Will PG-13 ruin Deadpool?

We are finally getting a Deadpool movie, but is it the Deadpool movie we want?

After three years in a state of suspended animation, 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios announced on Sept 18th that they will be going ahead with the film, currently slated for a February 2016 release.

The decision followed intense and encouraging reaction from fans who expressed their excitement on Twitter and Facebook after a short sequence of test footage was leaked online. While the footage was shot several years ago, the clip has re-ignited interest in the movie, leading Fox to nail down a solid release date and get production started. There has been speculation as to whether Ryan Reynolds will reprise his role as the titular mercenary, with most fans agreeing that he is a perfect fit for the character. Reynolds discussed the leaked footage and the response from fans in a recent interview with the Niagara Review:

"The movie has been in a state of limbo for a while. There was such an overpowering reaction to the footage, you sort of feel like, 'Oh, so we weren't crazy for our reasons for loving this character, for loving this role.' It's interesting to see the power of the Internet. It's awe-inspiring, actually.”


Deadpool was first introduced in a 1991 issue of the Marvel Comics series New Mutants, a collaboration between artist Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza. Originally the character was basically a knock off of the popular DC mercenary Deathstroke. Even Deadpool’s real name, “Wade Wilson”, is a clear homage to Deathstroke’s real identity “Slade Wilson.” Eventually Deadpool got a monthly series of his own, written by Joe Kelly. It is through this series the character evolved into the Deadpool we know today: the self-aware goofball with several inner voices and propensity to break the fourth wall. At the heart of the humour of the character is the mutant healing factor he was given by the Weapon X program to combat his cancer. Essentially immortal, much of the comic relief in the various series comes from Deadpool getting his head blown off and limbs removed. This procedure, although successful in containing the cancer, left his body horribly scarred and added a large stroke of vulnerability and depth to a character originally intended to be a cold blooded killer-for-hire.

The big question that fans are asking at the moment is what the film will lose with its R rating. There has been speculation that the reason the film has been in development limbo for so long was that Fox wouldn’t support an R-rated movie based on a comic book.  As anyone familiar with the character will tell you, Deadpool shines when he is given free-reign to shed blood and curse like a sailor. On the flipside however, most of the character’s appearances in the comics would be considered PG-13. Many fans feel that a similar rating for the film would neuter the character, but co-creator Rob Liefeld defended the potential PG-13 rating in a series of tweets and explained why he doesn’t think it would hurt the film:

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“If HANNIBAL can air on primetime network television, DEADPOOL can be PG-13 and still be bad ass,” and “all you who want to die on the R rated hill, we will replace you with equally enthusiastic teenagers. Deadpool can't be stopped.”

It’s probably not a surprise that most superhero movies are targeted at an audience that generally wouldn’t be able to see an R-rated movie. The recent success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy indicates that if a studio wants to make money, moviegoers should be able to bring their kids. And let’s face it, outside of the comic fandom, most full grown adults aren’t spending money on action figures and Groot Halloween costumes.

Sin City
Sin City

There have been comic book adaptions in the past that did very well in the box office despite the R-rating. Frank Miller’s Sin City and 300 both did exceedingly well in theatres, although it could be argued that these movies weren’t viewed as “comic book” films by the general public. Successfully marketing a straight up super hero movie with a hard R- rating is much more difficult. We only have to look at The Watchmen, viewed by many as the greatest graphic novel of all time, and the dismal returns it garnered to understand why a studio would be hesitant to give the go ahead to an R-rated movie based on a B-tier superhero like Deadpool.

On the other hand, the test footage that has everyone so excited is most certainly not aimed at children, and the decision from Fox to go ahead with the film is more or less based on the extremely positive buzz from internet viewers. If you’ve ever been to a con or fan expo, it’s guaranteed that you will see a good deal of Deadpool cosplay, and it’s not children dressing up, it’s adults. In an era where we’re finally seeing our favourite heroes up on the big screen, there has never been a better time to experiment. Mature audiences are getting burnt out on formulaic “fun” superhero movies, and let’s not forget Fox has already tried the family friendly approach to gritty characters like Daredevil and Ghostrider, proving that if you attempt to water down stories that are inherently dark and violent, it comes across as cheesy and hokey.

No plot specifics have been confirmed yet, but positive feedback towards the leaked script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick indicates that many fans hope the movie will take a similar path. At the core of the character is the archetypal tragic clown, and any film based on Deadpool must walk a similar line… while also featuring plenty of flying bullets, severed limbs, and witty one liners.