Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Wade Wilson in a New York City mercenary, always down to make a quick buck by ruffing up some dudes who deserve it. At his favorite watering hole, Sister Margaret's School for Wayward Girls, he meets Vanessa, a prostitute, and they fall in love and get engaged. Mazel tov!
Call To Adventure
Right after Wade and Vanessa get engaged, Wade is diagnosed with late-stage cancer. We know what you're thinking: Cancer? That's not an adventure! Zip-lining through the jungle is an adventure. Riding a roller coaster after you've eaten an entire plate of nachos by yourself is an adventure. Here's the thing: In the life of a hero, "adventure" means anything that disrupts their ordinary world, and cancer is one heck of a disruption.
Refusal Of The Call
Vanessa meets Wade's diagnosis with determination to stave off its effects for as long as possible: vitamins, experimental drugs, faraway clinics. She'll do anything to ensure they have as much time together as possible. Wade, meanwhile, isn't having it. He's resigned to his fate and decides to leave Vanessa in the dead of night without saying goodbye so that she won't see his eventual decline.
Meeting The Mentor
Wade meets his mentor when he agrees to let Ajax trigger his mutant DNA. Ajax may turn out to be a sadistic scumbag, but, initially, he offers Wade hope and the promise of superpowers: two things that help mitigate Wade's fears about his diagnosis.
Crossing The Threshold
Wade crosses the threshold when the torture tank awakens his mutant DNA and disfigures him. His cancer is effectively cured; he has super healing powers, strength, and reflexes; and he thinks he looks so incredibly grotesque that he adopts the masked persona "Deadpool." After that, he can't go back to his old life. He moves in with Blind Al, lets Vanessa think he's dead, and swears revenge on Ajax.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Deadpool lays waste to throngs of Ajax's lower-level baddies as he works his way up the food chain to Ajax. He's also tested at the strip club, where fails to talk to Vanessa. Along the way, Deadpool's greatest allies are Weasel, who keeps it real; Blind Al, who loves Wade just the way he is; and Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who are willing to set aside their grudges about Deadpool's dislike of all things X-Men and help him save Vanessa after Ajax kidnaps her.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
Deadpool prepares for his big fight with Ajax by gathering all the guns he, Weasel, and Blind Al can find and packing them into a duffel bag to bring to the shipyard.
Deadpool goes head-to-head with Ajax at the shipyard while Vanessa's life hangs in the balance. Deadpool emerges victorious—kind of. He doesn't get his face fixed, but he does kill Ajax, and Vanessa's life is spared.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
Deadpool's prize for besting Ajax is being reunited with Vanessa. His victory saves her life…and lets her know that he's been alive this whole time. Uh oh.
The Road Back
The Road Back is where the hero has to jump back into his journey and head toward the Ordinary World. For Deadpool, that means having a difficult conversation with Vanessa about how he could desert her in the middle of the night and how he could be alive this whole time without telling her.
The Ordeal is major, but the Resurrection is even major-er. Fine, that's not a word, but in Deadpool's case, this difficult obstacle takes the form of Vanessa lifting his mask and seeing his disfigured face. This is what he feared more than anything; this is why he left the love of his life in the middle of the night, consented to being tortured, started wearing a mask, and dedicated his life to finding Ajax. No one can help Deadpool with this one; he's all on his own and, oddly enough, in order to succeed, he needs to not put up a fight.
Return With The Elixir
This stage is the final reward. Our hero has passed all tests, ordeals, and resurrections with flying colors—or at least a solid C- average—and he's found a way back into the ordinary world. For Deadpool, that happens when he and Vanessa make up. She forgives his deception, she still loves him, and she isn't so shallow that she's repulsed by his appearance. If this wasn't the first in a planned film franchise, we'd say that these two crazy puzzle pieces were going to start planning their wedding and live happily ever after.