I’m not the first and I certainly won’t be the last person to mention this but I wanted to use this lovely platform here at BRWC to talk the about the ramifications of Deadpool’s unexpected, widespread success.
A little background for context
Development of a Deadpool adaptation had been stop-starting since the late 90s, but it wasn’t until Ryan Reynolds was cast in the much-maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) that the project started building momentum. Unfortunately, the first Wolverine solo outing was a disaster, cut for a wider, PG-13 audience and taking liberties with a number of pre-established characters in the FoX-Men Cinematic Universe. This, coupled with Reynolds signing on for Martin Campbell’s equally squiffy The Green Lantern (2011) seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for everybody’s favourite, fourth-wall-breaking Canadian and in a moment of frustration (or unparalleled forward thinking), Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick’s 2010 script was leaked into the wilds of the Internet.
Flash forward several years. Fox had managed to right the ship with regards to their X-Men movies with both X-Men: First Class (2011) and The Wolverine (2013) making positive steps and attaining some critical support. Director/ Visual Effects Wizard Tim Miller’s Deadpool test footage leaks online to widespread geek-fuelled fervor, and the rest is history.
It’s reassuring to see that around 70% of Reece & Miller’s original screenplay makes it onto screen for Fox’s Valentine’s 2016 offering. The whacky, violent irreverence works so well because in spite of a teeny weenie budget, the writers faithfully retain Wade Wilson’s particular brand of humour and traits. Great efforts are made to ensure particular aspects of the current X-Men Cinematic Universe are note-perfect, with any deviation being minor or unworthy of geek fury. Altering a fringe character like Negasonic Teenage Warhead is OK, but the filmmakers were aware that messing with Deadpool’s signature costume, loquaciousness or penchant for swears and eviscerations was a big no-no. Heck… after 3 previous outings they finally managed to get Colossus right!
Fifth Time’s a Charm
With clunkers like Blade: Trinity (2004), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), The Green Lantern (2011) and R.I.P.D. (2013) under his belt, Ryan Reynolds’ track record with comic book adaptations is troubled to say the least. The term “box office poison” may sound harsh but there aren’t too many actors who have made this many poor franchise choices. The fact is, RR is a disarmingly charismatic, ridiculously handsome and incredibly funny actor who just so happens to be an outstanding choice to play Deadpool. Rapid-fire wit and a fudge-ton of swearing really do go hand in (KFC spork) hand with the titular protagonist.
The Dark Arts
If you happened to be alive and awake after the gargantuan Star Wars campaign stopped a’rollin’ in early January you probably saw Deadpool plastered pretty much everywhere. From the Skull-Poop billboard to the Halloween viral video with the ickle X-Men, the “Touch Yourself Tonight” campaign and numerous other ads, take-overs and hijackings, Wade Wilson has been popping up everywhere, with hilarious results. It wasn’t just a standard teaser, trailers and billboard affair. Each appearance was a tiny, concentrated dose of what fans had been waiting for since the 1990s, with nary a sewn up mouth in sight.
While I would argue that in the context of the wider X-Men franchise, Deadpool could be transposed into the realms of PG-13, it is an absolute must that his solo outings be as cartoonish-violent, cuss-heavy and twistedly comedic as the comics that bore him. If studios and filmmakers take anything from the record-breaking success of Deadpool it should be adhering to the source material. Trusting the cinema-going public to embrace a yellow costumed Wolverine or “that” squid ending in Watchmen is good place to start.
Deadpool was a risk, as was James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. They struck out from a current trend and the audiences lapped it up. Their faithfulness to what worked in their particular remits and the calculated gambles taken by bold filmmakers is what made them so successful. This is part of the reason why PG-13 iterations of Robocop, Terminator, Aliens and Predator fail to recapture the magic from their originators. Fans and general audiences sniff out disingenuous sequels, prequels and reboots like blood in the water.
No doubt Marvel will be dusting off treatments for The Punisher, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider and Blade in the hopes of cashing in on the knee-jerk R-Rated gold rush. My hopes are that producers take a long, hard look at a Dredd sequel before some bright spark thinks we need (for example) an unnecessarily R-Rated cut of a Superman movie.
… Oh… wait.
What the Fox are they playing at?
After the disastrous Fan4stic last year, Fox pulled its July 2017 sequel release date from their schedules. With X-Men: Apocalypse rounding off a second FoX-Men trilogy in May and a final Wolverine movie arriving in March next year we’re in a somewhat perplexed state, scratching our heads as to what’s to follow.
Film-wise, both the MCU and DCCU have projects slated up to 2020. Fox’s reticence to divulge their master plan, if indeed they even have one leaves only a couple of confirmed features and several unsubstantiated rumours for their future cinematic lineup.
Production on Doug Liman’s Gambit movie is due to begin this Spring which will place it release-wise somewhere toward the end of 2017. It was originally due to launch October this year but a change of director and a salary hike for Channing Potato halted pre-production.
With the surprise smash hit of Deadpool, we should probably expect a sequel gracing a similar Q1 slot in 2018, with an X-Force team-up to follow soon after.
Other projects in development include a New Mutants feature from The Fault In Our Stars director Josh Boone and two new X-Men Universe TV series due to air later this year.
There is no news as to where the main X-Men franchise is headed after Apocalypse. The smart money would be on a 1990s set sequel, starring the current cast, replete with colourful costumes, a new baddie and the X-Men cartoon theme music. Josh Trank’s Fan4stic could potentially see the rights to the lesser Fox held IP reverting back to the MCU, leaving Fox to concentrate on their one golden goose.
Well… a man can dream can’t he!?
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