Let’s be honest: The comic book genre has reached a turning point. There’s simply no future for a genre that doesn’t change and evolve with the interests of its audience, and even one as lucrative as superheroes isn’t immune to this. Enter Deadpool this last February, and we see the beginning stages of this change. Years in the future, there’s a good chance that superhero movies will be divided into two categories: ones made before Deadpool and ones made after. The R-rated meta-comedy has forever shifted the landscape for the genre, and we’re already seeing the effects.
It’s stunning how fast Hollywood mobilized mere months after Deadpool hit theaters. But when it comes to making giant piles of money in a new, exploitable way, you can bet the film industry will come running. We’re beginning to see studios trying to replicate the success Fox had with the Merc with a Mouth, and almost no one has shied away from it. Top that off with DC just now launching its own cinematic empire, and we see comic book cinema in its biggest state of flux since the Iron Man. Take a look for yourself if you don’t believe us…
1. Batman v Superman‘s R-rated “director’s cut”
To understand the correlation here, we only need to look at the date this was announced. Deadpool released with an R-rating on February 12. Almost exactly two weeks of killer box office numbers later (February 23 to be exact), Warner “coincidentally” came forward with the news that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would feature an R-Rated director’s cut on the Blu-Ray release of the film. Despite the fact that the cinematic release stuck with its PG-13 rating, there’s no doubting that Deadpool‘s record-breaking opening weekend was at least a factor in the decision to bump the Blu-Ray rating up a notch.
2. Logan gets its own R-rating
Here’s where things get a little murky. 20th Century Fox went out on a limb when it green-lit Deadpool for an R-rating. Deadpool then became the highest grossing X-Men movie of all time. Two weeks later, Fox announces that Logan, due out March 3, 2017, would also be rated R. The caveat: Fox also insisted that the decision was not affected by Deadpool‘s box office success, citing the violence in Logan’s original screenplay. To some degree, yeah, Fox probably had a violent script on its hands from the very beginning. But there’s no way it didn’t immediately see green when Deadpool hit theaters, and an even smaller chance that there’s no correlation whatsoever.
3. Suicide Squad schedules last-minute reshoots
Violence and language wasn’t the only thing Deadpool proved the viability of in the superhero genre. More than that, it showed that levity can be an integral piece of the puzzle. Initially, DC’s Suicide Squad movie looked to follow a similar approach. But rumors started to fly that it was just as humorless as the poorly-reviewed Batman v Superman. Those poor reviews combined with Deadpool‘s success then led to a series of reshoots for David Ayer’s anti-hero team-up movie. The reshoots were estimated to run in the tens of millions, demonstrating the willingness to spend a whole lot of money to capture some of the magic of Deadpool.
4. DC dusts off its plans for a Lobo movie
While Lobo‘s original screenplay pre-dates Deadpool by almost half-a-decade, it’s a movie that only transitioned out of Development Hell after Fox’s release. Lobo is a character who in many ways mirrors the Merc with a Mouth. The biker bounty hunter is violent and crude, and for the longest time, DC wasn’t convinced that he was at all marketable. In a post-Deadpool landscape though, the studio now has Wonder Woman writer Jason Fuchs signed on to pen the new screenplay, for a movie that will almost undoubtedly earn itself an R-rating.
5. The superhero conversation has changed forever
If Fox accomplished one thing with its R-rated success story, it’s changing the entire conversation surrounding future films in the superhero genre. Every studio head now is forced to deal with two questions about coming projects: “Will it be R-rated?” and “Will it be funny?” Marvel head Bob Iger already answered the former, noting “we don’t have any plans to make R-rated Marvel movies.” As for the latter, it’s becoming more and more obvious that at least some humor is needed in order to ground the genre on a human level. Batman v Superman showed that a move in the opposite direction can have some dire consequences, making levity that much more important.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest