The First Deadpool Almost Solved The Problem
So we come to Deadpool. The first film was deemed something of a gamble, only greenlit after test footage leaked, and so its connections to the wider universe were slight: the only X-Men were secondary-at-best (although it's worth noting that Stefan Kapicic's Colossus contradicted the Daniel Cudmore version from the original trilogy and Days of Future Past) and any greater references were in Deadpool's fourth-wall breaks. It was clearly set in the present day based on technology (and pop culture references) but not evidently in any version of the X-Men timeline (although Wade's very existence implied Origins, thankfully, didn't happen).
In fact, the movie seemed to adopt an alternate approach to shared universes: instead of being in a single continuity, it took part in some baseline version of the universe - with mutants, an X-Mansion, and whatever other flavor was required - that was then adapted to the story at hand. You know, like the comics. It was more a product of forced distance that it was a concerted effort for "fixing", but given how the approach was somewhat co-opted by Logan a year later, it definitely felt like where Fox was heading.
Deadpool 2 (Willingly) Messes It Up Again
Thanks to the original film's success, Deadpool 2 is properly let off the leash. This leads to a better film, but also means it comes into much closer contact with the lives of Charles Xavier and co. Whereas the deepest the cameos went first go around were Stan Lee and Hugh Jackman's mask, this time some really big and famous faces appear. Juggernaut presents something of a question mark given how he's completely different to the Vinnie Jones version, but that's really a similar timeline version switch-up akin to Deadpool himself from Origins to his own franchise.
Most relevant to this discussion, though, is the core X-Men cameo. Ostensibly a gag at how the comedy spinoff barely glances with the main continuity, during Wade's first visit to the X-Mansion we see the Apocalypse/Dark Phoenix vintage X-Men - Professor X, Beast, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler and Quicksilver. It's a humorous case of fortuity, presumably the result of Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix filming at the same time, but creates problems. Deadpool 2 is set in the modern day, yet this iteration of the X-Men come from the 1990s (and, given how McAvoy still looks the same as in First Class, technically the 1960s). Whereas before the X-Men were abstract in Deadpool's world, now we have a time-displaced confirmation.
Deadpool 2 goes all in on this with its end-credits scene, not only using confused time travel mechanics to rewrite the previous two hours but having Deadpool go back and kill the Wolverine counterpart in a bid to "fix the timeline". Tongue-in-cheek it may be, it does literalize at least some of Deadpool's self-deprecating jokes and lines up with the multiple timeline fiasco enough to be given some weight.
Deadpool 2 Is The Final Stage Of X-Men's Timeline Unshackling
But while it may seem needless and self-destructive to have Deadpool kill Deadpool, this complete disconnection from stable continuity - let's not forget the film also undoes its own inciting incident at the end, with Vanessa fridged before being brought back to life in the mid-credits scene - is really an extension of what Deadpool 1 was trying to do. X-Men continuity isn't a timeline, it's a place. Movies don't need to connect up, character threads don't have to stretch across all the sub-franchises, and there needn't be a big team-up to consolidate it all. Just look at how Thaos-parallel big bad Mister Sinister has been set up in movies spanning four decades without any cohesion.
When Deadpool pulls the trigger on himself and tells Wolverine he's fixing things, that's not a just a wry acknowledgment of how crazy this continuity have gotten. He's smashing the fourth wall so vigorously that any pretense of treating this seriously can't be applied in the future. Deadpool 2 broke the timeline to fix it.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2019) release date: Aug 02, 2019
- Gambit (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020