In the last two years, 20th Century Fox has found tremendous success breaking away from the norm in the realm of comic book movies. Both Deadpool and Logan are uncompromising R-rated adaptations (in their own unique ways) that earned widespread critical praise and broke box office records. Time will tell if Logan can replicate Deadpool‘s surprising success on the awards circuit, but there’s no denying the two films are massive hits for the studio, proving that audiences will turn out en masse for more adult-orientated superhero fare.
By tapping into an underserved corner of the market, Fox seems to have found their niche in order to stand out from other major franchises within the genre. The R rating should be back in full effect when Deadpool 2 opens, and many are now curious to see how often the filmmakers will go back to that particular well. From the sound of things, instead of leaning on the R classification as a crutch, the creative team is going to explore the possibilities on a case-by-case basis.
Speaking with /Film, series producer Simon Kinberg addressed the topic of future R ratings in the X-Men universe, explaining the behind-the-scenes process to determine which films get what rating:
I think that each movie, we figure out what the story is, then we figure out the requirements of the story, and if the requirements of the story are R-rated, it’s R-rated. We don’t go into movies saying, this one’s gonna be R-rated, this one’s gonna be PG-13, we don’t make those decisions before we make the decisions of story. My instinct is that the Deadpool universe, which is Deadpool 2 and potentially X-Force, they require being R-rated, because that’s just Deadpool’s voice in the comic, and it’s Deadpool’s voice in the movie so far. I think audiences would be disappointed if they got a PG-13 Deadpool movie. So my easy bet would be Deadpool 2 is R-rated and most movies within that sort of shared but separate universe would be likewise.
This is ultimately the best way to handle the property. Even though Deadpool and Logan were acclaimed, that doesn’t mean Fox should start forcing R ratings just because. Telling the strongest story is what’s more important, and some narratives are better suited for PG-13. For instance, it’s hard to imagine crafting the next installment in the mainline X-Men series (codenamed Supernova) for an R since that’s designed to be a more traditional four-quadrant studio tentpole that follows a trilogy of PG-13 movies. On the flip side, as Kinberg says, the expectation is for Deadpool 2 and X-Force (which is essentially Deadpool 3) to go for the hard R in keeping with the established brand. It’s smart to let the script dictate the rating, not the other way around. Being “edgy” for the sake of it isn’t always wise.
The good news here is Fox will not overuse the R rating and only incorporate it when it’s appropriate. In a way, they’re letting the director’s vision take shape first and figuring out the rest later. From an artistic perspective, this is usually a good recipe that yields excellent results. Tim Miller and James Mangold both had all the freedom they could ask for when crafting Deadpool and Logan, respectively (complete with minimal studio interference), so it’s safe to say Fox has a good handle on things. The X-Men franchise has seen plenty of ups and downs over the past 17 years, but now the mutants are in the midst of a resurgence at the multiplex.