First came Deadpool. Then came Logan. These two prominent superhero proved that superhero flicks can get ultra violent, gory and where the heroes can spew a lot of profanity but still make it big at the box office. This should be a good thing and be celebrated because Hollywood finally took the big leap and found out that is it possible for Rated-R films with comic book heroes to be both financially successful as well as critically acclaimed. However, this may actually lead to a potential problem down the line. Studio heads may look at these two films’ success and decide to follow suit. They may start to scrap their family friendly superhero movie plans and revamp them to cater to a more adult and “mature” audience because, hey, it worked before! If Deadpool and Logan can show extreme violence and swearing, why shouldn’t it work for whatever superhero franchise they currently own?
Now, I’m pretty sure Marvel won’t go this route as they already have a very specific formula for making movies and have been knocking it out of the park practically ever since they started. The same thing, however, can’t be said for the other movie studios that are just struggling to release a hit and may be desperate enough to follow suit. There’s a real danger with studios like 20th Century Fox (who just so happened to produce Deadpool and Logan), Sony and even Warner Bros. They may think that they didn’t push the envelope far enough with Fant4stic, Amazing Spider-Man and Man of Steel/Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice/Suicide Squad and plan their future films to be all dark and gritty. Which, by the way, the DC Extended Universe already kind of is but just hasn’t been pushed into the level of what Deadpool and Logan did.
That’s just the way popular media is made nowadays: they see a trend and they try to copy it. It’s like when there was all of a sudden an overabundance of fighting games when Street Fighter II came out. Or when comics tried to go all dark and gritty because Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight was an outstanding success. When Paranormal Activity was a surprise hit, we all of a sudden were knee deep in found footage horror films. Studio heads will take a casual look at what is currently making money and try to follow suit.
In fact, the current DC movie continuity is a precedent for this kind of thing because they’ve been copying the tone of another successful superhero franchise: DC’s very own Dark Knight Trilogy that Christopher Nolan made. Come to think of it, it seems like 20th Century Fox and Sony also tried to copy Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies as they both have a rather grim and dark tone to them. The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 tried to add some humor but it was still not as colorful as the Sam Raimi films. And Fant4stic was just… ugh.
The big problem here is that Hollywood just might look at the Rated-R rating and try to be all bloody disgusting because Deadpool and Logan were bloody disgusting… in a good way. But they’ll just do this without actually getting into the meat of the issue as to why it made sense to make these superheroes Rated-R in the first place.
Deadpool was violent and profanity filled because it suited the character. He’s the Merc with a Mouth and he’s supposed to swear a lot and he doesn’t care who’s watching him. He also wields two katana blades which he routinely uses to main and maul his opponents and targets. In short, he kills people and he’s got a potty mouth and he’s not bashful about it. So, if he didn’t do what we expected, the film wouldn’t be as good as it was.
Logan is a different case, however. We all know Logan from the X-Men films as well as his solo films. So why does a more violent Wolverine work? Well, it’s because he’s a notable anti-hero. Logan knows that he kills people and he knows he’s good at it. Heck, he acknowledges it almost proudly as his kind of catchphrase. He’s killed people before and, with the world that’s presented in Logan, it feels only right that he returns to his more violent roots. Logan in the film is a battered man and has no allies to help and support him anymore. His healing factor is almost drained so he’s now actually fighting for his life. It seems only fitting that he actually uses his razor sharp claws to slice and dice anyone that tries to get in his way. So, with this feeling of desperation, the grittiness and the violence suits the rather depressing tone of Logan and the Rated-R rating makes sense.
You have to remember that these guys are brutal killers so it makes sense for them to kill. They’re not exactly heroes; they’re anti-heroes. They’re not fighting for moral convictions. They’re doing it because for rather self-serving reasons (like Deadpool wanting revenge) of self-preservation (in the case of Logan). They don’t have a code of honor to uphold when they take on their foes. They’re not supposed to fight for truth, justice and the American way. No, they have to kill or they get killed. They know they’re killers and that’s why it makes sense to load up their movies with the blood, guts and limbs spraying all over the screen.
But this doesn’t work with other heroes. The Fantastic Four aren’t killers. Not if they can help it anyway. The same thing can be said about Superman and, if there is a character that actually has the power to kill anyone, it would be some alien superpowered freak that can burn you alive just by looking at you! Even with Batman, who’s probably the closest one you can think of that wouldn’t have a problem with killing, it just doesn’t seem right if he starts throwing Batarangs at criminals and intentionally aiming at their carotid arteries to drop them right then and there. These are heroes that still have a moral code that they follow and part of that code is not to kill.
I can still remember the huge outcry from fans when Superman broke Zod’s neck in Man of Steel. Not many people liked that scene because it didn’t match Superman’s morality. But, if DC decides to copy what Deadpool and Logan did, I kind of expect to see the Man of Steel do some really heinous acts on a more routine basis in the future.
I will say there are going to be room for PG superhero movies as well as the more violent Rated R superhero movies. But just because Logan and Deadpool made it big, that doesn’t mean that every superhero film has to follow suit and be all violent. It has to work within the context of the film. It has to match the tone of the hero and the reason why they actually fight crime. There is going to be room for both.
What other superhero characters other than Logan and Deadpool would work in a Rated R film? Let me know in the comments section below!