Cert: 15 / 108 mins / Dir. Tim Miller / Trailer
Deadpool is a success. The fact that I adore the film (even with its faults) has already been committed to the aether here and here, but it's fairly safe to say that with an IMDB score of 8.5, Metacritic's 8.5 and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 84% and 94% for critics and audiences respectively, it's been generally accepted as A Very Good Thing Indeed.
And so it has begun. The frantic scrabbling by the movie-studios and rights-owners to replicate the critical and commercial success of Deadpool*1. DC have brought Batman's standalone flick forward (although to be fair, this is also partially due to their uncertainty surrounding the upcoming Dawn Of Justice), Fox themselves have suddenly decided that the next needs to be R-rated (roughly equivalent to a 15 in the UK). And that's not even accounting for the slew of indie-clones which will surface on the bargain-shelves in no time at all. A hyper-sweary, hyper-violent comic-book movie from a major studio will change not only how the cinema-going public watches superheroes, but also the superheroes they're given to watch.
Whether he'll be a saviour or a destroyer, Deadpool is a game-changer.
And as Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn has already noted, this reactive attempt to ape the film's success will probably harm the genre far more than it will reinvigorate it. Writing-teams and studio-heads alike are now looking for the magic new ingredient that made Deadpool stand out. Was it the dry, self-referential humour? No, Guardians and Iron Man have that in spades. Was it an established fan-favourite character who nevertheless isn't beholden to a fifty year legacy of back-story interpretation? No, again Guardians of the Galaxy. Maybe it was the gleeful and wanton violence combined with self-aware analysis of the genre? No, Kick-Ass already went there back in 2010. Was it Ryan Reynolds, after all? With the best will in the world, no. It was the surprise. Not necessarily the audience's surprise - comic-book fans had been expecting great things anyway. More the surprise of an industry that a mainstream superhero flick with a character largely unknown to mainstream audiences could be so well received, especially when it's packed with the sort of content that makes the MPAA generally nervous. But it has been well received, with a sequel being green-lit before the movie even landed properly in theatres.
And it's this sequel which will carry the burden of expectation. After last year's Fantastic Four debacle, no-one would have batted an eyelid if Deadpool had failed to set the world on fire, but suddenly the bar has been raised. Fox are going to have to work far harder to top what they've given us this time if they're going to keep the goodwill of audiences and critics (exhibit a: the fantastic Kick-Ass vs the frustratingly derivative Kick-Ass 2, which recycled everything from its predecessor and brought nothing new to the table). 'More of the same' just won't do; although I expect the writing team capable of bringing us Deadpool in the first place to already be smart enough to know that. The real danger for the sequel will be studio-interference, as boxes are ticked and demographics are catered for.
The important thing to remember is that Deadpool wasn't successful solely because it had that R-rating. Sure, this particular film needs the rating to be what it is, but this worked because it's a great movie. Great movies (generally) succeed. The skill of the writers, performers and production and editing crews combined to made a great movie that (mostly) everyone enjoyed. Which is, generally speaking, the aim of everyone involved in the production anyway. And while it was fun to see severed limbs and heads flying away from torsos in this movie, what defined it more was the laughs that accompanied the whole thing. Comedy is way more subjective than action, so far harder to 'get right'. The occasional humour of the X-Men movies has always been patchy at best, so as Fox rush to make Wolverine's next outing "darker and edgier", they'd be wise to remember that while Batman benefited from this approach, Punisher and Ghost Rider certainly didn't.
Ultimately, the Deadpool wins because it was only ever trying to succeed on its own terms. And not giving a fuck was pretty high on that list of terms. This film had little to prove. Deadpool 2 on the other hand, could be a different matter entirely…
Superhero things, swearing, shooting.
Could well be.
Y'know what? I actually don't think there is.
Level 2: Deadpool stars Morena Baccarin, who appeared in Spy, as did Rose 'Dormé' Byrne.
*1 Although not, from what I can see, by Marvel Studios themselves. As an established and successful franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (ie the Avengers timeline) doesn't really need to chase fans at this point, and the Disney-ownership with its associated merchandising knows that nothing will be gained by suddenly having the heroes running around swearing (although this in itself was also highlighted to humorous effect in Age Of Ultron, where Captain America berated Iron Man over his potty-mouth).
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.