Tuesday 23 February 2016

Riding the Deadpool Bandwagon (VOR)

Deadpool. It’s crude, explicit, irreverent and excessively violent. The script is witty, meta and pleasingly loyal to its existing fanbase. On top of all this, it’s garnered rave reviews from critics the world over. And guess what? We're doomed to witness a million more like it. 

Ryan Reynolds and Brianna Hildebrand in Deadpool
On a relatively tight budget of $58 million, the film has earned over $300 million in just its first week. It now holds the opening weekend record for an R-rated movie in North America, as well as the highest-ever February opening in Australia. It’s already surpassed the lifetime totals for much more accessible X-Men films like X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine.

Whichever way you cut it, Deadpool has been the smash-hit success story of 2016 so far. Despite being handed an R-rating by the MPAA (MA15+ here in Australia), the film has defied conventional logic to cause a huge stir amongst Hollywood suits on the lookout for the next ‘Big Thing’.

Which is why we’re guaranteed a thousand weak imitations in the next few years. Just this week it was announced that Hugh Jackman’s upcoming swansong as Wolverine will likely be rated R, and you can bet your butts that any potential superhero reboots on the horizon will be targeting a much more mature demographic as well – fancy another stab at Fantastic Four, this time with added swearing?

Chloe Grace Moretz in her breakthrough role as Hit-Girl
in Kick-Ass
The only problem is, studios are racing to green light likeminded movies without understanding what made Deadpool such a smash hit. It was original and refreshing. It might not be the best R-rated superhero film we’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly the biggest, brightest and broadest. It’s just the right amount of cheek, absurdity and violence to gel with its target audience. To put it simply, Deadpool was like catching lightning in a bottle.

Which is exactly why you can’t just take any superhero property and inject a bunch of swearing, sex and sass to replicate the success of Deadpool. That’s like throwing shit at the walls in the hope that it’ll stick. We’ve had R-rated comic book and graphic novel adaptations before Deadpool: 300, Watchmen, Sin City and Kick-Ass to name but a few. None of them enjoyed the same success as Deadpool, despite the fact they contained just as much nudity, gore and profanity. Clearly, the element that worked for audiences in Deadpool wasn’t just one thing, but many. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts, as it were.

Put simply, Deadpool worked because it was Deadpool. It was the perfect combination of character, writing and filmmaking to resonate with audiences. You can’t just replicate that in the same way that you can’t reproduce the magic of Guardians of the Galaxy or Kingsman by simply mixing in some wisecracks and 70’s disco (we’re looking at you, Suicide Squad).

We’ve seen this pattern in the past. Remember when the 3D visuals in Avatar blew our minds and everyone raced to convert their big budget blockbuster to 3D in post-production? Remember how abhorrent the VFX looked in Clash of the Titans or Alice in Wonderland as a result? It was like trying to watch the movie through a waterfall of tears.

If you've seen one, you've seen them all - Jennifer Lawrence
as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games
Or when Twilight sparked a deluge of weepy supernatural movies aimed at teens? Whether it’s mandating that all reboots be dark and gritty (such as The Dark Knight influencing Man of Steel and Fantastic Four) or inspiring a slew of post-apocalyptic young adult movies (much like The Hunger Games triggering Divergent and The Maze Runner) cash cows are rarely ignored in Hollywood, and Deadpool seems destined to be no different. You can almost hear a team of Hollywood execs flicking through a pile of obscure comic books right now in the hope of unearthing something they can spin into something ‘like Deadpool’.

In an extended post to his Facebook page, director James Gunn (best known for helming Guardians of the Galaxy) stated, “Deadpool was its own thing. THAT'S what people are reacting to. It's original, it's damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn't afraid to take risks.” And you know what? He couldn’t be more right. Rather than churning out a dozen more films like Deadpool, Hollywood needs to be praising the originality it displayed and looking for new, inventive ways to mimic that – without literally mimicking it. By rushing to make a bunch of films that are “like Deadpool”, they’re fundamentally misunderstanding what made the film such a hit with fans.

Gunn goes on to argue that, “for the theatrical experience to survive, spectacle films need to expand their definition of what they can be.” Spot on once again, Mr Gunn. We don’t need a string of pale imitations that all walk and talk like Deadpool – we already got that movie. It’s called Deadpool. What we need are more filmmakers that think and do like the filmmakers behind Deadpool thought and did. They took risks. They thought outside the box. They defied convention. Regardless of whether you liked or disliked the final product, you can’t deny that they didn’t come up with something different and refreshing.

This article was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.


  1. I shudder at what's to come after the success of Deadpool, but, as you say, it's to be expected. Somewhere I was reading comments where people were saying maybe they could re-edit Suicide Squad to an R, and it was laughable. Someone suggested adding curse words. Cause that's what we need, right?

    The good news of Deadpool's success, may be the telling of an original story that otherwise would have never seen the light of day. Sure, maybe we'll have to slog through a dozen knock-offs...but maybe it'll be worth it.

    1. Yeah, that's a bad call haha - Suicide Squad looks like a riot, and throwing in curse words for the sake of it isn't going to make it any better.

      That's a good point though - maybe one or two riskier projects will make it through because of the success of Deadpool. We'll have to wait and see I guess! :) Thanks for commenting buddy!



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