2016 brought comic book fans Captain America: Civil War, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, but the biggest surprise was Deadpool, which exceeded all estimates to become a box office smash hit. Days after the release of Doctor Strange, Deadpool’s comic book creator, Robert Liefeld, publicly celebrated Deadpool’s success. Notably, he championed its R rating as the primary reason Deadpool destroyed the box office.
Deadpool wasn’t the first R-rated comic book movie in history. However, the film heavily publicized its mature rating as a point of pride, as something that would allow the film to deliver a different take on superheroes than the films from the other cinematic universe-style movies of Marvel and DC. Fans and the film’s producers argued that Deadpool was a unique hero and needed the R rating to fully deliver the character’s true potential as a violent, humorous agent of chaos.
Robert Liefeld, who created the Deadpool character back in February 1991 for an issue of The New Mutants, has been very vocal about his support for the film, as well as the film’s R-rated content. In a series of tweets published on Monday, Liefeld responded to criticisms asserting that Deadpool’s success wasn’t dependent on the film’s rating, and that an R rating might even hurt the upcoming Logan.
Liefeld’s argued that because the film succeeded without the help of the young theatergoers — who drive the current superhero cinema renaissance — and that the film relied on its edgier content, which could only have succeeded thanks to its mature age rating.
Citing specific, R-rated material, Liefeld argued that Deadpool was able to do things other superhero movies this year couldn’t do.
That last point can be seriously contested, given the fact that the film didn’t really have writing that one could consider “adult.” The humor may have been raunchier, but it’s unclear if Liefeld is equating “adult” to sophisticated which is a bit inaccurate. Let’s be honest here, Deadpool wasn’t sophisticated.
But that’s not a bad thing! While the film followed a standard origin story plot, the writers leaned into Deadpool’s signature crass humor with a level of restraint that actually felt pretty mature. But neither was the film some grand meditation on good and evil either.
There is something to be said about Liefeld’s comment regarding the violence however. Deadpool largely succeeded thanks to the creative visuals as envisioned by director Tim Miller, and many of the wonderful action scenes in the movies could only have been allowed in an R rating situation. Similar to how the upcoming Logan might utilize its ratings to showcase even grander action set pieces, Deadpool did differentiate itself from the superhero pack with action scenes that didn’t just feel like two CGI robots smacking each other.
Whether or not Liefeld’s assumptions about the R rating remains to be seen however until Logan releases in theaters. The two films are currently the most high-profile, R-rated superhero movies in recent memory, and their success could cause a new wave of superhero films to adopt a higher rating in the future.
Logan will hit theaters March 3, 2017.