If you’re headed to the movies to see Deadpool this weekend, you might be struck with a certain feeling of déjà vu. Haven’t you seen the character on screen before? Played by Ryan Reynolds? In another X-Men movie? And doesn’t this character seem like a totally different character?
The short answer to all of those is, “yes,” and, “don’t worry about it too much.” The new Tim Miller-directed superhero comedy is in the X-Men movie timeline, but it plays fast and loose and ignores a lot of what’s come before. As Reynold’s told Entertainment Weekly Radio back in July, “Deadpool appearing in [X-Men Origins: Wolverine] is not the Deadpool we are representing in this film, in any way shape or form.”
… Except technically they’re still all tied together, so what the what?
Here’s the long answer, and it’s the sort of thing that’s been giving comic book fans massive headaches for decades - and is now out to attack movie fans’ brains, too.
Though the X-Men movie series launched in 2000, our story actually begins with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which hit theaters in 2009*. In 1845, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is born as young James Howlett, and develops the claws and healing factor that will keep him alive until Jackman decides to move on from the franchise (which is 2017, FYI). Decades later, right after a side-trip to 1962 in X-Men: First Class, and after the Vietnam War, Wolverine is part of an elite team of superpowered mutants called Team X. On that team? A motor-mouthed mercenary named Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds).
The team disbands, and six years later we get most of the action in X-Men Origins. In it, Wolverine is given his Adamantium skeleton, and Wade – now called Deadpool – is also transformed, into a tattooed, mouthless freak who can shoot optic blasts or something, I don’t know. Anyway, Wade gets his head chopped off, though seems to be mostly fine in a post-credits sequence that is never referenced again in any movie.
Almost 15 years later – we know this because Professor X (Patrick Stewart) tells Wolverine he’s been on the run for almost 15 years – we get the events of 2000’s X-Men, which technically takes place in the “near future.” Though next week is the “near future,” so who knows. This is followed by X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The Wolverine, which has a post-credit sequence that teases the future parts of X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
And here is where our troubles began. In Days Of Future Past, we’re treated to two timelines: the far-future, where the X-Men are desperately trying to change the past before the villainous Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) can create robotic Sentinels that will destroy mutants and humans alike; and that past timeline of 1973, where eventually Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) makes the decision not to kill Trask, thus changing the future.
Before Wolverine’s future consciousness travels back to the future (we told you this was complicated) at the end of the movie, he tells past Professor X (James McAvoy) to gather together the X-Men…. Something that clearly happened, because when Wolvie returns to the nonapocalyptic future he finds Xavier’s school standing, and everyone – including Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Cyclops (James Marsden), who died in The Last Stand – alive. He changed the future! Hooray!
… So, what actually happened? Basically, everything from before 1973 is the same. That means young James Howlett was still born, he still fought in the Vietnam War, “X-Men: First Class” still occurred in its entirety, as did everything pre-time travel in Days of Future Past. But everything after that was wiped clean and reset.
We know some things will happen, like Xavier getting the band together, because that’s what happens in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. And we saw that it worked, in the new version of the future glimpsed by future Wolverine. That’s also set. But X-Men, X2, The Last Stand, The Wolverine, and everything in X-Men Origins post-1973 is wiped clean. It never existed.
That includes Wade Wilson being recruited for Team X, getting his mouth sewn shut, and generally being an abomination to Deadpool fans everywhere. That also means he never got run through the same program as Wolverine (which is what happened in Origins) or even necessarily knows him. So that’s how the new movie is entirely unconnected to the old version of Deadpool, and instead is more “true” to the comics’ version of the character.
But short answer? Don’t worry about it too much.
*It actually starts thousands of years ago with the post-credits tag at the end of "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," but this is complicated already so we’ll ignore that for the moment.