WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Deadpool 2, in theaters now.
Fans have had plenty of issues with Fox's X-Men franchise, from costumes to character arcs to the use of time travel in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past. Many hoped it would help to fix the series' continuity, but instead it came off as little more than excuse to give Hugh Jackman's Wolverine another starring role. However, where the studio failed there, it succeeds in Deadpool 2, as time travel is used in a more practical, and relatable, manner, and in a fashion that suits the characters involved.
In the 1981 "Days of Future Past" comics storyline, by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin, the telepath Rachel Summers projects the consciousness of an older Kitty Pryde from a dystopian alternate future back through time so she can possess the body of her younger self, and prevent the event that leads to the rise of the Sentinels. The film deviates from that premise, instead using Kitty to send Bishop and then Wolverine into the past. What's shocking is Kitty, who's a phase-shifter, has never exhibited such abilities, so we're thrown off. One would think Bryan Singer & Co. could have used a psychic to make that sort of time travel seem plausible.
In Deadpool 2, it's more straightforward, and faithful to the characters. Cable (Josh Brolin) uses his time-slider to travel back to kill Russell (Julian Dennison), to ensure the kid doesn't grow up to kill Cable's family. In terms of getting their time-travel arc right, director David Leitch and the writers demonstrate how simplicity works. Firstly, we understand the mechanics of Cable's time-traveling device, even though we're not given much insight into the technical stuff. All we really see is it's hardcore tech that functions like a watch, where you set a time and aim to land close to the targeted period. Hey, he's from the future; trust him, it works.
What stands out most of all is how relatable the slider is used; it's not like where Days of Future Past sent a random mutant back in Bishop, whom none of the X-Men would have recognized. Deadpool 2 is more calculated, sending Cable back as a man who's always been hunting Firefist. In his case, it's just as much about avenging his family as it is saving the world, so we connect to his motivation. Eventually, Cable's brought back to the light, as he and Ryan Reynolds' Wade Wilson prevent Russell from turning evil. However, it comes at a cost: Wade's life. But it's in this moment we see just how smartly time-travel is written in, because it doesn't just save our heroes, it opens up so much room to explore down the line.
After Deadpool takes a bullet for Russell, Cable's future and his family are saved. But instead of returning to them, Cable browses the timeline and opts to save Wade from the lethal bullet. Ultimately, Wade lives, Russell is still redeemed, Cable's future is restored, and the time-traveler chooses to stay in the present to what we know will lead to missions alongside Domino and Wade.
Then comes the mid-credits scene, where Deadpool juices up Cable's time-slider, and uses it in ways that are more selfish and less heroic. He goes on a time-traveling carousel, preventing mistakes such as Fox's awful first take on Deadpool and also stopping Reynolds from bringing Green Lantern to life. Cut through the comedy, however, and you'll see he's doing everything the average person would do. His actions aren't deep; they're about a man on a mission to make his world whole again; similar to Cable. This is evidenced by Wade saving his girlfriend Vanessa and a former teammate, Peter.
And this is why time-travel in Deadpool 2 works: It's something we'd all do if given the chance -- save the universe, but not before we ensure our loved ones are safe and sound. Sure, heroism counts, but so does family, and nothing's wrong with putting the latter first.
Directed by David Leitch, Deadpool 2 stars Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, Stefan Kapičić as the voice of Colossus, and Karan Soni as Dopinder, with newcomers Zazie Beetz as Domino, Josh Brolin as Cable and Julian Dennison as Russell. The film is playing in theaters everywhere.