Adult Fan Boys Are Hijacking Superhero Material Made for Younger Audiences
R-rated superhero films are edging out their intended audience: kids.
The gradual death of the mid-budget movie has spurred on the current influx of high-budget superhero flicks in Hollywood. As the demand for this type of expensive spectacle increases, more major film studios are desperately mining superhero revivals, which is why it seems we can’t go a day without hearing news of a new one. The steadily increasing prevalence of these costly films has naturally widened the intended audiences to include adults, alongside the children for whom they have been historically intended. But the adult fan boy influence has begun to edge out the younger audiences who eat this stuff up. What about the children? No, but seriously, the R-rated trend is already getting old.
Just because an R rating worked surprisingly well for Deadpool doesn’t mean that other films should necessarily follow in its footsteps. Deadpool became the highest grossing rated R film ever, due to the nature of the movie’s content, which wasn’t intended for kids in the first place: it was an adult-oriented satirical take on a superhero who, over time, evolved into a vulgar wise-ass and a living parody of violent comic books. The R rating, then, served only to elevate Deadpool’s crude nature to a level of absurdity that made its satirical approach funny and obvious. The upcoming films that have hopped on the R-rated bandwagon seem to be missing the point.
Although Batman v Superman set the record for the highest grossing international opening for a superhero movie, box office numbers plummeted the following week. Audiences and critics generally reacted aversely to the overwhelming darkness of Zack Snyder’s DC Comics take. Since the theatrical debut, an R-rated three hour version of the film has been announced and will arrive on DVD and Blu-Ray this summer.
The re-release of Batman v Superman as an R-rated flick may be a ploy to extract some extra dollars from the production, but it pushes younger audiences to the side. An R-rated version is likely to take the dark approach even further, which is totally unnecessary considering how audiences already disliked the PG-13 version’s dour tone.
The most recent superhero flick to earn an R-rating is Warner Bros’ straight-to-video Batman: The Killing Joke, an animated film based on the infamous Alan Moore comic. This marks the first DC Comics Universe movie to receive an R rating, not to mention the second Batman film to receive one, following the news of the Blu-Ray and DVD 3-hour Batman v Superman cut.
The president of Warner Bros animation encouraged executive producer Bruce Timm to stay true to the adult, and sometimes appalling, themes of of the original comic book, which resulted in the film’s R rating. Adherence to the original themes is praiseworthy in its own right, but it once again prevents kids with rightfully protective parents from seeing it. Who wants to see an R-rated movie about a clown fighting a man dressed as a bat anyway?
Deadpool’s R-rating should be viewed as an intelligent marketing ploy, not an all-inclusive invitation for other superhero films to chase after. Film directors may uphold that the increasing number of R ratings for comic books films is a coincidence, but the speed with which it’s happening seems deliberate. Even the director of the highly-anticipated Suicide Squad, plans to close in on adult viewers with an R-rated sequel. As long as adults continue to hijack material that has been historically intended for younger people, we’ll most likely see more superhero films intended for mature audiences on the horizon.