Deadpool & Wolverine has to be the most improbable Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to date. The reasons are more legion than the son of Professor Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. For almost 20 years, the X-Men — along with Deadpool and Wolverine with them — were controlled by a totally different film studio, 20th Century Fox. Their Deadpool movies were full of R-rated violence and profanity, both big no-nos in the PG-13 MCU. And even before Marvel bought Fox, Wolverine star Hugh Jackman announced his retirement as the character and released his superhero farewell, 2017’s Logan, where his X-Man died in unequivocal terms. As a general rule, it’s tough to make a sequel after you’ve impaled your title character on a massive tree branch.

But the biggest reason Deadpool & Wolverine seems so unlikely is: This is not the first Deadpool and Wolverine film. This crossover happened before — in one of the worst Marvel movies ever made. The fact that this disastrous initial encounter didn’t spell the end for both characters’ onscreen viability, and that 15 years later, we’re now getting a sequel anchored by both of them together, feels like more of a long shot than a guy with a blonde mullet and four fingers who hangs out in the Mojoverse.


READ MORE: We Ate All Four Deadpool & Wolverine Frozen Pizzas

That earlier crossover film, of course is X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fox’s first attempt to spin off their popular X-Men franchise of the 2000s into a series of prequels and standalone movies featuring individual members of their large ensemble cast. Given Wolverine’s enormous popularity — and Hugh Jackman’s star-making performance in the role — he was the obvious first choice for one of these spinoffs.

Based on the finished film, that was the only obvious choice for director Gavin Hood and the Fox team. The rest of X-Men Origins is littered with bizarre decisions, oddball casting, and a general mood of creative confusion — as if no one behind the scenes could agree on precisely what sort of Wolverine film they should make.

Is this a prequel about the young Logan before his powers developed? Yes, for a little bit. Is this the story of how Wolverine gained his adamantium claws? Sure, why not? Is this a solo Wolverine film about an undying warrior fated to walk the world alone forever? Oh my, yes. But is this also movie with a lot of mutants in it anyway because we put the word “X-Men” in the title, and that means people will expect to see a team of X-Men-types doing superhero stuff? Also yes!

Can this movie explain where Wolverine got that cool leather jacket he sometimes wears? I mean, that doesn’t feel like something that needs explaining, but okay? Oh, and we know Cyclops met Wolverine for the first time in the first X-Men movie but is there a way we could include him anyway, possibly in some sort of he’s blindfolded so he doesn’t actually see the guy helping him escape from a mutant prison type situation? You betcha!


X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s plot is loosely and sometimes contradictorily adapted from a variety of Marvel comics, and follows the character from pubescence through a century of eternally youthful adulthood. He discovers his powers during a tragic domestic dispute that leaves him orphaned with his extremely hairy and pointy brother Victor (Liev Schreiber). Together, Jackman’s Logan and Schreiber’s Victor, blessed with healing factors that essentially make them immortal, fight their way through decades of armed conflicts: The Civil War, both World Wars, the Vietnam War — even though, as Jackman himself jokes at one point later in the film, Logan and Victor are Canadian and their participation in those wars doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

After they are captured in Vietnam, aa military scientist named William Stryker (Danny Huston) recruits them to his covert mutant strike team. The group also includes sharpshooter Zero (Daniel Henney), electricity-wielder Bradley (Dominic Monaghan), immovable Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand), teleporting John Wraith (, and ... sword-wielding wisecracker Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds).

This team is only together for one sequence; Logan decides he doesn’t like doing Stryker’s dirty work and quits. Reynolds’ Wade Wilson vanishes from the film completely until the very last scene. When he finally returns,Stryker has shaved his head, sutured his mouth closed, and shoved katanas inside his arms somehow. (How does he bend at the elbow with swords inside his arms?!?) Stryker also gives Wade the powers of numerous other mutants that have been captured or killed, including Wraith’s teleportation and Cyclops’ optic blasts. Thus Wade becomes a “Deadpool.”


This is an odd use of Ryan Reynolds and his non-stop quipping persona. It’s also a very odd use of Deadpool, one with little to no basis in Marvel comics, where he is lovingly referred to as “The Merc With a Mouth.” What X-Men Origins: Wolverine presupposes is... maybe he isn’t?

Even before Deadpool becomes a mindless mute assassin (who William Striker remote-controls with a personal computer where he types instructions like “>DECAPITATE<”) X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a structural, visual, and tonal mess. This is a movie Stryker sends his master sharpshooter Zero to kill Wolverine but conveniently forgets to give him the adamantium bullets he has lying around for just such an occasion. This is a movie where the longtime X-Men villain the Blob arrives at his code name because Wolverine calls him “Bub” and he mishears “bub” as “blob,” because I guess those are two words that kind of sort of vaguely sound alike? This is a movie where Liev Schreiber’s Victor leaps around with animalistic fury, but the wirework used to create his leaps is so bad it make him look like a child’s marionette of a dog.

In fact, if you want to be really technical about it, Ryan Reynolds’ very first appearance in the X-Men movie franchise is when his name shows up in the opening credits over one of poor Liev Schreiber’s goofy cartoonish pounces.


That was not the most auspicious debut. And yet Ryan Reynolds’ one big scene might be the only thing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that actually works. This sequence is short — it lasts roughly eight minutes — but seven years before Reynolds appeared in the first Deadpool film, he already has his version of the character down. He’s not wearing his signature costume, but otherwise this is the exact same guy who would show up in his solo films.

In a 2016 interview, Reynolds blamed X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s problems on a script that couldn’t be revised or improved because of a writers’ strike. He also revealed that he wrote all of Wade Wilson’s lines in this scene himself. (The script, he claimed, only indicated “Wade Wilson shows up, talks really fast.” He had to fill in the rest himself.) All the silliness about Deadpool with no shirt and no mouth zapping Wolverine with laser eyes on top of Three Mile Island was, in Reynolds’ words, “an audible at the last minute.”

(Did I forget to mention the climax takes place on top of a cooling tower at Three Mile Island? It does!)

The audible turned into a fumble, as these things often do, and now that Deadpool is a full-fledged franchise of its own, Reynolds has gotten a lot of mileage out of making fun of his humble beginnings, both in interviews and onscreen in the Deadpool movies themselves. But if you look at just those eight or so minutes where Reynolds appeared as his version of Deadpool — and you look at the way his motormouthed character played off of Hugh Jackman’s stoic, irritable Logan — you can see exactly why Deadpool & Wolverine makes perfect sense. Even if X-Men Origins: Wolverine did not.

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