Immediately after Deadpool raked in the biggest opening weekend box office numbers of all time for an R-rated film, studios began to scramble to come up with the fastest and easiest ways to market new R-rated superhero material. They seemed to be assuming that movies already in production or about to go into production needed to be spiced up for audiences’ now R-hungry expectations. But just how much did that R rating really have to do with Deadpool’s success?
In a succinctly worded Facebook post, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn explained that he fears Hollywood will get the wrong lesson from how well Deadpool has done financially and critically, and proceed to greenlight film adaptations of as many R-ready comic book properties as possible—or raise the blood and gore quotient of superhero movies that are already in production or even post-production. Gunn argues that Deadpool was a success because it was different from any other superhero film out there, and because its tone fit the material it was adapted from in the first place. So the lesson that should come from Deadpool is not that the audience needs more R-rated superhero material, but that they want more fresh and original takes on the genre.
Gunn’s predictions seem to be coming true. Two days ago, Warner Brothers declared that the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will sport an R-rated “Ultimate Cut” when it hits home video. This decision could hypothetically affect the film’s theatrical box-office, since audiences over 17 might decide to stay home during the movie’s theatrical run in order to watch the “juicier” R-rated cut a couple of months down the line. Most importantly, converting material that was shot specifically for PG-13 into R at the last minute rarely yields great results. What we tend to get is more of a spiced up PG-13, like when unrated editions of 2013’s The Wolverine and World War Z merely added CG blood to scenes featuring death and dismemberment. The effects of this post-production tweak ended up looking so cartoonish that it was hard not to expect Eddie Valiant to start inspecting Wolverine’s connection to some murders in Toontown.
Chances are, since Batman v Superman was shot for a PG-13 rating, we’ll yet again get an “extreme” home video release of a blockbuster film that adds CG blood, and maybe a couple of risqué one-liners. Perhaps it’s time to come up with a new rating, say, a PG-13.5, to account for studios’ cynical last minute piggybacking on successful fare like Deadpool.
Immediately after Deadpool’s opening weekend, the producers of the upcoming third stand-alone Wolverine movie also stated that they’re shooting for an R-rating in order to finally be able to show the bloody consequences of Logan’s adamantium slicing and dicing. Even though it was clarified yesterday that the rating decision has nothing to do with Deadpool, and that the screenplay was written with more of a violent and gritty approach to begin with, it’s hard not to be suspicious of the timing of this news.
The best case scenario is that Deadpool will encourage Hollywood to take chances on bold and different material that will bring audiences something they haven’t seen before. As James Gunn said in his post, Deadpool producers took the right lesson from the underdog success of Guardians of the Galaxy—their reaction wasn’t to ape that movie’s style for quick financial gain, but to realize that something different and fresh can still be successful in Hollywood.