Originally published on Flickering Myth on 08/03/17.
Forgive me if we’ve all already had this thought (and I’m fairly sure we all, at some stage, have) but, this whole ‘different universes’ world-building business is a bit of a ball-ache isn’t it? Most casual superhero fans seem to have enough problems figuring out the seemingly astronomical difference between Marvel and DC, let alone which studios own which characters and which films are linked to which others.
To lay it out simply: the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and all that Justice League stuff. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is all of the Avengers and, by this stage, pretty much every major Marvel Comics character except the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Deadpool who are instead owned by 20th Century Fox, leaving these latter three to form the ultra messy Fox Marvel Universe (FMU). By ‘universe’ we basically mean that all of the characters who belong to each of these groups, exist among each other and can interact within their respective movies; so for now Wolverine can show up in an X-Men movie but not an Avengers one.
For years Marvel fans have been making the case for a united MCU with every Marvel Comics character back in the same place, which obviously makes sense on paper and in the minds of fan boys and girls everywhere. Even a lot of the stars are gunning for it; Toby Kebbell recently said he’d be back as Doctor Doom if it was for the MCU, and even Hugh Jackman admitted he’d entertain the possibility of un-retiring the Wolverine claws if he could hang out with the Avengers. But of course it doesn’t quite add up financially; especially for 20th Century Fox who make an absolute killing off of the X-Men franchise alone.
So the likeliness of the following ever actually happening is ultra rare, especially since the main hero in question, Deadpool, is currently Fox’s biggest performing property in the superhero canon, raking in nearly $800 million last year alone. But if somehow some deal were to be reached by Fox and Marvel Studios’ big boss men at Disney, and we were to see an Avengers/X-Men crossover at long last, there’s a fairly logical way the two universes can be connected narratively, without just forcing a huge leap of faith on the audience in question.
Deadpool’s pretty much the wildcard as far as superhero characters go. In the comics, he’s totally aware of the fact that he’s a fictional creation, and his movie counterpart appears to be really no different. So if he knows he’s fictional, he knows that there are different realities, and he should be able to bridge the gap between the FMU and the real world, right?
Here’s where the recently released Deadpool short No Good Deed comes into play. First off, the latest Wolverine movie Logan is seen playing at a cinema in the background the entire time, suggesting that the short takes place outside of the FMU altogether (whilst the movie Deadpool was very much inside it, confirmed by appearances from Colossus and Xavier’s Mansion). Then there’s just the matter of that very telling blast of John Williams’ famous score for the 1978 Superman, proving that Deadpool is aware of these other movies’ (and superheroes’) existence here too.
So No Good Deed must therefore take place in the real world, where Logan is a film and not a series of real-world events, confirming that Deadpool himself not only can move between the FMU and reality, but that he already has. And if Deadpool can jump from a fictional reality (here, the FMU) into a stable, existing one (the real world), it means he can shift between universes, so he surely must be able to move across to another fictional reality altogether too. Still with me?
It might be easier to think of this all in metaphor: imagine each of these universes or realities is a bubble. The FMU is a giant bubble with the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Deadpool hanging out in it. The MCU is another bubble with all of the Avengers inside it instead. Then the real world is a separate, much larger bubble, that has these two other bubbles inside it, as well as a whole mess of other stuff and other fictional universe bubbles too. If Deadpool can leave his FMU bubble and run around doing Deadpool things in this huge real world bubble, he should be able to then pass into the MCU bubble too. Not to mention every other fictional universe; fancy seeing Deadpool jumping into Legendary’s Kong and Godzilla world, or doing battle with the Mummy in Universal’s gradually building Monster universe? It’s narratively doable.
After all, Deadpool’s not the first to do it. It’s a running joke that Marvel Comics co-creator Stan Lee shows up in a usually ultra-funny cameo in almost every Marvel-based film around, and he’s always playing the same guy: Stan Lee, himself. So Stan Lee therefore moves from the real world, in and out of the MCU and FMU freely, proving that there is a way to connect these different universes/realities together.
In short, Deadpool as a character is helping mainstream audiences to realise not only the fact that there is a divide between the different fictional universes and the real world, but that divide can be crossed. Whereas before if characters from different cinematic universes were to interact, there would have to be a total reboot of the character to birth them fully into one set universe (Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War being the prime example here).
Thanks to Deadpool that’s no longer the case. Through his fourth wall breaking ways, he’s helped make the idea of different realities understandable, and now it’s just a matter of admitting to the audience that these universes are separate and finding a way to make them parallel.
Whether that’s going the full Deadpool route and breaking the fourth wall completely, explaining how both universes are entirely fictional; or instead just using some sort of cross-reality wormhole/bridge type deal for a more in-story approach, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is, if Fox and Marvel Studios were ever in the business to cross their streams, even for just a single huge-scale blockbuster (there is a famous comic ripe for adapting, called Avengers vs. X-Men after all), it’s very, very possible to do it logically thanks to Deadpool; no character reboots or re-casting necessary.