The debate’s as old as time: will the MCU ever make a film that truly feels different? Many mostly regress towards the mean, at least stylistically. But as Phase 4 has expanded into the realms of animation or Chloe Zhao’s intimate aesthetics, the question of what a Marvel movie can look or feel like has been renewed.
How fitting, then, that “Deadpool 3” has entered the chat. The forthcoming Ryan Reynolds picture written by the Molyneux sisters of “Bob’s Burgers” fame is in a unique position. On the one hand, Deadpool’s meta and fourth wall-shattering movies are already accepted by the mainstream; on the other, they represent a clear break from anything the MCU has done to date. After all, no major Marvel release has yet achieved an R rating and been packed with scatological innuendos or bloodletting violence.
“Deadpool 3” offers a rare opportunity for Kevin Feige to not only examine but redefine the MCU’s artistic and comedic templates. Audiences know these movies. They love these movies. A third one will hit with that built-in audience while shaking up the MCU up irrevocably. So given that Deadpool offers a wide range of low risk narrative possibilities, here are ten storylines we’d like to see in “Deadpool 3.”
Not only is Gail Simone’s “Healing Factor” the funniest Deadpool story ever written, it’s one of the funniest comics ever written — truly. I think about it once a week; there’s an action sequence involving Wade Wilson and a scooter he hopes is manly, one that culminates with a punchline so silly and ecstatic it would make Tim Robinson envious. If “Deadpool 3” is to top the absurdist highs of the X-Factor sequence in “Deadpool 2” or Dopinder’s continued descent into low-level villainy, adapting Simone’s “Healing Factor” would be a wise starting point.
Beyond its frequent hilarious highs, though, “Healing Factor” is a story which understands that Deadpool’s fractured mind is as important to his survival as a manic wit or sword skills. The Merc With a Mouth is able to transcend or weaponize the endless conversation he has with himself more frequently than not; sometimes, that discourse saves him. In “Healing Factor,” Wade’s brain is quite literally poisoned. We’ve already seen him lose the love of his life on screen, but watching him lose his mind? That’s an escalation — and a journey most moviegoers would thrill to see Ryan Reynolds embark on. And, seriously: those scooter scenes.
Adapting “Agent X” to film would be an almost impossible task — it’s a story which hinges on deliberate obfuscation. The payoffs that writer Gail Simone baked into its story would play far better in print, all of them involving the identity of the helmeted Agent X. But again: “Deadpool 3” is the equivalent of house money. Why not make an exotic parlay?
In truth, the “Agent X” storyline might afford Marvel the opportunity to pull a stunt that Netflix and Beyoncé have mastered — the surprise release. God knows that Kevin Feige productions hinge on exquisite marketing; at this point the campaigns are almost films or characters unto themselves. And given that the discourse has hung for days or weeks on story-altering “Avengers” trailers or the slow Twitter-based reveal of film titles, what would be truly different for the MCU is a project which comes out of nowhere. If any company can afford it, they can — and “Agent X” could be that project. Conversely, if any storyline’s marketing had earned the right to deliberately mislead audiences? It’s this one. Watching Ryan Reynolds and the Molyneux sisters dance their way around outright lies concerning character identities on the press tour could be content gold.
What’s more, “Agent X” could add a new (and thrilling) storytelling space to the MCU — namely that of Agency X and their entire roster of covert mercenaries. Maybe taking it on is worth the difficulty.
“The Circle Chase” is a Deadpool story as B-movie. It’s crammed with gaudy but gritty set pieces, and its boundaries are those of budget and length rather than taste. It’s also the sort of self contained affair which improves on repeat readings. Never mind that it has almost no normal continuity ramifications — it rips. Sometimes, reader, that’s enough. And that’s one of the primary reasons that “The Circle Chase” might anchor “Deadpool 3” and its story spectacularly. As excited as many are to see Deadpool in the MCU, part of what’s made his movies sing is how glibly they enter continuity. A single shot of the X-Men is more effective for them than a storyline.
So while the rush to throw Wade in a room with Captain America is tempting, it’s possibly more effective to let Deadpool be what he already is — a mouthy and sneakily simple back door for introducing mutants. In “The Circle Chase” alone, you have extended moments with Black Tom and Juggernaut. Making them focal points of a Deadpool sequel allows the MCU to (officially) slow-roll mutants into their cinematic universe without immediately confronting the Cyclops, Jean Gray, or Wolverine of it all. An investment in “The Circle Chase” is one in being able to tell Deadpool or X-Men stories for decades to come — and in that sense it feels like a no-brainer.
The MCU had incorporated current and historical figures into the fabric of its storytelling, but none would be more memorable (or offer a wilder template for great performances) than the Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan penned Deadpool storyline “Dead Presidents.” Several resurrected United States Presidents — and then some — go toe to toe with Wade Wilson himself. In this comic, Deadpool shoots Teddy Roosevelt in the head mid-“Looney Tunes” homage. To call it “nuts” is understatement.
That said: the size and scope of “Dead Presidents” might be exactly the ticket for Deadpool’s MCU debut. Barring any unexpected appearances in “Spider Man: No Way Home,” “Deadpool 3” could mark the first time a 20th Century Fox licensed character (officially) crosses over with Marvel proper. The moment will be massive. It’s only fitting that whatever story contains this landmark of corporate synergy be gargantuan in size and energy. “Dead Presidents” is a template for this and more. And in the dead presidents themselves, Marvel has a veritable gold mine of scenery-chomping roles to cast actors in. Imagine Mark Strong as homicidal George Washington! Sacha Baron Cohen as an evil and pugilistic Abraham Lincoln! The possibilities are almost endless which, honestly, is what you want in a modern-day blockbuster. “Deadpool 3” will undoubtedly be fun, but “Dead Presidents” gives it a shot to be both gonzo and great.
The MCU is making a point to create character crossovers in Phase 4. “Falcon and Winter Soldier” wound up hinging on Baron Zemo and (the now evil?) Sharon Carter; “Hawkeye” is set to feature Yelena Belova (introduced in “Black Widow”). Even the introduction of Deadpool to the MCU represents a crossover between two formerly separate studio properties. It would be both on-brand to place Wade Wilson in relation to other stalwart heroes. So while it’s technically the longest of long shots, why not propose that “Deadpool 3” base it’s story on Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?” It would offer Kevin Feige a team up for the ages — Wade Wilson and Captain America.
Let’s get this out of the way: there’s no world in which Wolverine, originally featured in this tale, would be incorporated into a big-screen adaptation of this gritty yarn. But it wouldn’t mark the first time the MCU has sharply deviated from its source material, and the story’s core focus — on a series of dark truths at the heart of Deadpool’s past — are a fascinating path to tread down. And even if you’re not going to have Chris Evans return as Steve Rogers, the reliably glib Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson would pair wonderfully with Ryan Reynolds. Most superhero movies are, at the end of the day, adaptations — and with a few adjustments, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” might prove silver screen worthy.
Truth be told, we’re not sure what Disney+’s “Secret Invasion” is going to look or feel like. While the involvements of MCU mainstays Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn are confirmed (as well as newcomer Olivia Colman), Thomas Bezucha’s series is deliberately shrouded in mystery — both due to the source comic’s twisty plot and the tricky nature of adapting it to the MCU. Whatever the case: if “Deadpool 3” is, in fact, set to release after “Secret Invasion” drops, there’s a world in which it might be an adaptation of Daniel Way’s “Deadpool: Secret Invasion” storyline. And there’s very few worlds in which that wouldn’t prove massive dividends for both Marvel and the viewers who love them.
Like the best Deadpool stories, Way’s “Secret Invasion” run is reliably funny and violent. More than most, it marries those humorous and action-heavy tendencies to creative locales and sequences (an opening bout in a baseball stadium is particularly notable). And far more than most, it offers a disorienting and specific angle on how Deadpool’s mind works. The work done by Way and artist Paco Medina redefined how readers experience Wade’s interior monologue — and seeing it translated to cinematic form by the Molyneux sisters, Reynolds, and whatever director they choose could prove tremendously thrilling.
Making “Suicide Kings” the basis for “Deadpool 3” wouldn’t give the MCU its “Rounders” or “Ocean’s 11” but it wouldn’t not do that either. The story’s gambling-heavy antics (Deadpool is tricked into working for a wealthy one-percenter who owes obscene amounts of money to a loan shark) offer settings and story beats only briefly glimpsed in “Black Panther” — ones which yielded as strong an action set piece as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced to date. There’s no reason it wouldn’t do so here.
And if “Deadpool meets Brian DePalma’s ‘Snake Eyes'” isn’t a strong enough pitch, here’s another: luck, so intrinsic to gambling mythology, is already a major part of the Deadpool on-screen canon in the form of Domino. Having explored how luck and fate deal cruel hands to good people in “Deadpool 2,” it would be thematically fitting to bring that discourse to the forefront in its next installment. All in all, “Suicide Kings”‘ could be a Deadpool story worth gambling on.
I’m of the opinion that “Deadpool 2” is vastly superior than its (also good!) predecessor, so why not build off its best elements? “If Looks Could Kill” — written by comics legend Fabian Nicieza and drawn by both Mark Brooks and Patrick Zircher — is, first and foremost, a Deadpool and Cable team up story. The miniseries served as a one-off upon its release in 2007 and has only grown in reputation since, making many “best Deadpool stories” lists in the fourteen years since. What’s more, it’s twisty plot hops all over the known Marvel universe (including but not limited to Wakanda) and offers Deadpool and Cable opportunities to bicker about everything from weapon size to France.
If you’re imagining what a feast this would be for the powerhouse team of Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin, your impulse is correct. Not only is the pairing hard to resist on paper, but it reinforces the not-so dirty secret about the MCU: that these films are, at their heart, successful experiments of actor chemistry. The MCU house style — which allows for a certain amount of variance but is now wildly recognizable both in terms of plot and aesthetic — is as close to a constant as exists in modern cinema. Even in a pandemic, Marvel films are the year’s top grossers. The variables, then, are the actors and characters who are either brought into the fold or return to it. Can a heroic pairing of Reynolds and Brolin carry an entire movie, let alone an entire franchise into the MCU? I’m no scientist, but I think it’s an inquiry worth making.
In the wake of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” it’s not clear what characters from Sony have or will be crossing over to the MCU. And even though it’s highly unlikely we’ll see Cletus Kasady again on the big screen, the “Deadpool Vs Carnage” comics run by Cullen Bunn offers the opportunity to have Woody Harrelson and Ryan Reynolds chewing up the screen together — and I’m absolutely sold. For many of the same reasons running Josh Brolin and Reynolds back could prove beneficial, pitting Harrelson against the latter is just (if not more) interesting.
In “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” Woody Harrelson leaps onto Tom Hardy’s wavelength. No decision is too much, no acting choice in lowercase. Replace Hardy with Reynolds’ Wade Wilson, however, and an entirely different Carnage becomes possible. It’s hard to imagine Cletus Kasady as a straight man to any character but, with the Merc With A Mouth, that’s the only path to success. Someone has to ground the story in real stakes — a job which fell to Cable in the “Deadpool 2” and cancer in the first. An opportunity to make Carnage even more frightening (and, perhaps, R-rated) would seem a welcome one for both the character and Woody Harrelson. Couple that with some of the genuinely terrifying beats from Bunn’s original story, and you have a third Deadpool movie both surprising and primed for box-office glory. Hey, Deadpool: let there be Carnage.
Watching Deadpool attempt to lead a team of erstwhile mercenaries in “Deadpool 2” was that film’s highlight — it blended dark comedy, star power, and genuine action beats as seamlessly as Juice Press does veggies. Given that: why not team Wade Wilson out with even more mercs in “Deadpool 3?” Cullen Bunn (who wrote “Deadpool Vs. Carnage”) had the same idea four years ago, when he made Wilson the team leader of the Mercs for Money — a ragtag team of c-listers who are in for the cash and glory, almost certainly in that order.
Why adapt this arc, however? Simple: it ties together several disparate strains of Marvel continuity. “Deadpool 3” will release after “Hit-Monkey” drops on Hulu; Hit-Monkey is a Merc for Money. The Mercs for Money are eventually led by Domino; Zazie Beetz crushed the role in “Deadpool 2.” Finally, Bunn’s first volume of “Deadpool and The Mercs for Money” finds the squad battling none other than Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who has already appeared in both “Deadpool” movies. And as “Captain America: Civil War” proved, sometimes the best way to establish memorable villains on screen is simply having heroes fight each other. Of all the stories on this list, the Deadpool movies are primed and ready to adapt this one most readily.