Deadpool is the most commercially-successful film of 2016 to date. Since debuting in February, the X-Men comic book-based movie has earned $358 million at the domestic box office - $60 million more than even DC Comics blockbuster Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - despite revolving around not only a character who was far less of a mainstream name than other superheroes, but only one of them. Moreover, Deadpool is now the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.
Deadpool’s success can be attributed to its fun, breezy tone, a charismatic and redemptive lead performance from Ryan Reynolds, and standout action sequences. Another positive element of the film was its nontraditional method of storytelling, including lots of flashbacks. It has now come to light in public that Deadpool almost didn’t have its effective nonlinear narrative structure, due to pressure from 20th Century Fox.
At a press event this week to promote the upcoming Blu-ray release of Deadpool, the film’s producer Simon Kinberg, director Tim Miller, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and Reynolds as well as his costar T.J. Miller, told some stories about the lead-up to the film’s release, as well as exactly how much they saw its massive success coming. As reported by Deadline, one concern was that Fox asked if the film’s narrative could be made more linear. As Miller put it:
“The [studio] note that frightened me the most was, ‘We should make this linear.’ The story was always this fractured narrative, and to be honest, it’s a pretty simple story. To tell it linearly would not make that exciting of a movie.”
Miller added that they went so far as to cut a linear version of Deadpool, but that the nonlinear final version ultimately carried the day, when it tested better with audiences. Footage was also filmed in 3D, although that wasn’t used in the final theatrical version either. It all represented the completion of a process described by Kinberg as having “a lot of anxiety, neuroses, and Judaism involved,” and one that led to global success that surprised even the movie's (generally confident) creators.
This story just illustrates how big a role arbitrary luck plays this sort of production. One test screening goes a different way, and maybe Fox goes with a different version of Deadpool - and maybe it’s not as financially successful (nor nearly as critically-acclaimed) as the movie that was ultimately released.
On the other hand, maybe the elements of Deadpool’s success had little to do with the narrative structure after all. It may have been the one that ultimately worked, but even a linear Deadpool would have had the performances, the humor and the action that make the theatrical version so popular with moviegoers of all shades. Still, it's an question subject to ponder.
Deadpool will be released on Blu-ray on May 10, 2016. X-Men: Apocalypse opens in theaters May 27th, 2016, followed by Wolverine 3 on March 3rd, 2017, and unannounced X-Men films on October 6th, 2017 (possibly Gambit), January 12th, 2018 (possibly Deadpool 2), and July 13th, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.