[Warning: This article contains ending and post-credit spoilers for Deadpool 2]
Deadpool 2 makes good on a number of promises — the introduction of Cable, the formation of X-Force, Deadpool intruding into the X-Mansion, Peter — and the fan servicing seems to be paying off; the movie earned better reviews than 2016’s Deadpool and raked in $300 million worldwide over its opening weekend, enough to dethrone Avengers: Infinity War from the number one spot.
While full of self-referential, superhero-movie-lampooning gags and surprisingly solid action (it is “from the director of John Wick,” after all), it’s the movie’s extended post-credit stinger that delivers on a demise that fans have subconsciously been waiting for since the announcement that Ryan Reynolds would go under the mask to play the character.
Deadpool finally dies.
To fully appreciate the magnitude of Deadpool 2’s post-credits scenes, we have to relive some horrible memories. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine saw the first, and what many fans assumed to be the last, appearance of Reynolds as Wade Wilson. Hugh Jackman’s standalone vehicle swapped Deadpool’s leather zip-up for a red tank top and some longswords, and quickly killed off Wade … only to revive him as Weapon XI a.k.a. Deadpool-ish, who possess the original character’s quick-healing abilities, plus Cyclops’s optic blasts and the ability to teleport. They also sewed his mouth shut, just to make sure fans of the comics hated X-Men Origins’ climax as much as humanly possible. A post-credit scene on that movie found Wade’s decapitated head coming back to life, which felt more like a threat than a tease.
But now, thanks to Cable’s spiffy time-traveling device, Deadpool has his revenge against William Stryker, 20th Century Fox, and everyone involved with the Frankensteined tragedy that was Weapon XI. With a few alterations from Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the Apple iTimejumper sends Wade back to Three Mile Island, just as Wolverine and the samurai-sword-brandishing hybrid begin to duke it out. With a single shot to the head — then another shot and another shot and another shot — Weapon XI is dead, the real Deadpool giggling over his body, triumphant.
”We started going down the laundry list of what people would change,” screenwriter Rhett Reese tells Polygon, “and of course, Ryan raised his hand and said, ‘Well, I’ve got to change some career choices of my own.’” To backtrack to X-Men Origins, Deadpool 2 spliced the Reynold’s current turn as the Merc with a Mouth into the actual footage, a true F-you that required Hugh Jackman’s permission.
If that weren’t enough, Deadpool walks over Weapon XI’s bleeding corpse to enter yet another corner of superhero-movie spacetime. A second jump puts him in the warmly lit den of one Ryan Reynolds, who’s clutching a script for what will be his big break: The Green Lantern. Deadpool ends the actor’s life quicker than he can say “Oa.” This is definitely what Hal Jordan meant by “in blackest night.”
”The [post-credit scenes were] a late add,” Reese says. “We wanted the movie to stand alone without the idea that it was all just gonna be undone by a time machine. And then, we threw that on there because we thought it was fun and what the heck we’re going to do it? So now at least we could use Vanessa in the future. We could use Peter in the future. And, uh, now Ryan’s got some therapeutic closure on his Green Lantern decision.”
But we needed Green Lantern
Reader, this is where I have to throw caution to the wind and lose your respect. Ryan Reynolds is being way too hard on himself. After a quality zinger in the original Deadpool (“And don’t make the suit green. Or animated!”), Deadpool 2 icing the actor like he’s superhero cinema’s Baby Hitler is overkill, a move that undermines the joys of the Martin Campbell’s 2011 Green Lantern — what might be the only adaptation of the character we ever see (I’m not optimistic, despite vague announcements to the contrary) — and giving in to the noisiest criticism against Reynolds’s career.
Green Lantern is good. It’s not Batman Begins or Iron Man or Blade good, but it’s high-flying, kooky, by-the-books fun. I can’t speak for all Green Lantern readers, but for someone who spent as much time studying the origins of Dkrtzy RRR as he did actual algebra, seeing the ring from Space Sector 2814 whisk a living, breathing Hal off into space to train with Kilowag, palaver with the Guardians and witness the birth of Parallax was the kind of big, fantastical space adventure we hadn’t seen since... the Star Wars prequels? That didn’t cut it. Star Trek 2009? Not weird enough! Green Lantern promised comic-book flare and galactic stakes. Any reader knew a proper adaptation would be far out — probably too far out for the casual blockbuster-goer.
The end product was caught between strange and stiff-necked. Like many of DC’s adaptations of the last decade, Green Lantern ultimately took the wrong cues from Marvel (Hal Jordan is not Tony Stark, but he is here) and mixed them with the wrong cues from Christopher Nolan’s Bat-films (a movie where a fish-bird voiced by Geoffrey Rush does not have reach for realism, Mr. Campbell). Still, the adventure is intact, the clever constructions are there, Reynolds’s heart is in the right place, imbuing Hal with sincerity as he battles a frickin’ CG cloud, and he he has real chemistry with Blake Lively — who he later married.
In Deadpool 2, Deadpool murders Ryan Reynolds, preventing him from starring in the movie that would introduce him to his wife. Just putting it out there.
Deadpool 2 posits that Green Lantern was a big mistake, which is a fallacy: Reynolds was right to take the movie in the first place. Why would an emerging star not want to work with the director of Casino Royale on an integral chapter in DC’s fledging superhero universe? To be clear: in the Sliding Doors version of this story, where Reynolds doesn’t take the role, we don’t get Deadpool either. There’s no tested leading man. There’s no gnarled, fourth-wall-breaking underdog to fill those shoes. We needed Green Lantern.
OK, I’m sounding defensive. The real reason Deadpool 2’s second post-credit scene left me a little down is because Reynolds would have made a perfect Hal Jordan in a perfect Green Lantern movie (which I’ll define as part The Right Stuff, part Guardians of the Galaxy, and part Rocketeer, and recognize I’ll never see). I’ll take what we got, which was a serviceable, $200-million blockbuster and the most genuine moment I’ve ever witnessed at a comic convention. I will never forget sitting in Hall H at the Green Lantern panel, watching a seven-year-old take the mic and ask to hear the Lantern oath, then watch Reynolds totally deliver.
The Deadpool 2 post-credit cleans up history. But in this case, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.