DEAD ON ARRIVAL?

FOUR REASONS WHY DEADPOOL MAY NOT BE THE BLOCKBUSTER WE ALL HOPE IT WILL BE

(Originally posted on Hautnews.com January 2016)

When 20th Century Fox deputed the trailer for the long awaited Deadpool movie last summer, legions of fan boys circled February 12 on their calendars. Many heralded it as the next big comic book movie blockbuster that would usurp the likes of The Avengers and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. It was going to launch a billion dollar franchise and conquer an unsuspecting world. It was going to be the Donald Trump of movies! OK, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but to say that it generated a lot of excitement in fan boy circles is the cinematic understatement of the year. And when the Red Band trailer hit the Internet at Christmas, it made almost as much noise (the Internet pretty much belonged to Star Wars at that point). But there are four reasons for genuine concern about both the movie and the character’s silver screen prospects.

The Rating: The Deadpool movie is the result of years of lobbying, badgering, pleading and begging by the fan boy community, and during all the petitions and online dialogues, one of the two things everyone demanded was that the live action version of the Merc with a Mouth was rated R. Everyone wanted to see lots of blood, carnage and unholy violence and absolutely no filter installed to censor Deadpool’s signature manic profanity. Fans wanted headshots, decapitations and F-bombs! And lots of them! Except . . .

An R rating excludes a huge portion of the potential audience-namely teenagers. Sure, you’ll have plenty prepubescent movie goers sneaking in, but for every one who does manage to ninja their way past an uninterested usher, you’ll have one or two who’ll just shrug and either pirate it or wait for it to hit the home and streaming markets. Of the billions grossed by Avengers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and previous X films, how much of it do you think was the result of teenagers seeing it over and over, unencumbered by any legal obstacles? Now ask yourself how much an R rating could have cost those franchises.

The Release Date: Normally, February is the No Man’s Land of the movie calendar. It’s the month studios move films to after deciding they’d rather see them turn a sliver of a profit instead of getting annihilated during the summer blockbuster smorgasbord (Hollywood’s alternative to actually making good movies all year round). MGM decided against releasing the Robocop remake in the summer of 2013, instead moving it to February of 2014. Warner Bros. did the same thing with Jupiter Ascending, moving it from the summer of 2014 to last February, and both movies were still box office disappointments. The list goes on but you get the idea. Normally a February release alone would be cause for concern, except February of 2016 is looking particularly strong.

If Deadpool is going to be successful it will need to attract plenty of mainstream box office attention. Comic book fans may be worth a few million here and there but they can’t sustain a blockbuster on their own. And ‘Pool is going to face some stiff competition. The Cohen Brothers comedy Hail Caesar! (starring the likes of George Clooney, Scarlett Johnassen, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Josh Brolin) and the horror/comedy Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (starring genre fan faves Matt Smith and Lena Headey) will both be released February 5th, a week before Deadpool. Deadpool itself will be hitting theatres on Valentine’s Day weekend and will not only be facing the romance Learning How To Be Single, but will also be trying to take dollars away from Zoolander 2. Mainstream audiences have been waiting for the second movie starring Ben Stiller’s clueless supermodel just as long as the smaller (and less profitable) comic book audience has been waiting for Deadpool. And if the Poolster somehow navigates that crowded movie shuffle, he’s going to wind up staring down the Christian movie audience a few weeks later when Revival is released February 26th.

The Lead: Remember when we said previously that there were two things fandom demanded during their long years of waiting for Deadpool to hit the big screen? Other then the R rating, fans would only be satisfied as long as it was Ryan Reynolds bringing everyone’s favourite mutant assassin to life. In truth, Reynolds was literally born to play this role, and fans have known it since he appeared as Deadpool in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But unfortunately, only comic book fans know it.

Reynolds’ recent box office track record has been beyond bad. His brand hasn’t recovered from the enormous bomb that was Green Lantern in 2011. All those movie-bombs may not have been his fault, but mainstream audiences aren’t that understanding. As far as the all-important casual fan goes, Reynolds is more likely to repel dollars then attract them. And the fact that Rob Liefield, a former superstar comic book artist now reviled by a large portion of comic fandom, is involved won’t help either.

The Studio: People point to how Fox injected new life into an X-Men movie franchise that had grown stale, and they’re absolutely right. But that means Fox had to inject new life into a movie franchise they allowed to grow stale. And we can also point out the solo Wolverine movies, films that ranged from bad to mediocre. And let’s not forget, Fox was responsible for this summer’s Fantastic Four debacle, a failure of a reboot if there ever was one. In fact, the entire summer of 2015 was a write off for Fox, and when a studio blows the time of year responsible for a sizeable chunk of its revenue, that can’t bode well for future projects under its banner.

There’s no real reason for fans to panic, the movie could very well be a runaway success. But these four reasons should be enough for everyone to temper their enthusiasm with just a little more optimistic caution.

Shayne Kempton

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