“Deadpool. Now that sounds like a f*cking franchise”.
Its unlikely T.J. Miller realised at the time how prophetic that fourth-wall break was going to be. After three weeks at the top of the box office and over $500 million worldwide, Fox is now likely to have noticed the literal goldmine they had been burying for years. But now that Deadpool has arisen from development hell, hungry for vengeance (and money) all of Hollywood has seen the shiny glint of profit hidden beneath his regenerating, cancerous skin. And that, my dear true believers, brings change.
But in order to look ahead to how superhero films could change, we must first look back the story of Deadpool itself. Like the titular Merc trying to commit suicide, most of Deadpool’s development history can be described as a long, futile effort with lots of screaming and little progress.
The first spark of a Deadpool movie comes from 15 years ago when Artisan Entertainment (which later became Lionsgate) announced a deal with Marvel Entertainment to distribute a film based on the hugely popular character. However that deal fell through (a recurring event you’ll discover) and it passed on to New Line Cinema who in 2004 stated they would pursue a Deadpool movie with David S. Goyer at the helm, and Ryan Reynolds starring as the titular anti-hero. Fast-track forward a year and once again development on the film had disintegrated after Goyer was allured away by other projects.
2005 rolled around, and Fox suddenly expressed interest in finally making this movie a reality. Unfortunately, they decide to instead test audiences through a first appearance in the colossal failure of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
To put it simply… this Deadpool sucked. Hell, it was barely even Deadpool. While he was played by Deadpool himself Ryan Reynolds (who was well aware of how pissed fans would be), the character (now dubbed Baraca-pool thanks to his resemblance with Mortal Kombat character Baraca), almost had nothing in common with the original character. He shot lasers from his eyes, had swords in his arms and most importantly had a sewn shut mouth. Bad idea for the Merc with a MOUTH.
That being said, the film was still a minor box office success and so Fox moved Deadpool into early production. But no, Deadpool was not out of the sh*tstorm yet. After changing directors three times and clashing with the studio over the rating, the movie once again dropped down to the depths of the development hell.
Until, however, the test footage leaked.
You see, before the film fell apart, Fox did provide a small budget to shoot a short snippet of test footage to represent the eventual final product of the film. Fox did not like it… But everyone else did. Not only did it perfectly fit the character’s comic roots (unlike freaking Baraca-pool), it was funny, brutal and just perfect for Deadpool. A mysterious do-gooder had decided to leak it to the public to let them decide and it was greeted with a resounding ‘hell yeah!’. Two months of public pressure later and the film was officially greenlit. After 14 years, Deadpool was finally a go.
And now we come to the present, where Deadpool has grabbed worldwide audiences by the balls. Launching from a perfect marketing campaign into an opening weekend of $135 million, making it the biggest R-rated and February opening ever, Deadpool is a bona-fide phenomenon. Not since The Avengers has a comic book movie both critically and commercially exceeded expectations. As a Deadpool fan myself, I loved it. No surprise a sequel has already been greenlit.
With a current rotten tomatoes rating of 83% and worldwide gross of over $500 million, Deadpool is not only a success, but is likely to have a massive impact on comic-book movies going forward. Which brings us to…
Simply put, Deadpool has proven that not only can R-rated superhero movies be done well, but they can be successful. Like Guardians of the Galaxy proved in 2014 that even obscure comic-book characters can be a hit, Deadpool has similarly opened so many new avenues for comic book movies. A shame for anyone feeling the oversaturation, but great news for comic movie lovers.
Think about this: an r-rated Lobo script passes the desk of a big Hollywood exec. Before Deadpool, his response would be: ‘R-rated superhero movies don’t work’. But after Deadpool: ‘There’s money-making potential here’. And at the end of the day (while that movie may not end up being good) the audience wins because we get to see more unique and genre-pushing superhero movies like Deadpool. It has opened the door for so many other comic book characters and ideas to be explored. The change isn’t going to happen overnight, and there are other factors to consider surrounding why Deadpool was a success, but it marks a significant milestone in Hollywood recognising the potential in those little paper books of colourful pictures.
That’s not to say that everything should become R-rated however. Hollywood loves to jump onto trends, and while it does open so many new avenues its also going to be followed by a lot of imitators. Better prepare ye self for a flood of films ‘like Deadpool’ that either break the fourth wall, has added raunch or is unnecessarily R-rated. That is going to lead to some poor imitators, but I doubt anything is going to hit the success of Deadpool itself.
So you could probably describe Deadpool‘s impact the same way you could describe his moral code. Mostly good, but still inconsistent and a little annoying.
After 15 years of Deadpool sitting alone and pissed in the pits of development hell, no one expected the ol’ Merc with a mouth to have the impact that he did. Soon to be the biggest R-rated release of all time, it ain’t long until Deadpool starts to have some ripple effects around the movie business.
And yes, Deadpool may just be another Hollywood hit that studios will ape for a few years before tossing aside when it doesn’t work for them. But at the same time, its also a superhero genre-buster that proves R-rated superhero movies can work. And for fans of comic-book movies, that is a possible game-changer.
Deadpool, you pioneering sexy Motherf*cker, I salute you.