What can Deadpool teach Hollywood?

After what had to be one of the most genius and drawn out promotion campaigns in recent memory, Deadpool had been projected to make around $55-65 million by Fox in its opening weekend. Other studios guessed at around $80 million, but even they were way off.

Deadpool has rocketed to almost $680 million in less than a month, breaking more than 20 box office records along the way. It earned over $132 million over on its opening weekend, better than any other R-rated movie or any set in the X-Men universe. Even the most die-hard fans could not quite believe what was happening. Deadpool has exceeded practically every expectation.

Now the dust has almost settled, the storm has passed and the chimichangas have been made, Hollywood can scratch its head and work out exactly what made Deadpool such a hit. With an onslaught of comic book movies coming out yearly, and as they remain an audience favourite, people are trying to crack the formula for the same level of audience approval that Deadpool seemed to hit on the head.

This is especially fascinating, as other comic book adaptions have tried and failed to achieve what this film has done. Watchmen, Dredd and The Punisher have tried and failed to galvanise the public with more mature content. In fact, not since RoboCop almost 30 years ago has an R-Rated film generated such popularity and fanaticism. But how has one of Marvel’s B-List heroes achieved this almost out of the blue?

Well, first of all… surprise! Adults like comic book movies just as much as kids. Superhero movies are almost exclusively 12As in Britain and PG-13s in America so kids can be herded into the theatres to gawp at their cosplay idols. No attention is paid to the adults, who are probably as excited to see the movie as the children in their care. The financial safety of lower ratings has to be measured against the lucrative potential of higher ones.

It dared to be more mature; not just in its content but in its messages too (disability is a repeated theme in the movie). Fox has suddenly attracted a whole new demographic which left school some time ago, but still have a Spider-man dressing gown and Hulk-fists with sound effects stashed away in their cupboards.

Second, as the great Mr. Pool says himself, this is no superhero movie. Right from the off, Deadpool established its own identity and its own way of doing things which is so far detached from the–one-size-fits-all model seemingly established by Avengers: Assemble. Its not that these films are terrible – but they are standardised.

Deadpool’s writer, Rhett Reese, told Cinemablend that “I think more than anything, you know, I think it’s going to allow people, allow studios and producers and directors and writers to take bigger risks with regards to the comics and the adaptations.” His film’s success is as good a reason as any to do so.

Also, Deadpool demonstrates that films do not need massive budgets or A-List casts to prove a hit – $58 million is really quite modest for a film like this one. Having a film that is more grounded and intimate really pays off (but not too intimate… we know what Deadpool is like). Other than Ryan Reynolds, and of course an obligatory cameo from Stan Lee, none of the cast are especially familiar. Nor are there the monstrous sky battles we see in Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which had budgets well over the $170 million mark – yet Deadpool still managed to out-perform both of those.

By breaking the fourth wall, engaging the audience and sharing little asides with them, Deadpool offered a much more stimulating experience than simply presenting the audience with a story totally detached from the real world. Expect to see more films adopt this technique, because when done right, it clearly works.

What’s most encouraging is that Marvel Entertainment and other big production companies appear to be listening. Wolverine 3, due to be Hugh Jackman’s last hurrah as Edward Scissorhands’s violent cousin, is as yet “unrated” – an R-rating is a distinct possibility given Deadpool’s good turn.

But most tantalisingly, alongside the theatrical release of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice later this month, an R-Rated extreme edition will be released on DVD at a currently unknown date. ‘The Deadpool Effect’ is clearly at work.

It will also put a smile on the faces of those working on other franchises and genres, as they finally have proof that mature films are more than worth the investment. The Alien and Predator franchises are getting reboots in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and like Deadpool, these guys have suffered poor representations recently in films unworthy of their immense status and fanbase. Yes it’s a different context (sadly, Captain America versus the Predator is unlikely to happen soon) but those working on films breaching the 12A barrier will still be re-invigorated by the success of this potty-mouthed mercenary. And studios should be listening harder to what they have to say.

Deadpool has achieved much more than just putting smiles on our faces. It has unlocked a whole new audience for production companies which everyone but them knows has been around for some time. It takes pride in its oddity, and should lead the way for a new wave of hero movies which will actually speak to adults on a real level, while still having us falling off our seats with maniacal laughter and blowing us away with great action scenes. The fallout from this film’s success won’t be known in full for another 2-3 years at least, but it is fair to say that film producers everywhere have had an epiphany regarding what we, as viewers, really want.

Good Deadpool.

 

Image: Vivian Ulhir

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