Let’s all jump on the Deadpool bandwagon and rate every film 18+ for no other reason than – hey, it worked for Deadpool, right?
Deadpool. It’s crude, explicit, irreverent and excessively violent. The script is witty and pleasingly loyal to its existing fanbase. On top of all this, it’s garnered rave reviews from critics the world over.
On a relatively tight budget of $58 million, the film has earned over $150 million in just its first four days. It now holds the opening weekend record for an R-rated movie in North America, as well as the highest-ever February opening in Australia. It’s already surpassed the lifetime totals for much more accessible X-Men films like The Wolverine and X-Men First Class.
Whichever way you cut it, Deadpool has been the smash-hit success story of 2016 so far. Despite being handed an R-rating by the MPAA (MA15+ here in Australia), the film has defied conventional logic to cause a huge stir amongst Hollywood suits on the lookout for the next big thing.
Which is why we’re guaranteed a thousand weak imitations in the next few years. Just this week it was announced that Hugh Jackman’s upcoming swansong as Wolverine will likely be rated R, and you can bet your butts that any potential superhero reboots on the horizon will be targeting a much more mature demographic as well – fancy another stab at Fantastic Four, this time with added swearing?
The only problem is, studios are racing to green light like minded movies without understanding what made Deadpool so successful. It was original and refreshing. It might not be the best R-rated superhero film we’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly the biggest, brightest and broadest. It has just the right amount of cheek, absurdity and violence to gel with its target audience. To put it simply, Deadpool was like catching lightning in a bottle.
Which is exactly why you can’t just take any superhero property and inject a bunch of swearing, sex and sass to replicate the success of Deadpool. That’s like throwing shit at the walls in the hope that it’ll stick. We’ve had R-rated comic book and graphic novel adaptations before Deadpool: 300, Watchmen, Sin City and Kick-Ass to name but a few. None of them enjoyed the same success as Deadpool, despite the fact they contained just as much nudity, gore and profanity. Clearly, the element that worked for audiences in Deadpool wasn’t just one thing, but many.
We’ve seen this pattern in the past. Remember when the 3D visuals in Avatar blew our minds and everyone raced to convert their big budget blockbuster to 3D in post-production? Whether it’s mandating that all reboots be dark and gritty (such as The Dark Knight influencing Man of Steel and Fantastic Four) or inspiring a slew of post-apocalyptic young adult movies (much like The Hunger Games triggering Divergent and The Maze Runner) cash cows are rarely ignored in Hollywood, and Deadpool seems destined to be no different.
In an extended post to his Facebook page, director James Gunn (best known for helming Guardians of the Galaxy) stated, “Deadpool was its own thing. THAT’S what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks.” And you know what? He couldn’t be more right. Rather than churning out a dozen more films like Deadpool, Hollywood needs to be praising the originality it displayed and look for new, inventive ways to mimic that – without literally mimicking it.
We don’t need a string of pale imitations that all walk and talk like Deadpool – we already have that movie. What we need are more filmmakers that can think and do like the filmmakers behind Deadpool thought and did. They took risks. They thought outside the box. They defied convention. Regardless of whether you liked or disliked the final product, you can’t deny that they came up with something different and refreshing.
Images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox