This holiday weekend the nation’s 14-year-old boys — though, given the restricting R rating, probably jut 14-year-old boys at heart, i.e., many of today’s young men — turned the latest Marvel-Fox film “Deadpool” into a genuine record breaker. The comedic, ultraviolent superhero romp grossed $135 million, making it the highest grossing opening weekend of any movie condemned with an R-rating.
We’re torn about the movie, finding it alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) enjoyable and annoying, smug and onanistic in the way it files the same complaints we’ve been making about these Marvel numbers for years while still mostly sticking to tradition.
That being said, its hyper-success may be more a good thing than a bad thing, though it may be a little bit of a bad thing, too. On the negative side, it means comic book movies won’t only not go away but will probably become even more prevalent. It will likely exacerbate the depressing homogeneity of the Hollywood landscape, which used to be more diverse but no longer is. A monster bounty in February means blockbusters year round, not just during the brain-drain days of summer — a transition that’s been in effect for the last few years but will certainly now get even worse.
On the plus side, this means more diversity, at least, with superhero movies. Surely all of them can’t be mega-profane, mega-violent and stoked about making fun of other Marvel movies — all attributes “Deadpool” has in spades. But it means at least occasional breaks from the vanilla norm. Since 2008’s “Iron Man” set the template, the movie that followed have been loath to break free. If they’ve changed at all it’s by cramming more and more and more and more heroes into each film, to the point where “Avengers: Age of Ultron” continually felt like it was ready to topple over from sheer weight.
“Deadpool,” by contrast, is downright minimalist, with only one lead and a mere two sidekicks, and incredibly minor ones at that. (This writer personally can’t remember the brooding teenage firestarter’s name and had no previous acquaintance with that unsightly CGI thing, Colossus.) It wears its depravities on its sleeve, but subsequent naughty Marvel entries won’t have the same novelty. They (hopefully) won’t be so self-satisfied about deploying “motherf—ers” and splattering the brains of anonymous henchmen because another movie — “Deadpool,” oh, and “Kick-Ass” and “Kick-Ass 2” before it — already got there first.
Of course, that also means more of Reynold’s Deadpool, too, who we found a bit on the insufferable side, even if he was not exactly hissable. Reynolds’ attempts to broaden and deepen his acting — in dramas like “Buried” and especially “Mississippi Grind” — means he now brings more soul than he previously did to comedic turns. In films like “Waiting…” and “Just Friends," he was essentially a comedy robot, whereas here he’s keyed-up but still vaguely human. Oh, and by the way: After 15-plus years Hollywood finally made Reynolds a big movie star and not just a magazine staple who also acts.
In case you care, “Deadpool” handily mopped the floor with the rom-com “How to Be Single,” which grossed $18.7 million, and Ben Stiller’s precious “Zoolander 2,” which netted $15.6 million — exactly as much as the 2001 original did, and not even adjusted for inflation.