Fans of Wade “The Merc With a Mouth” spent years pushing for 20th Century Fox to make a live-action Deadpool solo film starring Ryan Reynolds and drawing from the script draft by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland), before test footage for director Tim Miller’s vision of the project was leaked online in 2014. This proved to be the key development that helped the film on its journey to getting an official green-light, once Fox saw just how much demand there is for a Deadpool movie done right (read: not like the version of the character that Reynolds played in X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
Nevertheless, even the Merc’s most die-hard fans have been taken off-guard by the sheer success of the project – not only in terms of the film’s largely positive critical reception (read our review), but also its record-breaking opening weekend box office take, which set a new benchmark for the X-Men movie franchise in general… and yes, with an R Rating to boot. Naturally, this has fueled the discussion about not only what may come next for the X-Men film series (see that R-Rated X-Force movie that Reynolds hopes to make), but also the superhero genre in general.
Suffice it to say: Deadpool having grossed close to five times its $58 million budget during its opening weekend is a development that will have some effect on how studios approach upcoming superhero movie projects. However, the real lessons to take away here are far more universal (and useful) than “Make R-Rated superhero movies” or “Include fourth-wall breaking” (which is not to say either of those are inherently bad ideas, per se). Indeed, there’s one filmmaker who has summed up the lessons to be taken away from Deadpool as simply, well, “Be Yourself” and “Be An Original.”
After all, Deadpool, when you look below the “superhero origins movie” surface, actually has a unusual storyline for its genre. Namely, it’s a film that’s about a handsome guy who spends much of the film relentlessly pursuing another handsome, but evil, guy who made him ugly – in the hope of making the latter “cure” his bad looks, because the former believes his longtime girlfriend (Morena Baccarin) won’t love him anymore otherwise.
In other words, Deadpool is a superhero movie that leads by example; its protagonist spends the majority of the movie needing to learn the lesson that the film itself very much embodies, which is that you should be yourself and trust that the people who really care about you will love you for you… even if who you are is an immature, possibly insane, and now messed-up looking mercenary. It’s safe to say at this point that hardcore Deadpool fans by and large do, in fact, love the movie for exactly what it is – a sendup of superhero tropes filled with inspired gags and lowbrow humor – and that, in turn, studios would do well to take the same lesson to heart that Wade Wilson does in the movie.
That said, Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn has already expressed his concern that Hollywood will take the wrong lesson away from Deadpool‘s success – via his Facebook post, where he comments on (okay, rants about) a recently-published Deadline that claims that Deadpool is the first modern Marvel comic book movie adaptation that “pokes fun at itself”:
Let’s ignore Guardians for a moment, a movie that survives from moment to moment building itself up and cutting itself down – God knows I’m biased about that one. But what do you think Favreau and Downey did in Iron Man? What the f**k was Ant-Man??!
Come on, Deadline.
After every movie smashes records people here in Hollywood love to throw out the definitive reasons why the movie was a hit. I saw it happen with Guardians. It “wasn’t afraid to be fun” or it “was colorful and funny” etc etc etc. And next thing I know I hear of a hundred film projects being set up “like Guardians,” and I start seeing dozens of trailers exactly like the Guardians trailer with a big pop song and a bunch of quips. Ugh.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
Seeing as nearly sixteen years have gone by since Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine asked Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier “What do they call you – Wheels?” in director Bryan Singer’s X-Men, Gunn has a solid point about how short-sighted it is to insinuate that superhero films took themselves (and the tropes of their genre) seriously, prior to the release of Deadpool. Most comic book/superhero movies might not take their self-aware humor to the extreme that Deadpool does (with its “fourth wall within fourth wall” jokes), but self-deprecatory humor and winks to the camera are practically part of Marvel Studios’ film brand, like Gunn noted.
Heck, even a superhero film as brooding and straight-faced as director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel takes the time to include a scene where General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) is amused the first time someone refers to Kal-El as “Superman.”
While Deadpool might not be the first Marvel comic book film adaptation – released by either Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox, and/or Warner Bros. Pictures for that matter – to poke fun at itself, that doesn’t mean it didn’t bring anything new to the table. Indeed, as Gunn also noted during his Facebook post:
Deadpool wasn’t that. Deadpool was its own thing. THAT’S what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks.
Although Warner Bros. Pictures and DC are perhaps guilty of copying Marvel Studios’ approach to marketing Guardians of the Galaxy with their use of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the Suicide Squad trailer (as Gunn indirectly called attention to with his Facebook post), it seems fair to say that the real reason behind fan interest in Suicide Squad has more to do with the fresh material the film and writer/director David Ayer look to bring to the table – not because it “looks like Guardians of the Galaxy.” That’s not to say that future superhero films (Suicide Squad included) will, from now on, only seem promising if they go out of their way to have little in common with previous titles, such as Deadpool; after all, many fans are hoping that the latter film’s success leads to more R-Rated superhero movies being produced in the future in general (when that’s appropriate, that is) – and that isn’t something that, per se, goes against what Gunn is talking about, either.
In summation, the key thing that all forthcoming superhero/comic book films ought to take away from the success of Deadpool is simple: be your own inventive self, as basic as that advice may be. Whether that means being a western or even being a musical featuring superheroes for that matter, these future superhero movies should embrace Deadpool‘s general philosophy – that is, ask questions like “Should we be raunchier and/or funnier like Deadpool?” rather than “Can we make it raunchy and/or funny like Deadpool?” It’s worth noting that such an artistic philosophical approach also leaves plenty of room for variation, with regard to the tones that are embraced by future superhero movies. You can be as joke-y as Deadpool and/or Guardians of the Galaxy, or as “po-faced” as The Dark Knight and/or Man of Steel, so long as your filmmaking approach is thoughtfully conceived and planned out.
Gunn, in turn, concludes his own Facebook post and musings on the subject by acknowledging that some executives will no doubt take away the wrong lessons from The Merc With a Mouth’s success, but it’s those that learn the right lessons that will ultimately prove successful anyway:
So, over the next few months, if you pay attention to the trades, you’ll see Hollywood misunderstanding the lesson they should be learning with Deadpool. They’ll be green lighting films “like Deadpool” – but, by that, they won’t mean “good and original” but “a raunchy superhero film” or “it breaks the fourth wall.” They’ll treat you like you’re stupid, which is the one thing Deadpool didn’t do.
But hopefully in the midst of all this there will be a studio or two that will take the right lesson from this – like Fox did with Guardians by green-lighting Deadpool – and say – “Boy, maybe we can give them something they don’t already have.”
And that’s who is going to succeed.
Deadpool is now in theaters; X-Men: Apocalypse opens on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants and Deadpool 2 are also in development.
Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, DEADPOOL tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.
The film is directed by Tim Miller, from a script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Ryan Reynolds stars, along with Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Yorick Van Wageningen, Gina Carano and Brianna Hildebrand. Producers include Simon Kinberg, Reynolds and Lauren Shuler Donner.
Source: James Gunn