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Unless you’ve been living under a rock or been held captive in a Weapon X facility, you’re aware that Deadpool has taken the box office by storm. It hasn’t even been in theaters for two whole weeks, and already it’s broken numerous records, not to mention earned positive reviews from fans and critics. While not the first R-rated superhero movie, it’s become the most successful of the few that reached that tier, and following Deadpool’s success, there are rumors and reports about other superhero movies that might earn the same rating, including Wolverine 3 (Hugh Jackman’s last time putting on the metal claws) and X-Force. Could those happen? Sure, but there’s something that needs to be bluntly stated: Deadpool’s performance is not going to suddenly result in a massive surge in R-rated superhero movies.
To put this into perspective, let’s look at the three main sources of superhero movies these days: Marvel Studios (who are also working with Sony on Spider-Man) with nearly all of the Marvel library at their disposal, Warner Bros with the DC Comics properties and 20th Century Fox with the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties. While superheroes were originally written to only appeal to children, almost all of them can be enjoyed by fans of all ages. When it comes to movie adaptations, that’s the key: all ages. Studios want as wide an audience as possible to see these movies to increase the odds of hauling in more money, thus why they’re almost always rated PG-13.
Take Marvel. They’ve made it clear that their big screen projects are going to remain PG-13, and their darker fare, featuring characters like The Punisher and Jessica Jones, will be seen on Netflix. While they haven’t been quite as clear-cut as the House of Ideas, Warner Bros is taking the same approach with the DC Extended Universe, even ones as weird as Suicide Squad. That leaves 20th Century Fox, and even they don’t have many characters left that fit the R-level. Deadpool has been taken care of. X-Force is certainly a more realistic prospect now. And Wolverine’s berserker rage could be worthy of an R rating, even though he has a lot of younger fans. The rest of their characters fall into the PG-13 category, though, and shouldn’t be made extra violent or sexual just because Hollywood believes its sees potential thanks to the financial success of Deadpool. Hell, if Valiant Entertainment ever gets its superhero movies off the ground, I wouldn’t be surprised if those end up being PG-13, so they’re accessible to younger viewers.
Now, obviously not every superhero and their supporting cast are appropriate for younger fans, and Deadpool usually fits that bill. In his 25 years of being published, his chaotic adventures typically have been targeted towards older fans who can appreciate his innuendos and extra gory ways of dealing with adversaries. Sure, there are tamer versions of the Merc with the Mouth in projects like Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but those never truly felt like the character we know, love and see on T-shirts everywhere. He was begging to get an R-rated spinoff, and we should be glad that leaked test footage made Fox come to their senses and make the movie a reality. Deadpool, like The Punisher and Blade, benefits from the R-rating, as it stays true to the character’s roots. The same can’t be said for a lot of other characters, and when studios have the choice, they’re going to green-light superhero projects that can be seen by as many fans as possible, which, as an added bonus, usually means they’re more marketable.
Now, with all this being said, let me make one thing clear again: I’m talking about superhero movies, not the entire comic book genre. Many movies based on other kinds of comic book stories have come out over the years, from Sin City and Road to Perdition to 300 and V for Vendetta. That’s not going to change in the future. No matter what these studios have planned for their superheroes, that won’t stop them from making a comic book adaptation (usually of a graphic novel) that's strictly being told for adults. For instance, Warner Bros is adapting Vertigo properties Sandman and 100 Bullets into movies, and you can bet those will only be intended for adults. In the case of Image Comics character Spawn, his upcoming reboot will veer more towards horror/supernatural territory. There’s room for other comic book genres to get the mature treatment, but with superheroes, it’s not nearly as easy.
Bottom line, it’s definitely possible we’ll see more R-rated superhero movies in the future, but don’t get your hopes up about suddenly seeing every other Marvel or DC movie go that far. Deadpool was a welcome surprise and we should all be thankful it did so well at the box office, but it’s not indicative of what’s to come. Superhero movies are growing more popular each day, and studios want to grab as wide an audience as possible for the theatrical releases. As much as we may want to see these stories be told strictly for adults, and not for the kids to find until they're older, this dramatic shift isn’t on the way, at least in the near future. For now, though, let’s just continue reveling in Deadpool’s insanity, and how it was a refreshing take on the usual costumed tales we get.
What do you think? Do you agree that Deadpool won’t be the R-rated revolution many fans have been hoping for, or do you think this cinematic juggernaut (hehe, X-Men pun) will pave the way for more intense superhero movies. Let us know what you think in the comments below, and vote in our poll!
Will Deadpool's Success Lead to More R-Rated Superhero Movies?