Leaking Deadpool test footage has ensured fans will either get the film they want or no film at all.
A man in a full body red suit (“that’s so bad guys can’t see me bleed”) jumps off a bridge into a 4×4 full of sunglasses-wearing bad guys, tells one of them, “I’m pregnant, Trevor”, before killing the lot of them, with his finale consisting of showing a drawing he’s made to a gun-toting biker, right as a prelude to cutting his head off. Meet Deadpool, self-deprecating vigilante, linguist, artist, connoisseur of fine leather, joker and all around douchebag exterminator; Rorschach with a sense of humour if you will. If you haven’t watched Deadpool’s little introduction, consisting of two-year-old leaked test footage, then you won’t have a clue who I’m talking about, but don’t worry.
The test footage has not only brought Deadpool widespread publicity, but wiped the idea of a PG-13 film out of existence
Plenty of others will have been in the same boat before seeing the footage, even though Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds, featured in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. With the footage now introducing people everywhere to Deadpool, it seems the ‘merc with a mouth’ is in line to get his very own feature film, with Mr Reynolds noting in October of last year that the green light seemed to have shone on the project, only talk was of it being a PG-13. As I write these words, I can see legions of fans of this character tearing out their hair at the thought of all the people who’ll be happily paying to see an emasculated version of their hero rough up a few bad guys in a way that doesn’t even leave any bruises.
Will this make a Deadpool film a dead duck, if it can’t be PG-13? Certainly, Thomas Roach writing on Flickering Myth argues along those lines. Not that he thinks there’s much point in making even that film for such a niche character. For Mr Roach, even the idea of simply adding in Deadpool alongside any of Marvel’s wunderkind for a collaborative effort seems to be on a loser, as this will mean the latter losing their golden sparkle. The test footage, having gone viral after its release at this year’s Comic-Con, has not only brought Deadpool widespread publicity (to the point where his niche status is now very much past tense), but seems to have taken any idea of a PG-13 Deadpool film and wiped it out of existence, with much the same speed as Deadpool dispatches his five victims.
This footage is, after all, going to form most people’s first impression of how a Deadpool film should look and feel. Anything less will ensure any potential franchise would be stillborn. Furthermore, it only alienates people. From then on, any other comic book characters making the transition to the big screen would be viewed, at best, with scepticism, since they would have gone through the Hollywood spin cycle of cleaning up/dumbing down. This would turn away those looking for edgier, riskier forms of entertainment and Hollywood, increasingly reliant not only on families and the Chinese to provide audiences, but also on one or two films to prevent summers being a cinematic washout full of huge losses, cannot afford to overlook the possibility offered by this market.
The release of the footage was a PR pre-emptive strike so any studio considering the project knows only an R-rated film will do
For the market exists. You only have to watch shows like Utopia, where a man whose throat has been cut staggers bloodily around his office, in perhaps the funniest murder scene of all time to realise that if you show it in a clever way, where the character stands out as more than just a blunt instrument, and the story comes across as thought-out rather than being entirely reliant on shock and awe to succeed, then people will watch it. Take Dredd as your example. As a film, it’s full of violence, with people being flayed, thrown from great heights to land with a bloody splat or else torn to pieces by Gatling guns, but has been critically lauded. It was made on a very small budget by Tinseltown standards (around £30 million), and did poorly at the box office only due to shoddy marketing and distribution strategies, but bounced back when it was released on DVD.
A Deadpool film could easily take the same approach, learning from Dredd’s mistakes to ensure a better reception where ticket sales are concerned. With Fox owning the rights to the franchise rather than Marvel or Disney, there’s more chance of a Deadpool familiar to the faithful reaching the masses. Other films in the mould of Deadpool or Dredd coming along the future should use the same model: find a studio that will produce them on smaller budgets, make them R-rating violent if that’s what the source material warrants, and make the script clever. Perhaps encourage cinema chains to show it later, after the kids have gone to bed, if that helps, but, crucially, find smaller studios who’ll make it on a smaller budget and aren’t afraid of a little risk.
As for Deadpool itself, the release of the footage means that the die has been cast in favour of either an R-rated film being made or no film being made at all. Decide you’re making a PG-13 film, and the moment you announce it over the internet you’ll be besieged by angry fans and disappointed commentators. Anyone worried about Deadpool being shown with the looney tunes humour (as Nerdist News call it) but not his slice and dice approach to conflict resolution can relax. The release of the footage was a PR pre-emptive strike that has made any studio considering the project aware that only an R-rated film will do. Anything less would be a betrayal of the audience’s expectations.
Read more: Why Marvel madness trumps DC darkness
Featured image: Marvel
Inset image: 20th Century Fox