After hearing very little about it for some time after Disney bought and absorbed the 20th Century Fox movie studio, Deadpool 3 now seems to be moving forward again. As reported last week, Marvel Studios and star/producer Ryan Reynolds have tapped sisters Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Loeglin (Bob’s Burgers) to pen the next Deadpool movie after meeting with a number of writers (Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote the first two, seem to be out of the picture at this point).
Deadpool 3 will be the first film about the Merc with a Mouth to be produced under the auspices of Marvel Studios after the first two were handled by Fox. While there were concerns that Marvel would try to water down the raunchy Deadpool to fit him into a PG-13 rating (in line with all Marvel Studios releases to date), it seems likely that Deadpool 3 will retain the R rating of the first two movies. Whether it’s released under the Marvel Studios banner is another matter.
Once Disney took over Fox and finally brought all the Marvel properties owned by that studio under the Marvel Studios imprimatur, it was doubtful that Marvel wouldn’t make a new Deadpool film. After all, the first two made more than $1.5 billion combined; that’s a lot of dough to leave on the table even for a franchise (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) that has grossed $23 billion.
The start of development on Deadpool 3 is significant for another reason: it marks the first time that Marvel Studios will make a film involving the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe was unable to use mutants — or reportedly even say the word “mutant” — for years while the rights to the X-Men and all their associated characters, Deadpool among them, were held by Fox (there were one or two exceptions, like the character Quicksilver, who were used by both Fox and Marvel, but we’re not going to get into the legal weeds of that here).
The Disney/Fox merger ended that stalemate, and ever since then fans have been waiting for a hint at how Marvel plans to reboot the X-Men and their mutant brethren. The Fox era of the X-Men ended with a whimper: excellent efforts like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Logan gave way to stiffs like X-Men: Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, and The New Mutants, the latter the final X-film produced by Fox before the merger. The only clue was an offhand reference to “mutants” by Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige during Marvel’s rollout of its Phase 4 slate at 2019’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Deadpool changes that by virtue of the fact that Wade Wilson himself is a mutant. But the bigger question is whether more mutants will show up in Deadpool 3 (as they did in the first two movies) and if that will begin seeding them across the MCU. Ryan Reynolds’ first two efforts referenced the X-Men directly (in his absurdist, fourth wall-shattering manner, of course) and included appearances by characters like Colossus. Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Firefist, and others, in keeping with his irreverent relationship to the mutant superheroes.
Any of those mutants are low stakes enough that Marvel could incorporate them into Deadpool 3 without much ado. It’s when the studio decides to re-introduce well-known X-Men characters like Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Beast, and Jean Grey (most of whom have already been played by two different actors) that they’ll be under more scrutiny — which is why it might be smarter to plant then here and there in other upcoming MCU entries rather than come out of the gate with a new full-blown X-Men film.
One way or another, Deadpool 3 is going to be the first step in integrating mutants into the larger canvas of the MCU — even if it’s just one or two mutants at a time — just as the reported involvement of Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man 3 could provide the time-traveling back door through which the Fantastic Four finally assert their place in the MCU.
Just as with the X-Men, we don’t expect to see another full-blown Fantastic Four movie — especially an origin story — plastered onto screens by Marvel in 2022 or 2023. But the fact that Kang, who comes from the 31st century, may possibly be a descendant of Fantastic Four leader Reed Richards is almost a sure sign that Marvel will begin to delve into that mythology too (and hell, while we’re at it, who wouldn’t want to see Wakanda in a state of war with Latveria in Black Panther 2?).
All this is going to happen — perhaps not the way in which we speculate above, but it’s going to happen nonetheless. And just as he made history by starring in the first blockbuster R-rated superhero movie, Deadpool may just do it again in his singular way by becoming the first piece of the puzzle that, at long last, completes the Marvel Cinematic Universe.