Good one, Peyton Reed.
Here’s the situation: Deadpool is “R”-rated. Deadpool is popular. Deadpool is making a lot of money. Ergo, comic book movies with “R” ratings are cool now. So, WB sought out and attained an “R”-rating for a longer cut of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which will be released on home video along with the PG-13 version which is the one we’ll see in theaters next month.
Fox is taking it a step further and acknowledging that it anticipates Wolverine 3 to be “R”-rated when it hits theaters in March 2017.
Try to think of in terms of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Clearly, Deadpool is like the Soggy Bottom Boys, the cutting edge hit that pleases the masses. Batman v Superman and Wolverine 3 are thus like the politician Pappy O’Daniel trotting onto the stage during “Man of Constant Sorrow” to steal the limelight and use somebody else’s heat to relieve their faltering fortunes.
Or at least that’s how it seems.
In truth, the news about Batman v Superman actually comes from FilmRatings.com, not from WB. Similarly, the news about Wolverine 3 is based on a poster someone saw at the Hasbro Toy Fair and shared on Instagram. Both cases might seem like obvious examples of clueless Deadpool mimicry from trend-chasing Hollywood idiots. However, it could have just as much to do with the fact that our ongoing cynicism about Hollywood’s ability to truly understand Deadpool‘s success actually led multiple people to seek out information which fed into that narrative. Batman v Superman and Wolverine 3 are flirting with “R”-ratings, but the fact that they are wasn’t trotted out by their respective studios to immediately capitalize on Deadpool’s heat. We did that for them.
It should also be pointed out that Fox made Deadpool, and they’re making Wolverine 3. As such, they really should have more leeway than anyone else to try to repeat Deadpool’s formula since it’s actually their own formula in the first place.
That all being said, when you see an R-rated comic book movie break box office records at an alarming pace and then almost immediately see headlines about “XYZ comic book movie is going to be R-rated too!” it’s easy to feel incredibly cynical.
Ant-Man director Peyton Reed recognized this sense of unease, joking on Twitter yesterday:
“As the source material demands!” instantly joked back one of his many followers.
Of course, the next Ant-Man won’t be “NC-17” nor will it likely be anywhere close to an “R,” and “as the source material demands” is pretty much the common argument for why Deadpool needed an “R.” The question then becomes whether or not Batman v Superman or Wolverine 3 actually need “R” ratings.
Is there any real reason that Superman should be in an “R”-rated movie? I know, I know – it’s only going to be for the home video version of the movie, but FilmRatings.com indicated that the theatrical version actually received an “R” from the MPAA as well before the studio cut back on some of the violence. The obvious answer is that if they want to do Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns justice, reportedly the key inspiration for the film, then an “R”-rating has to be on the table, and Batman could very easily fit into a gritty “R”-rated movie of his own. But does any of this call out for an obvious “R” the way Deadpool did before they ever even started filming? No. It’s still a freakin’ Superman movie. Truth, Justice and the American Way doesn’t need to be squeaky clean, but it doesn’t need to be an “R” either.
Wolverine theoretically transitions nicely into an “R”-rated setting. Finally, his claws might actually draw blood from his victims, and he can use some of the more colorful language like his comic book counterpart. However, this will be Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, and he’s played him as a “PG-13” character for 16 years now. Why change that now? Why finally make him edgy when he’s never been that way before? He doesn’t need to start using curse just because he can. Why limit the number of people who can see his final outing? Of course, I personally know of a 10-year-old who somehow managed to see Deadpool. So an “R” won’t necessarily keep the pre-teens away from Wolverine 3.
As the source material demands, of course, and if they adapt the “Old Man Logan” arc (and that’s a big if) it probably will demand an “R.” It’s insanely bloody. He kills everyone on accident, and tries to commit suicide by placing his head on train tracks. Jackman would definitely be going out with Wolverine’s remarkably dark night of the soul.
Ultimately, if it makes sense for the story, do it. If not, ask yourself why you’re really considering it in the first place.
One thing’s for sure: we absolutely don’t need an NC-17 version of Ant-Man and the Wasp.