Wolverine in Deadpool 3 sounds like an apology for the worst X-Men movie

Remember when Deadpool was given laser vision? We recall

On an evening that could have been overshadowed by some rather concerning MCU news, patient Ryan Reynolds fans were treated to a wonderful surprise: the actor will return for the long-awaited Deadpool threequel, which is set to be released in 2024. But there was just half of the shocking revelation in Reynolds’ video post on Tuesday evening. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine will join the titular Marvel antihero as an even less expected, but probably even more hotly awaited, co-star.

But it won’t be the first time these two characters meet on the big screen. That dubious accolade may yet go to the most reviled and wilfully forgotten part of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men film series. Deadpool 3 — or whatever its title is — has a chance to live up to X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s 2009 demonstration of chaos and desperation.

The first Fox X-Men trilogy had run its course by 2006, with the release of the mediocrely received X-Men: The Last Stand, but the studio wasn’t prepared to let a profitable name brand die out so fast. A trilogy of prequel films describing the origins of several of the franchise’s prominent mutants, like as Wolverine and Magneto, as well as new fan favorites like Gambit, were in the works.

As it turned out, Magneto’s tale was largely repurposed into an eventual prequel/reboot of the X-Men films itself, while the Gambit film lingered in production limbo virtually until Fox ceased to be an independent company. However, with Hugh Jackman on board for a new film series, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a go. It didn’t take long for both spectators and filmmakers to come to regret it.

The core plot notion is sound. The film, co-written by David Benioff (before he was a Game of Thrones showrunner) and Skip Woods (also a person who owned a word processor), tells the story of young James Howlett’s transformation from 19th-century Canadian backwoodsman to beclawed secret agent, courtesy of the conspiratorial military project known as Weapon X.

That’s a narrative with lots of comic book street cred, and in the context of the film, it allows for some hilarious appearances from other mutant enlistees in the operation that turned Wolverine into an adamantium-infused agent. There’s Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth, Daniel Henney as Agent Zero (better known as Maverick to all two of his ’90s comic-reading followers), Kevin Durand as fatphobic legend Fred Dukes, and, most notably, Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, the wisecracking assassin known simply as Weapon XI.

Except for the fact that he only gets to crack smart for about a single scene. Following that, Origins appears to misplace everything that comic book fans adore about Deadpool, maybe leaving it on the film reels of another film completely. Reynolds’ transition into an impersonation of the superpowered mercenary is breathtaking. The original red-and-black outfit has been replaced with a mix of red pajama pants and a naked torso scribbled over in black permanent marker, resulting in an ensemble best characterized as Fraternity Prank Chic.

Wolverine in Deadpool 3 sounds like an apology for the worst X-Men movie

In an apparent attempt to outdo Hugh Jackman’s renowned metal claws, he now has laser eyes and entire swords sprouting out of his hands. The most infamous and puzzling choice in the film was to stitch Reynolds’ lips shut, depriving the Merc With a Mouth of any mouth to speak of and forcing the actor to play the rest of his part in complete silence.

As a result, the climactic conflict between Jackman and Reynolds plays out like a master lesson in overemoting through mime. Faced with the twin task of communicating some effort at comedy without any words or lips, and conveying emotion with giant kitchen knives duct tied to his wrists, Reynolds opts for a mustache-twirling performing style that only Willem Dafoe in full Green Goblin gear could appreciate. To be fair to Deadpool’s comedy potential, it must be said that this entire sequence is ridiculously entertaining.

But it would not endure (luckily). When Reynolds returned to the character seven years later in his own star vehicle, it had been both physically and narratively revamped, becoming something lot closer to the Marvel Universe model that fans had hoped for in the first place.

Which, in the end, may be the finest incentive to revisit this part of Deadpool’s dreadful cinematic history in the sequel. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a product of a different era in superhero films: a time when capes, costumes, and primary colors were regarded with cynical distance, and when the seedy newsprint origins of these characters were an embarrassment to be avoided rather than a selling point to be advertised.

As the MCU continues to lean ever more heavily on the multiverse as a venue for revisiting the tombstones of franchises past — whether it’s Patrick Stewart’s Professor X or a slew of actors from the cast-off Spider-Man franchises of old — it gives itself an opportunity to subtly but firmly make amends for a cultural moment when superheroes still carried a tinge of nerdy shame.

With Hugh Jackman on board, the upcoming Deadpool film has the potential to transform X-Men Origins: Wolverine into the campy extravaganza it always should have been, even if it didn’t realize it. After all, if we as a nation can grow to adore Joel Schumacher, we can learn to love this film,too.

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