Deadpool – Maybe R Rated Superhero Movies Are Worth Making

I, along with over a million other people, saw Deadpool this past weekend. Before seeing it, I had very basic knowledge of the character: he’s a sassypants “merc with a mouth,” he knows he’s a comic book character, and he breaks the fourth wall by addressing the readers directly. Because Deadpool is such a different character than the superheroes currently in the theaters, I thought it was strange the studio would take a chance on him, and even stranger they agreed to make the movie R since that severely reduced the number of viewers. Deadpool took over 10 years to make because Fox feared producing an R rated superhero movie, but Ryan Reynolds, who both produced and starred in the movie, fought to have it stay true to the comic book character, which meant blood, sex, and profanity. Thankfully, Reynolds won.

Set in the current X-Men cinematic universe, Deadpool went the route Batman Begins, Iron Man, and so many other superhero movies have and told the origin story of his character. Reynolds is Wade Wilson, a former special operative who is now a mercenary in New York City. While he’s not a great guy, he’s happy with the life he has and the woman he’s going to marry, but that’s all ripped away when he’s diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer. Desperate to try anything, Wilson agrees to an experimental treatment plan proposed to him by a guy in a bar.

The treatment is designed to unlock any mutations people already have inside of them. The process works better on some people than others, and unfortunately Wilson falls into the challenging category. With each failed attempt, Wilson learns more about Ajax, the doctor in charge of the experiment, and finds that this experiment doesn’t actually have the good intentions he believed. When Ajax finally unlocks his mutation of accelerated healing, Wilson cures himself of cancer, but at the price of disfiguring his face and body. Ashamed, Wilson refuses to return to his fiance until he can track down Ajax to force him to fix the damage.


The rest of the movie consists of Wilson taking on his Deadpool persona and going after Ajax. It is formulaic and predictable in that a guy was done wrong and seeks revenge, so it depends on character and dialogue to set it apart from other movies. The main way it does that is by Deadpool talking directly to the audience

Deadpool: [looking into the camera while slicing off his own arm] Did you ever see 127 Hours? Spoiler alert.

and making comments that allude to the fact he knows he’s just a character in a movie even if the others don’t.

Colossus: You will come talk with Professor Xavier.
Deadpool: McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines can get so confusing.

(While at the Xavier Mansion)
Deadpool: Wow, this is such a big house, but I only ever see the two of you here. It’s like the studio didn’t have enough money for any more X-Men…

Both these comments are in reference to the X-Men movies. For those of you not familiar with those films, Professor Xavier is played by Patrick Stewart in the first films and James McAvoy in the later films as younger Xavier. Deadpool is probably correct in saying the studio couldn’t afford any of the popular movie X-Men characters, so they went with two less popular ones: Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played by Brianna Hildebrand). Both of them brought their own highlights to the movie between a physically large Colossus peacefully trying to convince a murder-happy Deadpool to join the X-Men, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead acting like a stereotypical teenager who doesn’t care what anyone says and spends excessive time, even in battle, on her phone.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, Deadpool is rated R for “strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.” That description sounds tame after seeing the movie. There are even some trailers labeled NSFW that require viewers to enter their birth date in order to watch. One scene that sticks out as being graphic is  IMDB has a full list of reasons for the rating here: They range from describing how and why people are nude to what scenes have frightening or intense moments to counts of how many times the F-word or its derivative is used (84 times).

Deadpool performed better than anyone expected; according to Box Office Mojo, it made over $132 million domestically in the opening weekend and by the end of the second weekend grossed over $246 million, putting it as the most successful movie in the X-Men series and most successful movie release for all February, Winter, and President’s Day Weekends. It is also the number one R rated comic movie to ever come out, beating 300 and Watchmen.

Marvel has proved recently there is a market for R rated superhero content with the success of the Netflix series Daredevil and Jessica Jones. R rated superhero movies prior to Deadpool, however, have not always fared so well. Watchmen and Kick-Ass are liked by fans of their comics, but the general public did not go to see them. With the success of Deadpool on the heels of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, I expect to see a lot more R rated content for superheroes coming to the big screen.

I personally would love to see an R rated film of Batman’s The Killing Joke. Are there any characters or story lines you would like to see in R rated movies?


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