Logan, Deadpool and The R-Rated Superhero Movie

After the success of Logan and Deadpool, we seem all set to witness a trend of R-Rated superhero movies. The idea of adult superhero movies isn't exactly new -Watchmen, Kick-Ass, and Blade all did it successfully.

But these two recent record breaking hits seem to have emboldened studios to dive right in. DC is interested in exploring the idea (they did release an R-Rated cut of Batman V Sueprman), Sony has just announced a Venom movie that will be rated R, and Deadpool 2 looks like it will lean even harder into the sex and violence that was such a big part of the first movie. Adult superhero movies (though I hesitate to call Deadpool 'adult') also seem to be what the fans want, with a recent survey seeing 71% of respondents say that they'd prefer more R-Rated superhero movies. But there seems to be a misunderstanding about what made those R-Rated movies good in the first place. What we've got here is a classic case of confusing correlation with causation.

Stan Lee approves of that alliteration.

Stan Lee approves of that alliteration.

As satisfying as it was to see Logan's claws go straight through a skull, what made Logan great was how it told a story about regret, sadness and hope. For the first time in ages, we were watching superheroes do something other than go on generic save-the-world missions. Deadpool, of course, was a pretty standard origin story that ended in a typical team-up-against-the-villain fight. But it was set apart by it's irreverence and self-aware humour. You don't see much talk of Wade Wilson's moving character arc.

Or that heartbreaking scene where he had to kill his former best friend.

Or that heartbreaking scene where he had to kill his former best friend.

What these movies really managed to do is give us fresh takes on superheroes at a time when the genre is more saturated than it has ever been. The R-rating was essential to both Logan and Deadpool, but that's not what made them successful.

The argument that an R-rating makes for better movies goes like so - when the studio and filmmaker don't have to worry about catering to the kids and families in the audience, they get freed up to delve into the more serious and/or mature (though I hesitate to call Deadpool 'mature') ideas they have, which tend to be superior. The logic here is faultless, but the results are debatable.

For starters, tons of kids have seen and loved these movies. Ask any 13 year old you know whether they saw Deadpool. Spolier alert, they did, and they loved it. Logan is a tougher one, seeing as kids find it harder to relate to themes of aging and death, but a straw poll I took seems to suggest that kids enjoyed that too. Now, I don't mean to say that these movies shouldn't have been R-rated, or that kids should watch them (they still do). My point is that the rather condescending assumption that kids will only care about simple good versus evil plots is incorrect.

Of course, some kids are more mature than others.

Of course, some kids are more mature than others.

More importantly, the audience for superhero movies has evolved. We've seen a ton of these stories, and we expect more from them now. By-the-numbers origin stories and team ups aren't cutting it anymore. Marvel understood this and changed up the formula with Captain America: Civil War. In spite of all the superheroes they threw in, they kept the plot focused on the mature theme of the growing divide between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Civil War wasn't rated R, but it was confident that all of it's audience would come along for the ride, and they did.

R-rated superhero movies can be great because they have a wider canvas to tell their stories, not because they're R-rated. So hopefully, Venom doesn't just throw in a bunch of blood and boobs in every scene and call it a day.

Scribe: Dinkar Dwivedi


Captain's Log: Dinkar Dwivedi is a core member over at Geek Fruit HQ, and he has a Twitter account that is rated PG-13. Follow him @DinksThinks.