Unless you have been living under a rock over the last few weeks, you will have heard of a little comic book film called Deadpool being released in cinemas worldwide. Not only did the critics love it, but it was also received with a fantastic response from audiences, who flocked in their thousands to see Ryan Reynold’s take on the Merc with a Mouth.
On the surface, this shouldn’t be unexpected in a time when comic book movies are at the height of their popularity, especially when Deadpool was marketed strongly and uniquely in a way that truly tweaked audience’s curiosity. However, Deadpool is no ordinary comic book movie. It was produced specifically to be an R-Rated movie (That’s a 15, for us Brits) and R-Rated movies don’t have a very good track record when it comes to the box office. Most studios will mercilessly cut and censor a film until it becomes the more universally acceptable PG-13 (12A), because comic books are for kids and there definitely isn’t a market aiming these box office juggernauts at a more mature audience, right?
Wrong. Deadpool raked in a whopping $132 million in its debut weekend, which not only trumps every X-Men movie that has come before it, but is also the highest grossing opening weekend for an R-Rated movie – by a long way. This is an eye opening realization for big studios, who have learned that if you give more creative license to filmmakers producing R-Rated films and you put your full marketing strength behind that film, then your blood soaked, bad-mouthed movie will enjoy box office success. And due to Deadpool’s unprecedented success, you can bet that pretty much every studio pitch meeting will now start with the phrase “It’s an R-Rated take on…”, with 20th Century Fox’s risk paving the way forward for more successful mature films.
It didn’t take Fox long to follow up the news of Deadpool’s debut weekend with confirmation that the next installment in the Wolverine series is set to be R-Rated, allowing director James Mangold more creative freedom to show the true, extremely violent Wolverine that we know from the comics. The decision has elevated Wolverine 3 from the sea of comic book films that are being released in 2017, as it can stand apart from the crowd and boast something truly unique.
But why stop with just Wolverine 3? 20th Century Fox have an excellent opportunity to carve out their own recognizable brand of superhero films that stand out against the growing saturation in the market. At the moment their X-Men films are failing to stand up to Marvel and DC’s box office giants, but with boldness and the right direction Fox could become the studio that makes mature comic book films, that tackle gritty, real life problems that are deemed too heavy for the likes of Iron-Man or Superman. Superheroes tailored specifically for adults.
That’s not to say I want all future comic book films to be R-Rated, but with 26 comic book movies being released over the next 4 years, someone needs to do something different. Studios need to hold audience interest, and the genre is in clear danger of becoming stale and clichéd.