Copycats: Hollywood and its lust for Deadpool

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Hollywood at Home is a weekly column by filmmaker, writer, and critic Keith Hodder that highlights the variety of films and television programs that Netflix has to offer, along with recommendations of what to watch next and his opinions on the world of entertainment. Follow him@KeithHodder and feel free to suggest a film.

If you’ve been following the recent box office news you’ll know that Marvel’s recent outing, and biggest risk, Deadpool had a hell of a weekend.

The film surprised analysts and critics by gunning down the rest of the competition and earning $150 million in its opening weekend and $300 million globally. That means Deadpool has had the best opening ever for a R-rated film within a three-day span.

As Deadline Hollywood reports, it also surpassed all expectations at Fox, its home studio, as it not only destroyed the record previously held by Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but also their conservative prediction of $65 million for Deadpool.

Now Hollywood is going to want to copy this success as much as humanly possible, to the determent of the properties they milk and the viewers who believe they’re getting their money’s worth. Sound familiar? They’ve been doing this for decades.

The reason Deadpool’s success came as such a surprise is due to it’s R-rating and the fact that all of Disney’s Marvel properties are family friendly. That’s how they’ve broken records in the past, maximizing the potential to fill seats, and that’s how they’ve found so much success with merchandising. You won’t be seeing Deadpool movie merchandise in Wal-Mart any time soon.

With that said, as much as the rating catered to fans who know the merc-with-a-mouth and his raunchy brand of ha-ha, it totally alienated a huge fraction of their dependable audience. Despite the odds working against them, the film triumphed; not to mention it had a hell of a marketing campaign.

But like any success there are pros and there are cons.

The pros that will come of this success is that many studios, including Marvel, will begin to explore more R-rated content and empower its chances by putting some more money behind marketing campaigns and outreach; they’ll take more risks with content.

It’s an exciting prospect, but it’s also a double-edged sword as pointed out by James Gunn, the filmmaker behind Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy and the upcoming sequel.

Last week Gunn set his phasers to kill when Deadline Hollywood, one of the industry’s most dependable sources, featured a Hollywood executive who quoted the reasons why Deadpool was such a success:

“The film has a self-deprecating tone that’s riotous. It’s never been done before. It’s poking fun at Marvel. That label takes itself so seriously; can you imagine them making fun of themselves in a movie? They’d rather stab themselves.”

Gunn, who broke the Marvel mold by tapping into characters that most people didn’t even know existed before the film, wasn’t keen on the quote and voiced his opinion on the matter.

“After every movie smashes records people here in Hollywood love to throw out the definitive reasons why the movie was a hit. I saw it happen with Guardians. It ‘wasn’t afraid to be fun’ or it ‘was colorful and funny.’ And next thing I know I hear of a hundred film projects being set up ‘like Guardians,’ and I start seeing dozens of trailers exactly like the Guardians trailer with a big pop song and a bunch of quips. Ugh.

Deadpool wasn’t that. Deadpool was it’s own thing. That’s what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers and it wasn’t afraid to take risks.

“So, over the next few months, if you pay attention to the trades, you’ll see Hollywood misunderstanding the lesson they should be learning with Deadpool. They’ll be green-lighting films ‘like Deadpool’ – but by that they won’t mean ‘good and original’ but ‘a raunchy superhero film’ or ‘it breaks the fourth wall.’ They’ll treat you like you’re stupid, which is one thing Deadpool didn’t do.”

Gunn is correct in every stretch of the imagination. To shorten his prose, in Reddit fashion, he’s stating that Deadpool’s success will lead the studios to want to find and green-light projects that are very similar to it, in the belief that it will guarantee a similar box office payout. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Gunn believes that Deadpool’s success came from the fact that it wasn’t trying to be anything else, but instead it took an original approach that helped it stand out. Its originality was its calling card.

What’s fascinating is that this situation is very common in Hollywood and has created a tired cinema climate that has directly influenced movie theatres and what we’re paying to see. With the success of Star Wars came Roger Moore as James Bond in Moonraker, a Bond film based on a brilliant book that had nothing to do with space, and with Avatar came a torrent of films that were released in 3D – hiking up ticket prices overnight. These are just a fraction of the examples that a curious researcher could find.

The biggest point here is Gunn’s belief that Hollywood sees us as stupid audience members who are willing to spend our money on anything.

Unfortunately, he’s right, and we haven’t done much to separate ourselves from this grand generalization. At the end of the day we’re the ones buying tickets and driving to the movie theaters, thus we have a say in what we want to see. If we pay for a Deadpool copy next summer we’re doing exactly what the studios predicted and being even stupider than they thought.