Back in 2000, Artisan Entertainment made a deal with Marvel. A deal that would bring Deadpool to the big screen. For the next 16 years, Deadpool received setback after setback. Until July 2014. During Comic-con 2014, test footage for what a Deadpool movie could look like was released. The rest was history.
As of this writing, Deadpool has made 745+ million dollars worldwide at the box office and is the 2nd highest grossing R-rated film ever. Needless to say, Deadpool is a hit. 745+ million dollars is an impressive amount of money to begin with. This is made all the more impressive when you realize the obstacles in it’s way.
First, it was made on a 58 million dollar budget. Which is basically pocket change compared to most superhero films, including solo-hero films. Second, it’s rated R. Since R films have a smaller audience to draw from, they just don’t have the potential profit pools other films do. Third and final, the character itself is both relatively unheard of by larger audiences and deeply loved by comic book fans everywhere.
These three things that stood in it’s way, are also the things that made it successful in truth. Coincidentally, they are also the things that Hollywood will get wrong. Superhero movies these days are made with huge budgets. Ant-man the previous solo-entry for superhero had a 130 million dollar budget. Iron-man was made with a 140 million dollar budget. Man of Steel had a 225 million dollar budget. This doesn’t even account the big team up films which are at least 220 million dollars, if not potentially double that.
It’s pretty easy to see why a small budget could hamper a film. For Deadpool, I believe it helped. The last time Deadpool showed up in a film, he was outright hated by fans. So this time around it was important they got the core/heart of the character right. If they had a bigger budget, the filmmakers could have gotten away with a weaker script. Hell, the last Transformers movie made over a billion dollars. Which I think we can all agree had a pretty weak script. It’s already a proven fact that explosions are universal. No translation required. Hence, a bigger international audience to pool from.
However, since the Deadpool crew had a smaller budget, they needed a good script. They needed the humor to be right, the story to make sense, and to make the right people happy. The fact they were able to go R-rated let them make Deadpool right. He’s a violent mercenary who is called the merc with the mouth that’s constantly running. While you could do a PG-13 version, like many upset parents wanted, it simply would not be as good. It might still be kind of chuckle funny but again, since you’re already dealing with a smaller budget you need every advantage you can get.
One advantage, and arguably the biggest, is the fans. If your word-of-mouth is negative, people won’t go see your movie. I know, ground-breaking, right? So now, you have to please a fanbase that is known to be pretty picky about their superhero flicks and, are still cautious after the last time they saw a movie version of Deadpool. Thankfully, the team behind Deadpool pulled it off. They made an original movie for the fans of the character. This, right here, is what Hollywood is going to get wrong.
Hollywood exec’s will look at Deadpool‘s success and try to copy it. In fact, it’s already started. Batman v Superman will have an R-rated directors cut. Wolverine 3 is rumored to now be R-rated and who know’s what else we’ll see pop-up. What Hollywood is missing is the fact Deadpool was made for Deadpool fans. They had an impressive understanding of why people like Deadpool and then made that movie. They didn’t try to alter Deadpool audiences, nor tone it down, or simplify the humor. No, the filmmakers made a Deadpool movie for Deadpool fans. It just so happens the best version of Deadpool is a R-rated films.
Since Deadpool was so faithful to it’s fanbase, Deadpool was then carried and supported by it. Since the fans loved it so much, they went at told their non/semi-fan friends. After seeing it, they recognized how different and just all around good the movie was and then told their friends. Thus the circle continues. What Deadpool ultimately teaches us is that movies can’t be made on an assembly line. Well, technically movies could, they’re just generally not going to be very good.
Instead of studios making films that have the fans in mind. We will get a few Deadpool copycats with other films simply changing beloved characters or properties to fit a broader, more general audience. This also doesn’t take into account the amazingly on-point marketing strategy Deadpool had.