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What should Hollywood learn from the box office success of ‘Deadpool’?

Will 'Deadpool' lead to more interesting superhero movies, or just more R-rated violence?

 

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Feb 14, 2016   Updated May 27, 2021, 5:31 am CDT

Deadpool is making bank, breaking multiple box office records including best Thursday opening for an R-rated movie. It’s on track to have a better opening weekend than any of the main X-Men movies, a development that will surprise even the most ardent Deadpool fans. 

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As an obscene, blood-splattered superhero movie that doesn’t take itself remotely seriously, Deadpool is being heralded as a refreshing subversion of the genre. And since it only cost $58 million to make (a quarter of the budget for X-Men: Days of Future Past), Fox executives will be rubbing their hands in glee. Meanwhile, other studios are probably wondering if Deadpool‘s popularity heralds a new trend for comic book movies, and if so, what that trend actually is.

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Regardless of whether you enjoyed Deadpool (and many people won’t, thanks to its fratboy humor and gory violence), this could be great news for the superhero genre. It proves that comic book movies don’t have to target family audiences to make money, and that weird, niche characters can become massively popular among mainstream audiences.

What Hollywood will learn from this is another matter entirely.

Deadpool

From one angle, Deadpool is a huge win for mid-budget filmmaking, and an indication that studios should branch out beyond more traditional superheroes like Batman and the Avengers.

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On the other hand, Deadpool is nowhere near as rebellious or unusual as its fans like to think. It follows a very traditional origin story, and is basically a mashup between two well-established genres: violent action movies, and R-rated comedies with gleefully amoral protagonists. That’s unusual for a superhero movie, but the things that really make Deadpool stand out—its fourth-wall-breaking antics; its cult following among Marvel fans—are unique to the character. The question is, will Deadpool inspire studios to greenlight more esoteric, lower-budget comic book adaptations, or will it just mean we get more R-rated violence?

For comic book fans, the best result here would be a new interest in making movies about nontraditional superheroes. If Deadpool can get his own movie, why not a Jem and the Holograms-style adaptation of the X-Men pop star Dazzler? Or Squirrel Girl? Or a movie for Kamala Khan, a character who is both phenomenally popular and breaks from the traditional superhero mold? Over at DC, there’s Midnighter and his husband Apollo, a more mature twist on Batman and Superman. Or Swamp Thing, a comic that provides ample material for a smart, interesting horror movie with a powerful love story at its heart.

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Hopefully, Deadpool will lead to more than just an X-Force franchise.

Photo via Deadpool

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*First Published: Feb 14, 2016, 1:12 pm CST