‘Deadpool’ Gives Superhero Franchise a Raunchy Twist

By Jack Young

Tim Miller instantly made a name for himself after his first full-length film Deadpool, which ended up being possibly the highest-grossing box office movie of the year earning over $600 million so far. The raunchy superhero movie stars a stellar performance by the quick-witted, sarcastic anti-hero, Ryan Reynolds. Reynold’s experience with superheroes prior to Deadpool is brief and unsuccessful, The Green Lantern (2011) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). That being said, Reynolds seems to have found a stride in this film being able to make fun of himself, his love interest and even the studios producing the movie, “I only ever see two of you here. It’s like the studio didn’t have enough money for anymore X-Men,” said Deadpool to Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the only two X-Men characters in the flick.

Part of the success of the movie has been the fact that it received an R rating, and took that opportunity head on. Between the liberal use of cursing and the gory deaths, the film made it very clear of its intention to push the envelope of superhero movies. When looking back, traditional superhero movies avoided getting too much into an R rating and even the ones that did were quite forgettable. Kick-Ass (2010) and Watchmen (2009) are the two most prominent R-rated superhero films in recent years and both were equally unimpressive.

The reason this particular superhero movie worked with an R rating is because it made a point of earning that rating. The ex-military, cancer-stricken, pseudo-hitman carries a certain chip on his shoulder that allows him to unsympathetically kill off anyone that stands in his way to reach Ajax, his arch nemesis that created the mutation where Deadpool’s cells grow back so fast. These merciless killings include interludes of commentary toward the audience that breaks the fourth wall on several occasions for example, “You’re probably thinking ‘This is a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a f—— kebab.’ Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story.” It’d be hard to say that other successful superhero movies would benefit as Deadpool did. If looking at, for instance, The Dark Knight (2008), Christopher Nolan isn’t interested in making the film an R-rated piece because the characterization of Batman isn’t to kill or curse and the Joker is almost more effective without cursing, but possibly the police officers could be more profane or the death of Harvey Dent could be more accurately depicted.

It’s safe to say there’s never been a superhero movie quite like Deadpool. The stylistic form of superhero film hasn’t been explored and Miller put a new touch on how to make a success out of experimental filmmaking. The unique relationships between Deadpool and the X-Men characters, his arch enemy, and the audience highlight how not everything has to be taken so seriously which contradicts the life and death matter of traditional superhero movies. The floating theme around Deadpool is that he doesn’t follow the usual rules that heroes follow. For instance, Deadpool doesn’t mind killing even the innocent to get what he needs, he doesn’t censor himself, and has an apathy towards societal norms. His character reminds the audience of Will Smith in Hancock (2008) or Hugh Jackman in the X-Men series. Although neither of them pulled it off at the same caliber as Reynolds. The sarcastic, unremorseful actor seemed to effortlessly portray an everyday guy that sticks up for the little people.

After the closing credits, Deadpool returns to the screen to promise that there will be a sequel of the film. During the last scene Deadpool uses the help of a couple X-Men characters to murder Ajax and save Vanessa, who should turn out to be Copycat. Before they defeat Ajax, Colossus makes Deadpool promise that he’d consider joining with them if they help him, reluctantly he does. That being said, is it possible for Deadpool’s sequel to include the merger of him with the other X-Men? Then how would their two worlds collide of Deadpool’s understanding that he’s being played by an actor and the traditional idea that the characters don’t acknowledge that they’re in a movie? If the films do merge there will also be the controversy of whether or not it’d be an R-rated movie, it’d make sense to keep the rating and just have the X-Men characters condemn Deadpool for his language and actions. There’s definitely a lot to figure out in the next upcoming Marvel flicks, but what’s even more interesting is the route Miller could take from here. Miller is still a new director and has such an unusual genre-bending view that it’s difficult to say what’s in store. Whether he continues with pushing the envelope in more, bold twists on what audiences already love, or if he takes on new experimental directing and writing will be clearly outlined in his next work.

So where does this leave the next big superhero movie of 2016, Suicide Squad? The director, David Ayer, knows exactly what he’s doing which is obvious when looking at his previous films like Fury (2014), End of Watch (2012), and The Fast and Furious (2001). Undoubtedly, Ayer is looking at the success of Deadpool, but in whatever direction he goes the film should be a success. It’s still tough to say what will come of the Jared Leto’s new Joker, but the academy-award winning actor should bring a refreshing twist on the insanity of the comic book character. As of late, Suicide Squad producer, Charles Roven, says that Warner Brothers has no intention of making the film an R-rated production.

Jack Young can be reached at jack.young@spartans.ut.edu.

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