Joe Lederer / Twentieth Century Fox
Like a tornado of dick jokes tearing through a flyover state’s Walmart, “Deadpool” slammed into the box office, breaking the record for an R-rated opening weekend and undoubtedly bustling up sales of Hello Kitty backpacks nationwide.
It’s a surprising result for a superhero movie both based on a character that isn’t widely known outside dedicated Internet comic fans and aimed at an older (though no less gleefully immature) audience.
It’s no secret that superhero blockbusters hit a saturation point. The “Star Wars” brouhaha in December did its part to temporarily loosen the death grip comic book creations have had on the silver screen over the last few years, but the opening of “Deadpool” shows the trend hasn’t fully worn out its welcome.
But what does an unapologetically crass and hyper-violent blockbuster mean for the future of the genre?
Answering that question first requires a look at what “Deadpool” actually was: a faithful recreation of the source material and a direct response to fan feedback. From leaked test footage two years ago that sent web dwellers into a tissy, the movie and its success have been shepherded along by excited forum posts.
Yes, it had decapitations and that darn handsome fellow Ryan Reynolds cracking wise, but those are more an accurate portrayal of the character’s tone rather than decisions shoehorned in at the last minute in hopes of creating something more “edgy.” Fans who’d been following the movie through its development hell recognized this and reacted with a tidal wave of butts in theater seats when the time came.
The movie shouldn’t be viewed as breaking new ground or indicative of a new rise of R-rated superhero flicks any more than “Blade” was in 1998, “Wanted” was in 2008 or “Kick-Ass” was in 2010. Some clones are sure to follow along behind the merc with a mouth’s strong opening weekend in hopes of making a quick buck, but the same can be said for most record-breakers, regardless of genre.
And just because a barrage of jokes and fourth-wall breaking happened to work with “Deadpool” doesn’t mean the same conventions should be pasted into every upcoming comic book flick. If Professor X cracks a tampon joke at any point during “X-Men: Apocalypse,” chances are it’s not going to fly all that well with fans.
There’s a difference between “this character could be something people will watch” and “this character could be morphed into something people will watch.” It’s an important distinction, and one that the creators of “Deadpool” understood as they penned each gag and garrote. I’m hoping the lesson that studios take away from its success is not that more death and dookie translates to more tickets sold, but that caring for a character can earn the attention and excitement of fans.
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