Spider-Man, Deadpool and Magneto are three sides of the same coin
Hang with me here: Coins technically have three sides if you count the rim that separates the two sides we traditionally think about. Cheating? Absolutely, but it’s important to bring Deadpool into a conversation about the cinematic versions of Magneto and Spider-Man, so you need to deal with the stretch in logic.
Sad-sack Peter Parker is a phrase fellow Pending Title contributor Marcus White uses devastatingly accurately when we talk about the secret identity of my favorite superhero. That all-too-real descriptor was broken down incredibly well in this article, which I highly recommend you read, as a precursor to what I’m going to get into here.
Here’s the tl;dr version of a really good article: Parker will always disappoint you, because Spider-Man legitimately has bigger fish to fry. That’s his lot in life. He won’t make your play, your recital or the Homecoming dance because duty calls. It’s gut wrenching because you fall in love with these characters and know, deep inside, it will never work.
That can also become a little redundant. By the time “Spider-Man 3” rolled around in the Sam Raimi trilogy, I can’t be the only one who grew fatigued with Parker letting down Mary Jane in the same, predictable ways. The last bit is the kicker there: The formula had become predictable. This is a good time to bring Magneto into the fold.
The X-Men prequels, starting with “First Class,” relied heavily on the dynamic between Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) to carry the films. That was a good decision. A less good decision? Crucifying Magneto in three consecutive films to move the plot forward. But before things got out of hand in “Apocalypse,” it seemed they had a good handle on the character.
So, let’s focus on “First Class” and “Days of Future Past” for the sake of this article. Both Spider-Man and Magneto take their first steps towards heroism and villainy, respectively, through traumatic events (though I can’t overstate how vastly they differ in severity). While the death of Uncle Ben spurs Parker to do good, the death of Lehnsherr’s parents (and you know, the whole Holocaust thing) only serves to push him further down a dark path.
Of course, while Parker faces tough decisions and inconveniences, they pale in comparison to what the cinematic version of Magneto is hit with. Lehnsherr is absolutely tortured, time and again, because Magneto is most useful cinematically when he’s Magneto. Still, ham-fisted storytelling aside, these films give us an interesting look at what Spider-Man would be like if he became an authentic villain (sorry, that whole … black-suit-Spider-Man thing … doesn’t count).
Imagine a Spider-Man film where Parker is pushed past his breaking point. Where the injustices go beyond missing Mary Jane’s plays, or a strained relationship with Harry Osborne. We got closest in the Andrew Garfield series, but only at the end of the sequel when Gwen Stacey died, and even that was … well, not handled well.
It’s an interesting dynamic that we don’t see much, especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Triumphant heroes saving the day is as much part of the culture of superhero films as lightsabers are a part of Star Wars; but the idea of a tortured hero, at least one that’s done right, is catnip to audiences. Michael Keaton did it in “Batman,” and it was revived in Christopher Nolan’s caped crusader trilogy.
How does Deadpool fit in? Very snugly into his spandex, thanks for asking. There’s a reason he and Spidey end up together so often in the comics; and if it wasn’t for an army of lawyers, they’d probably get a movie together, too. Deadpool isn’t exactly Spider-Man all grown up, because he’s not exactly anybody all grown up. That’s kind of the point.
Here’s what he is: A deeply broken person who can’t have what the rest of us can have. He can’t have a normal life like Tony Stark, but he used to be more like us than say, Bruce Banner or even Captain America. Wade Wilson can’t have a real job, can’t have a regular girlfriend (not really, anyway) and can’t do things the way he did before he … you know, got fried up like a piece of cod. So, now he’s a maniac that operates somewhere in the middle. Just like the coin. Boom, told you it worked.