The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby's musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Michael O'Sullivan's review, click here.
Biggest February opening. Biggest opening in the history of 20th Century Fox. Biggest opening for a first-time feature director. What everyone is focusing on, though, is that it’s the biggest R-rated movie opening of all time, and that has spawned a thousand musings (including an excellent one by “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn) on whether it’s time for more R-rated superhero movies. Already reports are out that Fox now wants to make the as-yet-untitled 2017 Wolverine movie stabby and vulgar enough to snag an R rating. Which is just … it’s just so [bleeping] dumb.
“Deadpool” needed a hailstorm of body parts and shock and awe levels of F-bombs to remain faithful to the source material, but that’s not the only reason the film included them. Profanity and violence are integral because it’s impossible to believe that in Wade Wilson’s world, fighting crime would come without shedding blood and breaking the third commandment a LOT. Sure, the Avengers can take down bad guys without anyone needing a Band-Aid, and Captain America is there to make sure everyone’s language never gets above PG-13, but that’s a pretty unbelievable standard. I can’t drive to work without a blasphemy here or there — or there again.
Still, the R stuff isn’t why “Deadpool” killed. You don’t rack up over $132 million in one weekend just by accurately representing a comic-book character who has (or had, now) relatively low name recognition when it comes to the general population. And no one went to see it simply because it features swearing, nudity, violence, dirty words, brutality, obscenities, Ryan Reynolds’ junk and some cussing.
So if Deadpool himself didn’t bring them in and neither did all the naughty bits, what did? This might be hard for many in Hollywood to grasp, but “Deadpool” did well because “DEADPOOL” IS A GOOD MOVIE, and word got out fast. Not that all good movies succeed, but “Deadpool” is a funny, smart superhero movie that nails all the best elements of the genre while mocking the stupid ones.
To look at the piles of cash it brought in and assume that director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick hit on some magical curse-based formula cheapens their work. If, in 2017, Wolverine is both dropping his pants and F-bombs while arterial spray rains around him, it won’t mean the movie is any good. It — and any other superhero movie, regardless of the rating — will succeed not if it imitates the quantity of R-rated material in “Deadpool,” but if it imitates the quality of everything else.
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