Unless we’re talking about “The Dark Knight,” every superhero movie is made with one sole purpose: money. Box office ticket stubs are the only thing that matter to studio executives when they sign up to invest in the newest feature film from Marvel or DC film studios. Some of the directors may say that they wish to reach new narrative grounds for a superhero film, but at the end of the day, whether they do or not will not largely affect the success of the film. Get a well-known superhero, a relatively famous cast, and some grand special effects sequences and you’re guaranteed at least $400 million in box office rewards. Besides “The Dark Knight” which redefined the concept that a superhero movie could also work as a complex crime noir, no other superhero film has contributed greatly to the history of cinema, and it doesn’t appear that any will any time soon. Some will argue that “The Avengers” changed cinema history by interweaving multiple story arcs, but that’s not special. The comic book did it first.
Since all superhero movies are just means to generate obscure amounts of profits, the ideal rating for all superhero films is PG-13. All the new wave Marvel films and superhero movies of old are either rated PG-13 or PG; it is incredibly rare to see an R-rated superhero film. There are a few exceptions to this rule. “Watchmen” was given an R-rating and the same with “Kickass,” but “Watchmen” is based off a very violent graphic novel and “Kickass” uses its violence as an added form of parody to enhance to comedic undertones of the film. Even then, “Kickass” only made $96 million at the box office and “Watchmen” made $185 million, probably because it had such a strong fan base from the graphic novel. These numbers aren’t bad per say, but compare that to the fact that “Ant-man,” which is one of the lesser Marvel films, pulled over $500 million at the box office and the difference between R-rated and PG-13 rated films becomes evident. “Captain America: The Winter Solider” made over $700 million and “The Avengers” made over $1.5 billion worldwide. PG-13 films make more money than R-rated films, meaning it would be stupid for a company to turn their current superhero flick into a violent R film and risk losing that money.
“Deadpool,” however, has done something unprecedented. As of February 16th, less than a full week after its release, and “Deadpool” has already managed to earn just under $300 million at the worldwide box office, with $163 million of that coming in the United States. It’s on course to overtake some PG-13 rated superhero films and will set records for highest grossing R film before it’s time in the theaters is done. “Deadpool” has the potential to single-handedly change superhero movie history by showing that it is possible for a film to be rated-R and still make large sums of money at the box office. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an increase in the amount of R-rated superhero movies over the next few years after the final box office numbers for this fowl-mouthed, blood-spewing action film are recorded.
Looking back at previous superhero films and one dud that could have been salvaged by a change in mindset is “X-men Origins: Wolverine.” While there were many things wrong with this film, one of the worst things about it was the vast amount of violence that was made to look unrealistic by the decision to show no blood in order to protect that precious PG-13 rating. Back when the film was released, it was normal to assume that the film would’ve made less money if it had been transformed into an R, essentially wiping out large audience demographics. If the film were more open to the idea of having an R-rating, then maybe we would have had a gritty and more thrilling experience than what we actually had. The same goes for the upcoming film “Suicide Squad.” The trailer looks dark and alluring, but it was recently announced that the film would be rated PG-13 instead of the R that so many people, myself included, were hoping for. We have yet to see it, but it may be a film that would be more enjoyable with the freedom that comes with having an R-rated film. Hopefully the success of “Deadpool” will change this perception that all superhero movies need to be rated PG-13 in order to make more money, and we will start getting movies that have a grittier and more impressionable effect on the viewer.
“Deadpool” is in theaters now across the country