With Mahershala Ali’s Blade and Ryan Reynolds third Deadpool movie potentially coming to Marvel Studios’ Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I think there is a good shot that both those movies will end up becoming R-rated.
Here are some reasons I believe that Marvel Studios could be gearing up to start releasing mature superhero movies.
MARVEL AND DISNEY BRASS ARE OPEN TO R-RATED MOVIES
I do think there is rampant fan speculation making all these assumptions of what Disney/Marvel will and won’t do with film franchises like Blade and Deadpool (many thinking they will just make them PG-13 without any evidence to support this), without actually listening to what the people in charge over there have actually said about making R-rated Marvel movies over the last year or so.
Here is what Disney CEO Bob Iger specifically said on an earnings call back in February.
IGER: “We do believe there is room for the Fox properties to exist without significant Disney influence over the nature of the content. Meaning that we see that there certainly popularity amongst Marvel fans for the R-rated Deadpool films, for instance, we’re going to continue in that business, and there might be room for more of that.”
Iger’s support for keeping Deadpool R-rated seemingly goes back even further to the winter of 2017 when the merger first was being talked about.
IGER: “There may be an opportunity for an R-rated Marvel brand as long as we let audiences know what’s coming.”
Iger specifically calls out "Deadpool," wants to keep making sequels. "There may be an opportunity for an R-rated Marvel brand as long as we let audiences know what’s coming."
— Ben Fritz (@benfritz) December 14, 2017
Marvel’s own Kevin Feige alluded to not tinkering with Deadpool’s formula back in April.
The Fox deal will also enable Marvel to experiment with the kinds of comic book movies that it makes. Feige said it “remains to be seen” if the studio will start making R-rated adventures such as “Logan,” but he echoed Walt Disney Chairman Bob Iger’s earlier promise to keep making the adult-oriented “Deadpool” films. Those will presumably still be profanity-laden, blood-splattered and very, very R-rated.
FEIGE: “When we were purchased, Bob said to us, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’.“
“There’s no question that Deadpool is working, so why would we change it?”
DISNEY CAN’T DIRECTLY DISTRIBUTE R-RATED MOVIES BUT WHY NOT 20TH CENTURY FOX?
I don’t actually see Disney releasing R-rated movies themselves, but they have in the past used other studios in the family-tree such as Touchstone, Miramax, and Dimension Films to release their mature branded content. 20th Century Fox could be how they distribute those high-profile R-rated movies without having Disney directly being intangled with the marketing and distribution.
I’m not terribly sure that people realize that The Rock, Kill Bill 1-2, Scream, and a bunch of other iconic R-rated movies are actually in-fact Disney movies that were released by studios the company owned at the time.
Disney’s Alan Horn may have suggested to TheHollywoodReporter back in February that 20th Century Fox could end up distributing mature projects that Disney can’t be seen distributing due to parent complaints. Meaning that if they wanted to make R-rated Marvel movies, the expectation could be that 20th Century Fox would release those projects.
HORN: “With Fox, we can make movies that right now I say no to. Take Bohemian Rhapsody, which is PG-13. It’s a hit movie and very, very good. But there’s no way we could make it under the Disney label because the characters smoke cigarettes and other content. Nor could we have made [Warner Bros.’ R-rated] Oscar-winning Argo because the characters smoke and use the F-word. We always have to think about the smoking policy. The audience for a Disney movie may not know what they are going to see, but they know what they aren’t going to see. There are certain things we just can’t include because we’ll get letters.”
They could simply have Fox distribute these mature movies and then add a new type of branding to help parents such as Marvel Max or Marvel Knights, similar to what they’ve done on the comics side for mature books.
Disney is still making and releasing Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman movies with The King’s Man coming out in February and then Kingsman 3 seemingly in pre-production to shoot next. I really don’t see them leaving money on the table and also angering fans in the process when Bob Iger already has admitted that they could keep Deadpool R.
NOT ALL MARVEL CHARACTERS FIT A PG-13 MOVIE
Deadpool himself could move between R-rated and PG-13, but I don’t see why they would suddenly mess with the formula given Iger’s comments to Kevin Feige about not fixing something that isn’t broke. The franchise is sort of built on the raunchy comedy and if they made it PG-13 wouldn’t that simply remove that unique trait automatically?
In two releases, the Deadpool franchise has earned $1.568 billion and I don’t see why they would tinker with that success. I think what happens with Deadpool is that his own movies are mature but from time-to-time could crossover into PG-13 movies.
I do think a lot of fans are putting a bit too much stock in recent comments made by Deadpool 2 director David Leitch about Deadpool 3 not needing to be R-rated, mainly, because that wouldn’t be his call and he’s not officially involved with that movie.
Their Blade reboot is going to be a really tough movie to make as a PG-13 project as blood is a huge sticking point with the MPAA, and given that vampires tend to drink it and die violently at the hands of Blade it would be really odd for Marvel to water down that franchise. Like Deadpool, Blade is known for violence and language which made a lot of sense for the character as he was directly inspired by black exploitation characters when he was added to the comics universe.
Other characters that certainly wouldn’t fit well in PG-13 would also include The Punisher and Moon Knight, I’m curious if they’ll end up attempting to make a Moon Knight movie as that could be basically their version of John Wick meets Batman if handled correctly.
R-RATED MOVIES DON’T NEED TO COST $150-200 MILLION A POP TO BE SUCCESSFUL
The budgets would also be key to the success, R-rated movies can be very profitable but most are because they’re budgets are not on the level of an Avengers movie and I don’t think every Marvel movie needs to have that level of spending to turn a profit.
Here are a bunch of successful R-rated movies that made a mint with budgets of around $110 million or less.
- The Matrix 1999 – $463 million (budget $63 million)
- 300 2007 – $456 million (budget $65 million)
- American Sniper 2014 – $547.4 (budget $58.8 million)
- Deadpool 2016 – $783.1 million (budget $58 million)
- IT 2017 – $700.3 million (budget $35 million)
- Logan 2017 – $619 million (budget $97 million)
- Deadpool 2 2018 – $785 million (budget $110 million)
I’m sure we’ll get more concrete confirmations about mature films in the near future from both Disney and Marvel.