Traditionally R-Rated comic book adaption movies haven’t fared all that well. After all, saddling a film with an R rating makes it more difficult for the under 17 demographic to get in the theater without parents. And really what self-respecting teen wants to see a movie with their parents? (Okay technically they could buy a ticket for another movie and sneak into the R movie but this still doesn’t help the later movies box office.) Look at this handy chart for reference to see how R-Rated films fare…
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None of these movies are what one would call a “box office smash.”
But then along came Deadpool. As of Feb 22, the movie has a domestic gross of more than $240 million. Making it not only the most successful R-rated superhero movie, but it’s also the most successful “X-Men” movie by far. And it’s sure to pile up more records.
Deadpool as created by Rob Liefield and Fabian Nicieza is literally made for comic violence. He’s the “merc with a mouth,” constantly wisecracking as he busts skulls. He breaks the fourth wall almost as often as he breaks bones. The comic character once compared himself to actor Ryan Reynolds years before Reynolds would depict him in a film. Yeah, it’s that meta. This humor makes Deadpool different from other violent characters well suited for an R rating. In the case of DeadPool, it’s almost like watching a live action Itchy and Scratchy. Yeah sure it’s violent, really violent. The violence is over the top and laced with so much humor it’s easier for the general public to accept, remember Gremlins? Plus with the Deadpool movie you’re trying to catch-all the puns which also removes a part of your mind from thinking, “Oh he just decapitated that guy.” Deadpool is successful because the violence fits the character and the humor makes it easier for non-traditional comic fans to swallow. You need these non-traditional comic book fans to flock to a superhero movie to make it a big hit. It’s great talking about the character with people who just a few months ago had no idea who Deadpool was.
Of course, Deadpool’s box office draw has caught the attention of studios. In Hollywood, nothing spawns attempts at success like somebody else’s success. Plus memories tend to be short or more concerned with what’s hot now. There is talk of the next Wolverine movie going for an R rating. Dawn of Justice will have an R-rated director’s cut. Who knows what others may follow? Gambit and Rogue, R? (Okay, that might work…)
My fear is when the movie money people look at the success of Deadpool they are going to be blinded by dollar signs popping in their eyes. They will come to the conclusion, “R-Rated Super Hero movies are gold!” and start churning them out. If Hollywood starts making a bunch of R-rated super heroes that don’t come with Deadpool’s humor they won’t do nearly as well at the box office. Which in turn will cause the knee jerk reaction, “we have too many superhero movies let’s cut back on production…” Which would result in a decrease in the general public’s interest in superheroes and that would be sad really.