There’s no doubt that Ryan Reynolds’ Marvel superhero flick Deadpool is going to be a much different beast than the comic book adaptations of the last 15 years or so. Throughout the film's viral marketing campaign, it’s been made clear that Deadpool, both the character and the movie, will end up being a more sarcastic sibling to the other comic book films out there, featuring darker themes, more profanity, graphic sexuality, and more intense violence. So if the movie, which is Marvel’s first in the X-Men universe to earn an R rating, turns out to be as big a hit as expected, what will that mean for the future of comic book adaptations on the whole?
It could mean that the PG-13 rating held by most superhero movies is bound to be a thing of the past. The variety of red band trailers, images, and TV spots Deadpool has released make it clear that this film is unlike anything Marvel movies are currently known for: obscene lines, crass behavior, and gruesome imagery that's far more intense than your average superhero film. It's not shying away from its adult themes and hard R rating, but rather, embracing it fully. Over the summer, producer Simon Kinburg told Entertainment Weekly that “Deadpool is a hard R. It’s graphic. Nothing is taboo. You either commit to a truly outrageous boundary-pushing kind of movie or you don’t.” If Deadpool is as big a box office smash as expected, not toning down a film's intensity could be a trend that other superhero movies follow in years to come.
But with a target audience that is most decidedly adult, how will that affect the usual comic book movie viewership made up of kids and teens? Will parents have to tell heartbroken children that new superhero movies just aren't meant for them? That just might be the case, and it's already been cause for pushback. One YouTube celeb, Grace Randolph, inspired by a letter she received from a mother of a disappointed eight-year-old Deadpool fan desperate to see the obviously age-inappropriate movie, created a petition calling for the release of a PG-13 version of the film. In her petition, Randolph stated her belief that releasing the movie in both R and PG-13 cuts would increase its overall audience. Although the filmmakers have yet to respond, Ryan Reynolds has; ComicBook reports that the actor applauded Randolph for being an awesome mom, but noted that the request didn’t seem feasible. Said Reynolds, "I don’t think so. I mean, you saw it. That would be a very short movie. It’s almost a commercial at that point."
That's bad news for those under 18, but it might be good news for the industry. With its R rating, Deadpool could have a massive effect on Hollywood. In the fight for the coveted males-under-25 quadrant of the movie-going masses, studios could be inspired by Deadpool's likely success to go hard or go home when it comes to nudity and violence. Over in the over-25 quadrants, with the dearth of adult-targeted movies in general, more adults might take a liking to superhero films that push boundaries more than the average fare, and turn to comic movies when they previously thought of the genre as one only for kids. Either way, if Deadpool turns out to be a smash, it could also be a game changer for Hollywood films.
The increase of adult-oriented comic book films would no doubt be a good thing for the movie-making business, as, after all, sex and violence nearly always sell. The teens who fell in love with the early millennium's explosion of superhero movies are grown up now, ready to spend their money on comic adaptations that fit their more mature mentalities. But while this is all well and good, where does that leave the kids? It's not that those under 18 won't see Deadpool; eventually, whether by sneaking into the theater or downloading a copy, teens are going to find ways to see this movie. That might not be good news for parents, many of whom are already worried about depictions of sex and violence in entertainment, both of which Deadpool has in abundance.
Yet perhaps it'll open conversations, at least regarding on-screen depictions of sex. More comic book movies featuring sexual acts and references could help teach kids what healthy, sexual relationships look like, and lead to more parents sitting down with their kids to talk the topic over. As for violence, that's another story; I've personally never understood the argument against exposing kids to sexuality in cinema, but for me, especially in recent months, it's violence in movies that seems harder to handle, and often unnecessary to show. Yet if the end result of Deadpool and future films like it means that both the violent and sexual content are going to be discussed between parents and kids, then it might be worth it. Come to think of it, it might not a bad idea for adults to have those conversations among themselves, either.
Images: 20th Century Fox (2), Giphy