While much of the fuss around Disney’s 2019 acquisition of 20th Century Studios (née Fox) was about which Marvel characters might finally make their debuts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, here’s something else people should have expected to see more immediately from the acquisition: somewhat cringe-worthy chunks of corporate synergy.
Ahead of the release of Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi’s upcoming film Free Guy—a 20th Century Studios production—the studio’s just released a “reaction video” starring Thor: Ragnarok’s Korg (voiced by Waititi) and the live-action incarnation of Deadpool (portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in Fox’s movies). Of course, the video’s partially meant to be an ad for Free Guy itself, a movie about an NPC who realizes that his reality’s a video game. At the same time, though, it’s an attempt at stoking the various Marvel franchises’ respective fandoms into a frenzy about the idea of different bits of recognizable IP appearing on-screen together. Something fans are desperate for.
As effective as Deadpool’s fourth-wall-breaking can be, here its main function is to remind you about things that are already abundantly apparent—like the fact that a single media entity owns the cinematic rights to all of these different characters. In our crossover/cameo/callback-obsessed culture where reaction videos to trailers have become a common part of how people engage with one another and monetize their consumption of entertainment, things like this sort of ad are to be expected, weird as they may be.
As a movie studio with an advertising budget, it’s 20th Century’s job to get people revved up to see its titles. What’s also to be expected, but doesn’t need to be the case, is the idea that things like this ad should be considered canon, or as anything but ads that are specifically meant to goose fans into a frenzy over a commercial for a movie that has nothing to do with the MCU. There are, of course, legitimate reasons to look forward to Deadpool rubbing shoulders with other MCU characters because it’s very likely to happen in the third Deadpool movie, but audiences owe it to themselves to understand when they’re being pandered to in rather obvious ways.
Free Guy hits theaters on August 13, and What If...?—the next place Waititi will reprise his role as Korg—hits Disney+ on August 11.
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