What does the future of Deadpool on the big screen look like?

The future of Marvel's most outrageous character has been thrown into uncertainty.

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An awful lot has happened in the two years since Deadpool last graced cinema screens. Most notably, Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox acted as the death knell for the long-running X-Men franchise, which currently awaits its dying breath with the perpetually delayed New Mutants. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily spell the end for Ryan Reynolds’ foul-mouthed mercenary, especially given that his association with the mainline film series has always been tenuous at best.

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His first solo film could easily be retrofitted to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given the largely new cast of characters and the finale’s inclusion of something that strongly resembles a SHIELD helicarrier. The sequel flirted a little more with the wider universe of Fox’s X-Men, but references to the mutant team and Wolverine’s much-maligned origin film were used for laughs rather than world building.

As a result, it initially seems like it would be very easy to uproot Deadpool, along with his supporting cast, and plant them in the flourishing green meadows of the MCU. The continuity errors would be minimal and could easily be swept away with a smattering of meta jokes from the man himself. Alas, things aren’t quite so simple, at least according to the character’s co-creator Rob Liefeld.

The controversial comic book writer claims that a third Deadpool movie has stalled at Marvel Studios, who aren’t intent on prioritising the production in their packed release schedule. The resulting headlines sparked a backlash from concerned fans, who were quick to reference comments made by producer Kevin Feige at the time of the Fox acquisition. He told Variety in April 2019: “There’s no question that Deadpool is working, so why would we change it?” It’s a nice line, but its validity is up for debate.

Deadpool isn’t just moving from one film studio to another, but instead joining the roster of the Walt Disney Company. There will unquestionably be doubts over whether the character’s bad language, blood-splattered action scenes and adult humour could tarnish a brand built on family friendly content.

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In addition, Deadpool is out of key with even its fellow Marvel Studios properties, which have never strayed above a 12A rating (or PG-13 in the States). As a result, the character’s inclusion could cause problems with both tone and narrative. After all, how could the MCU continue telling ambitious longform stories if certain chapters are made inaccessible to some fans by an age restriction?

For these reasons, it’s easy to believe that Deadpool 3 isn’t bubbling away nicely in the background as some would have us believe, especially as details on the film have been so scarce in the year since it changed ownership. It’s not as if Marvel Studios has been coy about its long-term plans, marking out an ambitious schedule that currently extends to 2022, while a number of other announced projects are yet to be given official release dates.

So, is Deadpool doomed to be lost in the shuffle? Despite all this, probably not. After all, the first two films can boast a combined box office gross of more than $1.5 billion, meaning a third movie is unlikely to be quietly bumped off in a similar manner to the Inhumans movie. But the path forward will likely require compromise and a good one leaves everyone feeling slightly unhappy.

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On the one hand, Deadpool could be fully integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, perhaps arriving with his fellow mutants sometime in the next five years or so. But for the character to rub shoulders with the Avengers and play a major role going forward, he will need to be toned down to make him more palatable to general audiences.

The other option would be to keep the character R-rated, as many fans demand he must be, but quarantine his more adult stories to a corner that sees little contact with the wider MCU. This would keep his film series feeling consistent and faithful to the source material, but it would be unfortunate to see him excluded from the hotly anticipated crossover events.

Of course, it would be nice to have it both ways, but that just doesn’t seem realistic at this time. It’s hard to imagine an uncensored Deadpool bursting into the next Avengers film or the latest MCU shake-up taking place amid a flurry of severed limbs. If Liefeld is to be believed, Deadpool won’t be back in his very own movie for at least five years, giving Marvel Studios plenty of time to work out the exact logistics of his arrival. No doubt, he’ll have a lot to say about being kept waiting for so long…

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