If you are someone who pays attention to these kinds of things, it feels like the internet has been begging Hollywood to make an R-rated major comic book movie for years, if for no other reason than to shake things up and keep comic book movies from growing stale. Now that Hollywood, specifically 20th Century Fox with its edgy Deadpool movie, has complied the internet changed its mind, politely asking, “Could you also maybe release a PG-13 version?”
At least that’s my initial reaction to the news that YouTube star, part-time actress/comic book writer Grace Randolph started a petition asking Fox to release a more kid-friendly PG-13 version of Deadpool so that the character’s younger fans can have a chance to check out what looks to be the Merc with a Mouth’s defining cinematic moment (because we’ve all agreed to never speak of his appearance in Origins: Wolverine ever again). It’s sort of like this:
The best part of Deadpool being R-rated is that it does the character justice instead of shaving off the sharper edges just so parents can take their little kids.
The worst part of Deadpool being R-rated is that parents can’t or really shouldn’t take their kids to see it.
Deadpool and his anarchic ways holds a certain appeal for all ages, and not all of his prior iterations have been so R-rated. For example, he took over an entire episode of Ultimate Spider-Man, and was clearly the traditional, fourth-wall breaking version of Deadpool but toned down to fit into a children’s cartoon. However, the new Deadpool movie has taken the position from the start that a sanitized version of the character which kids can see already exists in Origins: Wolverine. This new thing, though, is going to be the real, R-rated deal, likely pleasing everyone who’s argued that the tyranny of the PG-13 rating has ruined action movies (like here and here).
Not all comic book movies should kowtow to four quadrant pressure, but outside of the occasional Mark Millar adaptation (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service) they mostly do because their budgets demand that they aim for the widest audience possible. As such, Deadpool is supposed to serve as an example of the type of risk the studios should be more willing to try. It goes against the current industry thinking, but it does so because Deadpool demands an R-rated adaptation. It’s risky enough that Fox is leaving potential money on the table in the second biggest market in the world since China has officially banned Deadpool for being too violent.
Again, it kind of breaks down into two viewpoints:
Yay to everyone who made Deadpool for doing something out of the ordinary!
Boo to everyone who made Deadpool for making something which looks so good little kids are desperate to see it!
In fact, Grace Randolph started her petition because she received a letter from the mother of a disappointed 8 year-old Deadpool fan who wanted but was not going to be allowed to see his favorite character on screen. Randolph figured there might be a workaround if Fox could maybe re-cut the movie into two different versions.
Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Asked about the petition at a recent fan gathering, Ryan Reynolds joked that if they tried to make a PG-13 version out of the footage they have, “That would be a very short movie. It’s almost a commercial at that point.” If it was possible the Chinese censors would have been able to edit around all the violence and produce a version of the movie which would please their local decency laws. They would have to do some truly last-minute re-shoots to get a PG-13 out of this, which seems unlikely.
Reynolds at least appreciates the frustration of a mother who wants to make her Deadpool-loving kid happy, “People are ragging on her – I think that’s an awesome mom. When I was 8 years old, I wanted to see 9 ½ Weeks, but my mom didn’t make a petition!”
When you actually have a kid in your life who loves superheroes it inevitably alters your views on comic book movies. To the film fan, Deadpool is an incredibly interesting experiment which sure as heck looks like it will deliver. To the parent or uncle, it’s that movie our kid keeps asking about, begging, “Please take me to see that!” I heard that three or four times from my 8-year-nephew this past weekend on a family road trip. I saw my older brother straining to help his son understand that not all comic book movies are meant for little kids, giving him the slightest bit of hope, “If they release a PG-13 version then maybe we’ll see.”
That is the plight of the parent with Deadpool. For little kids who’ve grown up in a post-Iron Man world, the superhero toys, cartoons and movie trailers all conspire to make you feel like everything’s been made for you. It must be strange encountering something where that’s not the case. How that is resolved is ultimately left to the discretion of the parents. Before I was 10 I saw R-rated movies like Terminator 2 and Aliens 3 in theaters. I loved the former, had nightmares because of the latter. What will become of all the kids who want to see Deadpool? I don’t know, but they’re probably only going to have one option: R-rated.