Only last week, we were saying how much we love comic book movies with a more daring, adult-oriented edge. And now it looks as though we’re likely to get a whole lot more of them.
Witty, violent and subversive superhero blockbuster Deadpool has become a bona fide hit – and its success seems set to pave the way for more popcorn action outings aimed at a more mature audience.
Box office smash
Deadpool has smashed the record for an ‘R-rated’ opening weekend in the US, taking a whopping $135 million. To put that in perspective, the second-highest at the time of writing (Matrix: Reloaded) brought in less than $100 million – and that was a sequel to a very popular movie.
There were those who suggested that Deadpool may struggle to gain a wide enough audience outside of its core fanbase, but that concern has clearly proven to be unfounded.
Traditionally, Hollywood attempts to aim its blockbusters at the widest possible demographic – with the ‘PG-13’ rating in the States and the 12A rating here in the UK generally considered the ideal sweet spot for big releases, regardless of whether that dumbs-down the subject matter or not.
In recent years, we’ve seen traditionally more gory and brutal properties such as Terminator and Robocop made more bloodless and family-friendly in the name of bigger box office receipts. But their relative failure, and now the success of Deadpool, suggests the tide may be finally turning.
What Deadpool’s success means
The greenlighting of further adult-oriented comic book films may already be afoot.
Fox producer Simon Kinberg has now suggested that an X-Force movie (a spin-off from X-Men) could be aimed towards a more adult audience, while the reboot of Spawn is set to follow a similarly violent and edgy path.
Creator Todd McFarlane explained:
“I’d put it more into the horror/suspense/supernatural genre. If you take the movie The Departed meets Paranormal Activity, something like that.”
When you also consider the commercial and critical acclaim bestowed on Mad Max: Fury Road – which is up for Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars, no less – it’s not hard to see that studio execs are now more likely to consider harder-edged blockbusters a more viable option.
A note of caution
The impact and influence of Deadpool looks set to be substantial. In our own review, Matthew Turner described it as “a breath of fresh air in the current superhero-stuffed blockbuster landscape”.
But the danger with Hollywood is that they’re prone to leaping on the latest hit, and either getting the wrong end of the stick as to why it works, simply churning out less and less effective imitators, or both.
Indeed, in an in-depth Facebook post, Guardians Of The Galaxy co-writer and director James Gunn warned against the dangers of knee-jerk studio reactions to Deadpool’s success.
“You’ll see Hollywood misunderstanding the lesson they should be learning with Deadpool. They’ll be green lighting films ‘like Deadpool‘ – but, by that, they won’t mean ‘good and original’ but ‘a raunchy superhero film’ or ‘it breaks the fourth wall.’
“They’ll treat you like you’re stupid, which is the one thing Deadpool didn’t do.”
In other words, more adult-edged comic book movies may be a good thing. But only if they’re handled in the right way, and not just treated as the latest cash cow to be milked dry.