Deadpool 2 has officially become the highest-grossing entry in the X-Men movie franchise. Deadpool’s road to movie stardom was certainly a complicated one. Ryan Reynolds first became interested in making a movie based on the character in 2004 and planned to collaborate with his Blade: Trinity director David S. Goyer on it. While Trinity itself was far from beloved, Reynolds has stated his performance as Hannibal King was basically a dry run for Deadpool/Wade Wilson. He soon learned Fox planned to use the character in an X-Men film and was told that if he didn’t agree to cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, another actor would be cast and he’d lose out on the role in a solo movie.
While his brief turn as Wade was considered a highpoint, Origins take on Deadpool himself was widely lambasted. The character was given a hideous redesign, his mouth was sewn shut and he was gifted a random assortment of powers. The proposed Deadpool spinoff failed to happen due to the response to the character, so Reynolds and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick kept working at it. Some test footage was shot for the head of Fox, who famously didn’t get the character’s appeal. Somehow, this footage leaked online and quickly went viral, and the new administration at Fox quickly greenlit a Deadpool movie. Thanks to a great marketing campaign and a gleefully R-rated tone, the movie became the highest-grossing X-Men movie, reaching over $783M worldwide.
China is a very healthy source of income for comic book movies, but the R-rated cuts of both Deadpool and Deadpool 2 were banned there. In December a PG-13 cut of the sequel dubbed Once Upon A Deadpool was released that added a new framing device, with Deadpool kidnapping actor Fred Savage so he can read the film's story to him, Princess Bride-style. The critical reception to this version was mixed, but THR is reporting the gambit has paid off in China. The PG-13 cut – dubbed Deadpool 2: I Love My Family in China – has taken in over $45M there, pushing the worldwide gross to $784M.
Reviews had questioned the need for a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2, which often felt like a censored television version of the original. The official reason it was assembled was so young teenagers could enjoy the film with their parents, but it seems the real motivator was so the film could screen in China. Given the success of the move, it’s hard to fault the logic. It’s also amusing to note the very non-PC Deadpool 2 is now the most successful X-Men movie ever.
Despite Deadpool 2’s enormous success, the franchise’s path moving forward isn’t clear. The upcoming Fox/Disney merger means the X-Force movie has been put on hold and it's unknown if Deadpool 3 will be allowed an R-rating from the family-friendly studio. Reynolds has stated the next movie will be ‘completely different’ but didn’t indicate what would change.