killing the horrible studio-mandated version of himself, Reynolds is not “fixing” the timeline—he’s muddying it beyond belief. If this is really supposedly part of Wade’s continuity, and we ignore his ability to break the fourth-wall, this means he was a young man 40 years ago… and died. Had his head lopped clean off by Wolverine. We also know Origins’ technical timeline ended with a Sentinel apocalypse by 2020, and given the X-Men are healthier and happier than we may have ever seen them before in Deadpool 2… this seems unlikely.
Frankly, we could all use some wrought-iron spears to the head before we try to make sense of this. And speaking of apocalyptic futures…
Deadpool 2 and Logan Ignore Each Other
I can imagine what you think as you read the above subhead… “But Deadpool 2 acknowledges Logan in the opening scene!” And in terms of fourth-wall humor, it sure as hell does: Wade keeps an action figure of an impaled Hugh Jackman lovingly by his suicide-bedside. And yet, that doesn’t change the fact that their ideas of our current timeline don’t add up whatsoever.
Last year’s Logan was grim. Elegiac even was the word thrown around by many, including myself. It’s a kind of eulogy and Irish wake for both Jackman’s tenure in superhero cinema and the concept of superheroes themselves. And to bring that point to a head within its narrative, Jackman and writer-director James Mangold settled on an approach where an unknown number of the X-Men are dead, the rest are in hiding, including Wolverine and Charles Xavier, and mutants are nigh extinct due to government social engineering in our food.
That film is set in 2029. While we’re still 11 years away from its ending, the shock of a character like Dafne Keen’s Laura (X-23) being introduced in the film is that no mutants have been born in over 10 years. She’s a Children of Men like miracle to Charles Xavier and Logan. And yet, not so long before this film, mutants are flourishing in Deadpool 2. So much so that local authorities treat the X-Men as welcomed specialists when it comes time to handle a dangerous new adolescent mutant like Julian Dennison’s Russell.
Instead of looking like they’re on the brink of collapse in a world that hates them so much the government and corporations will conspire their ruin—and with a mutant patriarch so old he’s on the precipice of dementia—we are in a setting with a spry McAvoy as Xavier leading a flourishing and beloved national institution.
So where does Deadpool 2 fit in the X-Men movie timelines? Hell if we know! And frankly, we don’t think Wade cares, so you shouldn’t either! Just enjoy the ride, and if you want to fix it, you better start playing some “Turn Back Time” and hope Deadpool comes a-running.