There is a brilliant revolution happening right now in the world of superhero cinema. It is called Deadpool. As the film begins, opening credits roll out, you can feel the anticipation building up, all the fears you had about the movie being overhyped due to a massive marketing campaign totally melting away.
In the opening scene, Deadpool is sitting on an overpass, waiting to ambush some enemies. He directly addresses the viewers, breaking the fourth wall : ‘Oh! Oh, hello! I know, right? Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my own movie? … I’m not going to name names, but it rhymes with Polverine.’
If you are not aware what the ‘4th wall’ is, in theater-nerd speak, it once referred to the imaginary boundary at the front of the stage. In Deadpool comics, our anti-hero is aware that he is a comic book character and regularly mentions this, talking directly to the readers. Also, if you have been totally living under the rock, the movie being referred in the dialogue is the first Wolverine film starring Hugh Jackman, in which the Deadpool character (also played by Ryan Reynolds) had his mouth actually all sewn up!
It is precisely at this moment when you realize that this R-rated meta-humor infused superhero flick is going to be a rip-roaring ride. And oh, how it delivers! Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson (Deadpool), a foul-mouthed wisecracking mutant mercenary having superhuman swordsmanship and athleticism, incredible regenerative powers and who partakes in repartees and gory carnage with equal elegance.
Given its budget of $58mn, Deadpool is having a blockbuster run at the box office, grossing $172.4mn in North America and $153mn in international markets to a worldwide total of $325.4mn (as of February 17). It has broken several box office records, with a worldwide opening of $264.9mn from 62 markets, the biggest for an R-rated film, as well as the biggest IMAX 2D worldwide opening of all time with $27.4mn from 606 IMAX theaters, surpassing The Dark Knight Rises ($23.8mn). A sequel has been already announced.
The astounding success of Deadpool may just change how Marvel or DC take a future approach towards superhero movies. Here’s how:
Conventional wisdom in Hollywood states that if you are making a comic book-adaptation, do it in confines of the PG-13 rating, because you can’t risk alienating the younger viewers (considered to be the core base for such films). However if you peruse social media chatter today, it is all agog about seeing a ‘different superhero’ movie, which unabashedly remains faithful to its source material and is not loath to show gratuitous violence, as well as adult scenes and dialogues in a superhero movie. Nerds are even saying that it is their favorite superhero movie ever just because it is so bloody damn entertaining.
Superhero movies to become funnier?
Well, actually it all depends on the kind of superhero movie that is being made. If you are making a Batman movie, then steering away from the grim and foreboding tone that is seen in the comics would be a fatal mistake. Christopher Nolan was aware of this and gave us what is perhaps the best superhero movie trilogy in the history of cinema (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises). But more often than not, filmmakers follow the same ‘dark and gritty’ template with almost all superhero movies, which has led to fatigue among fans. Of course, an Avengers or X-Men movie will do great business any day, but the repetitive nature fails to evoke interest, and the films get dismissed as another tedious sequel (or prequel) cashing on in the lucrative superhero movie world. A few glimpses of humour can be seen every now and then (like in the Iron Man movies), but most of them have a serious tone. In Deadpool, you have something very different- raunchy, irreverent, meta humor, filled with pop culture references that has been very positively received by fans. This will certainly get movie studios thinking whether to adapt future movies to a funnier tangent.
Popular characters are better
Deadpool is one of Marvel’s highest selling heroes, and the Merc with a Mouth is widely considered to be one of the most popular comic-book characters to have been created in the past 25 years. Why was a Deadpool movie put on hold for such a long time, you may ask? That is because movie studios have this strange affliction of recycling superheroes again and again just because they are more established and will mean more tickets. Just count the number of movies the Big Three- Superman, Batman, Spiderman (that’s what I call them. These are the behemoths of the superhero world) have been in. Due to this, popular characters such as She-Hulk, Squirrel Girl, Moon Knight, Hawkeye (yes, he doesn’t have a movie yet, despite being portrayed so efficiently by Jeremy Renner in both Avengers movies) and Ant-Man (oh hold on, he just got a movie) have not been yet seen on the big screen. With Deadpool, all this will probably change and we may finally get to see more popular comic book characters in superhero flicks.
Deadpool may open whole new R-rated universe
Iron Man once became a springboard figure to launch an entire new assemblage of characters. Imagine the same in the case of Deadpool- an entire R-rated universe of comic-book adaptations tethered with the world of X-Men, as we saw the mutants Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the movie. This will open up a whole new world of possibilities and provide alternative superhero movie watching choices to fans.
Deadpool — as Iron Man once did — can now become the springboard figure for launching an entire new assemblage of characters. The Pandora’s box of R-rated comic-book adaptations within an interconnected universe is now unleashed. Deadpool is not only tethered to the X-Men universe, but also comics characters like the mutants Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Ryan Reynolds has himself stated: ‘ If we’re doing a bunch more Deadpool movies, we’re really going to explore the X-Men a lot. We’ll see, and maybe X-Force — X-Force is my priority.’