How ‘Deadpool’ Returned Ryan Reynolds to the A-List and Saved R-Rated Comic Book Movies

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Deadpool’s” record-obliterating success is really a tale of two comebacks.

First there’s Ryan Reynolds. Going into this weekend, the genetically-blessed actor was on the ropes. Following “The Proposal” and “Buried,” Reynolds was anointed the Next Big Thing, but the twin failures of “Green Lantern” and “R.I.P.D.,” catapulted the actor off of the A-list, seemingly dooming him to a career of being Helen Mirren’s sympathetic ear in the likes of “Woman in Gold.”

But Reynolds found redemption in “Deadpool,” a physically deformed mercenary, whose jaundiced worldview makes him the rare costumed avenger who is as interested in slicing up the PC-police as he is in saving the world. It’s a role that plays off Reynold’s gift for comedy in a way that his bland leading men roles have failed to capitalize on, and it’s a movie that the actor willed into being.

“This is like his Iron Man,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “Just as Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man personified, you couldn’t have cast an actor more perfectly as Deadpool.”

“Deadpool’s” box office dominance also revives the R-rated comic book movies after failures and disappointments such as “Watchmen,” “Kick-Ass” and “The Punisher” movies threatened to consign them to novelty status. The prevailing wisdom had been that in order to bring in the broadest possible audience, movies featuring superheroes had to be rated PG-13.

After “Deadpool” racked up $135 million this weekend, Reynolds has the kind of franchise role that will allow him to have his pick of top scripts and projects. Fox, the studio behind the picture, has already begun working on a sequel.

Reynolds may owe his second chance in part to his personal charm. Industry executives have always praised his willingness to campaign for the movies he makes, finding him to be an affable trooper. When his movies faltered, there wasn’t the sense of schadenfreude there was when, say, Shia LaBeouf decided to napalm his public image by taking the party to Walgreens and heckling the cast of Broadway’s “Cabaret.”

It also is a credit to his drive. After playing the character in 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” Reynolds campaigned to bring him to the screen in a way that was truer to the comics’ irreverent spirit.

“He took control over his own destiny,” said Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations.

“Deadpool’s” penchant for four-letter words and ultra-violence helped a genre that was threatening to reach saturation levels mine fresh ground. Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson called the rating “the differentiator,”  while acknowledging that green lighting the film with an R took “a lot of courage.”

The studio has yet to release demographic numbers for the opening weekend crowd, but rivals say that despite its R-rating, “Deadpool” attracted a broad range of moviegoers. That spelled trouble for other new releases, such as Paramount’s “Zoolander 2” and Warner Bros.’ “How to Be Single,” both of which struggled to attract crowds.

“You can handle another big movie in the marketplace, but a phenomenon is tough,” said Megan Colligan, Paramout’s worldwide marketing and distribution chief.

Because no original idea stays that way for long, expect other studios to quickly follow “Deadpool’s” lead. With an endless array of comic book movies flooding the market, filmmakers are looking for ways to set their films apart. In the wake of “Deadpool’s” success, speculation on social media platforms turned to “Suicide Squad,” a super-villain team up that could also target adult crowds and teenagers with permissive parents.

“If you’re editing a superhero movie right now, you may figure it’s worth amping up the language, action and attitude because audiences seem to love it,” said Dergarabedian.

But don’t just drop F-bombs for the sake of being labeled edgy. As “Deadpool” demonstrates, the movie and the marketing both have to be true to the source material. The reason the Comic-Con crowd flipped at the initial footage from the film, and that social media embraced images of Deadpool on the toilet or stretched out on a bearskin rug doing his best Burt Reynolds impression, was that they were cheeky parodies of a genre that has grown self-serious. That’s true of the Deadpool from the comic — he is a mercenary, fourth-wall shattering figure, more interested in landing the perfect put down than he is in saving the world.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about “Deadpool” is that an age where every superhero film deals with the looming threat of planetary, nay galactic, extermination, the stakes were comparatively small. In place of stopping a super villain bent on global domination, Reynolds is obsessed with saving his girlfriend and exacting revenge on the people who left him a horribly disfigured “Merc with a mouth.”

That may be “Deadpool’s” most radical element and an important reminder that there are only so many times filmmakers can lay waste to major cities before it starts feeling stale. Plus, nothing beats a killer, post-credit’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” parody.

The reasons for “Deadpool’s” success are manifold, but in the wake of its staggering grosses, two things that were perceived as being out to pasture — R-rated comic book movies and Ryan Reynolds — are suddenly back on top. This is what redemption looks like.


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  1. pancakewizard says:

    Nothing says the SJWs are losing the culture war like a successful un-PC R-rated Deadpool movie doing gangbusters.

    • therealeverton says:

      There’s nothing n-PC about this film whatsoever. Not a thing, I’m guessing anyone that has reviewed it as such belongs to that large number of people who never knew what PC meant in the first place.

  2. Leena Jose says:

    Loved DEADPOOL.. the dialogues were hilarious and the humour stays with you… loved the comment on ‘good look’s and david beckham …heehee

  3. Tommy Marx says:

    In a world where Beyoncé turns out be black and Burger King finds salvation in hot dogs, I cannot be happier that Ryan Reynolds has finally found the success he has long deserved. Yes, I would love to have sex with him once or twice a day for the next 47 years, but that’s not why I’m glad he finally broke through.

    OK, yes, that is why I’m glad he finally broke through.

    You go, boy!

  4. therealeverton says:

    Given that they are about to start filming on the sequel to the $400m+ grossing Kingsman, I fail to see how R-Rated comic book films were in need of being saved. So?

  5. jayredd says:

    Gee, just what we needed: R rated comics. smh.

    • therealeverton says:

      There have been the equivalent of “R-rated” comics and higher than R-Rated comics for decades.

      If you eant to say comic book films, then again there have been those for some time too. Even if we stick to “American” or English Language films then go back to Blade, Back to any of the 3 Punisher films, Spawn, Watchmen, Kick-Ass and so on. It’s nothing new, only the level of box office is new.

      (Although I bet Sony are kicking themselves for not doing Ghost Rider right and losing the rights because they wimped out and went PG-13.)

  6. cadavra says:

    Man, who would have thought a remake of a Clint Eastwood movie would be such an enormous hit? :-)

  7. Van Exile says:

    I find the writer of this piece to be a piece of something him self. You really should of study a little better before you started running at the mouth to much. Mr. Reynolds as been trying to get this movie made since he was in the third Blade and was handed a deadpool comic.

  8. James says:

    Here they go again. One movie over performs and suddenly Hollywood thinks of it as a mandate and not just a one-off instance where star,source material and the zeitgeist coalesced.

  9. JK says:

    In what world was Kick-Ass a failure? Even Watchmen ended up profitable.

    Also, since when does Kingsman: The Secret Service not count as a successful R comic book movie?

    • therealeverton says:

      Kick-Ass was an independent, British film. It was not a failure and was in fact successful enough to warrant a sequel. The Sequel wasn’t a hit.

    • Alex says:

      This flick over preformed, even the suits at FOX thought it would open between $60 to $70 million. It cost $58 million to make and it has grossed $280 million world wide so far, let them brag a little. As for Ryan Reynolds, this film may do for him what “Boogie Night” did for Burt Reynolds.

  10. Johnny says:

    The Watchmen and Kick ass were both good flicks, scoring well with fans. The Punisher (Thomas Jane) I thought was so so, but it made a killing in dvd sales and has become a cult film. I didn’t like Malin Ackerman in The Watchmen, but the rest of the film was spot on.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The headline caught my eye as an example of a problem with the old ways of thinking – there aren’t enough movies being made anymore to judge the drawing power of stars based on one film, and in an environment where everything begins to look the same (PG 13 superhero movies), anything outside the norm has a better than average shot at exceeding expectations.

  12. Maria says:

    No. ryan reynolds’ eyes are too close together. More flops to come.

    • H.M.L. says:

      I’ve seen your ass-essment of this in the past (where you most likely linger). I shudder to think, what parts that you have that are “too close together”. For some reason I also imagine you typing your messages on your ‘throne’.

  13. LOL says:

    Tis merely a blip: Reynolds starred in the flop Self/Less a scant six months ago, and will no doubt star in another flop next time round. This superhero fodder is a saving grace for him, and he’ll return to it continuously for movie star regeneration, though, it may not always be so fortuitous.

    • Prince Valiant says:

      Oh, shut up. Go watch Buried, The Captive, Mississippi Grind and The Voices if you want to comment on Reynolds proficiency as an actor. I could list an impressive list of flops by so-called ‘A-list’, ‘talented’ actors.

  14. 7Dock says:

    “Speculation on social media platforms turned to “Suicide Squad,” a super-villain team up that could also target adult crowds and teenagers with permissive parents.”
    Except Suicide Squad will be PG-13…there will be families.

  15. therealeverton says:

    This article is cool as far as Reynolds goes, but it has to be said people do ignore his successes.

  16. therealeverton says:

    Not sure who thought R-Rated Comic book films were done? They don’t work for ALL comics, but the ones that should be tend to be. Blade, Punisher, Kick-Ass, Kingsman etc. The good news is maybe films like Ghost Ride will now be made with higher ratings, not PG-13.

    Suicide Squad is a film that should always have been aiming for an R rating, and people are talking about it because if it isn’t what they were going for, maybe they will now.

    “With an endless array of comic book movies flooding the market”

    *SIGH*! There are hundreds of comic books to adapt, but the idea they are flooding the market is getting so old now. 305 films last year, 3 super hero films. A flood?!?

    Even this year with it’s “huge” number has what 7 in 12 months out of over 30 films? Be serious, this anti- comic boo agenda is getting embarrassing in its total disregard for the actual facts.

    How many Y/A adaptations? How many novel adaptations in fact? If ALL comiic books are grouped into a club, why not all BOOKS as well? How many horror (actually a genre) action films, romantic comedies, biopics / based on true stories? Comic books / super heroes are about the least represented “”genre” of the lot!

    • Lamar Lee says:

      Man! Thank you! I’ve been saying the same thing for the last two years. The
      perception is that theatres are being inundated with superhero movies, while the reality is superheroes actually add up
      to two or three movies a year. That’s all
      just slow news day media hype.

      • therealeverton says:

        media and “snobbish” hype. People who can’t just chose to NOT WATCH films they don’t like.

  17. Chizz says:

    Brent should really get around to watching Mississippi Grind if he wants to talk about Ryan Reynolds

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