There’s a lot of questionable material in Deadpool 2, but one thing audiences picked up on fast is the treatment of Morena Baccarin’s character, Vanessa. Vanessa dies early in the film, and her death acts as a motivating force for the film’s hero, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), which has led to criticism that the movie leans on one of the oldest comic book tropes around: fridging. The narrative decision has been a controversial one, which has led the film’s director, David Leitch, to respond.
"I understand where they're coming from," Leitch said in an interview with Comicbook.com. "As a filmmaker, I believe I have a record of strong female characters and proactive female characters."
Leitch is likely referring to the espionage thriller, Atomic Blonde, which he directed. The film stars Charlize Theron as an MI6 agent deep undercover in Berlin during the Cold War, just days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the film, Theron’s Lorraine Broughton is an active player who goes toe-to-toe with some of the world’s deadliest secret agents, earning her scars, bruises and plenty of broken bones along the way.
"But with Deadpool it's different," Leitch said. "It's Deadpool's movie, and you need to take everything away from him to humanize him. He can be grating and he can be sort of offensive and he can be all these things, but you need an emotional hook that grounds the movie that we can go on this journey with this character and experience Deadpool."
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “fridging” occurs when a female character dies for the sole purpose of providing motivation for the story’s male hero. Vanessa’s death caused Deadpool to discover a newfound appreciation for family, which leads to him going out of his way to protect Firefist (Julian Dennison) first from the time-traveler Cable (Josh Brolin) and then Eddie Marsan’s mutant-hating Headmaster. Vanessa does appear again in death-tinged dream sequences throughout the film, and a post-credits sequence even brings her back to life.
"Quite frankly, she doesn't leave the movie," Leitch said. "She is a huge point of contact for him and learning his lesson in the world and learning that one of act of kindness can change history. And I think without her being the vehicle that he learns that from, I don't know, it wouldn't have been the same film and so we wouldn't have had that emotional context. Even the scene at the end where they visit each other in the afterlife, hugely emotional, great performances by both of them. So, again, I don't think she left the movie."
Now in theaters, director David Leitch’s Deadpool 2 stars Ryan Reynolds as the titular Deadpool, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, T.J. Miller as Weasel, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Stefan Kapičić as Colossus, Zazie Beetz as Domino, Julian Dennison as Russell and Josh Brolin as Cable.