Fandango released the results of a poll they conducted that found an astounding 71% of those surveyed say that more superhero movies should be rated R, while 86% were eager to see more violent, adult superhero films. You can chalk this up to the “Deadpool Effect.” (of course, you can also chalk it up to the fact that those surveyed were trying to get tickets to Logan, 20th Century Fox’s latest R-rated superhero romp). Last year, Ryan Reynold’s hilariously foul-mouthed, R-rated Deadpool stormed the box office, racking up a massive $132.4M domestic opening before going on to a total stateside take of $363M and $783M globally. Bam! Numbers like those don’t just happen in a vacuum, and Fox executives perked up to the prospect of minting even more adult superheroes.
After that giant haul, pundits, consultants and publications fell all over themselves trying to figure out why Deadpool connected in such a giant way. At the time, we collected some of their musings. For example, Vince Mancini, a writer for the website UPROXX, thinks that fans flocked to Deadpool specifically because it was rated R. “With Deadpool, not only did it go huge while being rated R, it went huge largely because it was rated R. The R rating proved to fans that it was serious, and while I don’t think what comic book superfans think matters nearly as much as studios think it does, Deadpool‘s R-rating helped differentiate it at a time when just being a superhero movie is no longer that big a deal.”
Which brings us to Logan…According to Deadline’s Thursday night reporting during Logan previews, “Tonight, Logan hits screens at 7 PM in what will be the largest R-rated release ever in an estimated 4,071 theaters. Fandango already reports that outside of Deadpool, the advance ticket sales for Logan are besting all other X-Men films at similar points in time.” Read more >>>
Industry watchers (who the heck are those people?) expect Logan to gross at least $65M domestically and maybe $170M globally. Currently, Logan is sitting somewhere between 93% and 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews calling it one of the best films of the year, superhero or otherwise. People seem to like what they’re seeing. And what, exactly, are they seeing? Well, the film has escalated violence, potty-mouth language, and some nudity — in other words, the perfect ingredients in an R-rated recipe.
In an interview with Variety, Director James Mangold says the film’s violence and salty language — which is mostly to blame for the R rating — is integral to the story and not just a let’s-be-like-Deadpool stunt. “[Violence is] central to the entire story of this character,” Mangold says. “One thing has been essentially true about Logan through his comic book and movie history, which is that he is carrying a ton of shame on his back about dark deeds he did when he was younger, when he was a drug-pumped killer. In the metaphor to the western, he was a gunslinger. A lot of people were hurt and they weren’t all guilty. It wasn’t always the justified death. I think that’s something that has been played with throughout comic book history, but the idea for me of this character coming to terms with his life in a final film seemed necessary, to go deeper into his odd relationship with violence.”
Any fan of the Marvel Netflix shows knows that superheroes mixed with adult themes/action can turn out very well (the first season of Daredevil is much better than the second, in my opinion). Although, it’s fair to say that although the Marvel shows are pretty mature, they’re not quite dropping too many F-bombs or boob shots…. but they do have their fair share of sex scenes (one episode of Jessica Jones was almost like watching the old Red Shoe Diaries on HBO).
So should future superhero movies just slap on an R rating, add some boobs and guts, and watch the money roll in? NO NO and again I say NO. This is just simply lazy thinking! Deadpool wasn’t good because of the R…. it was good because it’s GOOOOOOD. Quality films find an audience, whereas stupid, schlocky films die a bloody, undignified death. It sounds like Logan is a phenomenally good film that I can’t wait to see. Whereas Suicide Squad was….. well, let’s not open that can of worms again.
I’m not against the R rating for films, but don’t let that be a crutch. Because if that’s the case, we’ll end up with a whole lot of R-rated films, with most of them being dumb. And let’s not forget, when it comes to the biggest, most profitable superhero films, the PG-13 rating still reigns supreme. Why is that? Because studios aren’t dumb. They know that the primary market for these films is still teen boys. A quick look at the top 10 superhero films of all time shows that nine of them are rated PG-13, whereas only one (Deadpool) cracked the R ceiling.
$623M – Marvel’s The Avengers
$534M – The Dark Knight
$459M – Avengers: Age of Ultron
$448M – The Dark Knight Rises
$409M – Iron Man 3
$408M – Captain America: Civil War
$403M – Spider-Man
$373M – Spider-Man 2
$363M – Deadpool (only R-rated film in top 10)
$336M – Spider-Man 3
Our conclusion: Make great superhero films. If it needs to be R, then let it be R. But don’t be constrained to make something R if it doesn’t need to be. Deadpool HAD to be R. Perhaps Logan too. But Civil War and Iron Man were perfect as-is. Same with Dark Knight. Same with Iron Man 3. Yo, Hollywood, just worry about making it good. Not about “making it R.”
As always, though, I’m open to the possibility I may be wrong. Doesn’t happen much, but I’m open to the possibility.