Originally posted by Dan Allanson
Viewpoint – X Men to X rated?
With the massive and partially unexpected success of 20th Century Fox’s R-rated superhero behemoth Deadpool ($363 million and counting) Hollywood is looking to transform its comic book franchises from mild mannered fun for all the family back to the violent and profanity laced forbears from whence they spawned. The third instalment of the Wolverine series is already being touted by studio insiders as a more adult take while Warner Bros are on the verge of releasing Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice : The Ultimate Edition – a rumoured darker (if at all possible) and violent attempt on the bloated original.
It is worth noting that prior to the Superhero genre being en vogue, the first comic book adaptation of the new wave was Blade – a Marvel property released a full 2 years prior to the first X-Men film. Like Deadpool, the character of Blade was a no nonsense, violent anti hero though admittedly with a lot less to say. The films success can certainly be put down to filmmakers free of the shackles of studio tinkering. No New Line executives waited in the wings to veto a moment too violent for the audience – no corporate sponsor to demand certain dialogue flourishes be removed to obtain a PG13 rating. Although a moderate success, Blade continued its template in a further two movies (the excellent Guillermo Del Toro directed Blade 2 and Ryan Reynolds audition tape for Deadpool, Blade Trinity).
Indeed journeying further back, Tim Burtons Batman brought the brooding to a comic book character who had previously been seen on screen as a quipping pantomime hero. Burtons trademark dark and interesting take proved box office gold and the die was cast. The grey tights (and shark repellent Bat spray) were tossed to the winds and replaced forever with black rubber. Batman Returns took things even darker than its predecessor and earned a backlash from concerned parents for its violent and sexually suggestive nature. The success of the darker interpretation of the Bat of Gotham and its sequel inspired several other more adult orientated superhero films to follow. Cult favourite Darkman was one such example, excellently blending the Universal studio horrors of the early 20th century with a superhero origin story. Starring Liam Neeson and directed by Sam Raimi, Darkman exceeded studio expectations and trebled its budget in worldwide gross.
More recently criminally overlooked Watchmen took on the mantle of the R rated superhero movie. Slavishly loyal to the immensely popular graphic novel by Alan Moore, Watchmen wove a complex, multi character tale of murder, sex and intrigue all under the stylistic flourishes of Zack Snyder. Snyder attempted to repeat the trick with this years eagerly anticipated Batman vs Superman. Here unlike the characters of Blade, The Crow or Darkman, Snyder and the films screenwriters Chris Terrio and David Goyer took a family friendly icon in Superman and a toy merchandising juggernaut in Batman and pitched them in a battle often too convoluted and confused for a mainstream audience. Snyder appears to be attempting to rectify the mistake with a longer and apparently more hard hitting cut soon to be released on blu ray. The recent Daredevil series on Netflix threw off the shackles which grounded its silver screen bigger brother and gave us a brutal, crunching depiction of not only Daredevil but also the often maligned Punisher – delighting fans as it did.
Of course a superhero film does not have to include the gratuitous violence, language and sex of a Deadpool or Watchmen to be considered a commercial and critical success. Deadpool in particular was successful because it stayed true to its comic book origins – warts (or facial disfigurement) and all. The recent Fantastic Four reboot strayed from its roots in search of a darker and more modern take and ultimately failed. The recent Dark Knight Trilogy and fantastic Captain America Civil War have proved that filmmakers can strike the right balance between a compelling, serious narrative and the popcorn thrills of a blockbuster summer movie. The superhero film should stay loyal to the content which brought it to the silver screen in the first place – dark or light. Let Ant-Man bring the laughs, Guardians of the Galaxy bring the Sci Fi and let Deadpool slice and curse breaking the forth wall as it does so.
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