Deadpool shattered records this weekend, earning $135 million in three days. And it did it as an R-rated superhero movie, something nobody believed would happen. Even the most optimistic projection had the movie raking in half of what it ultimately grossed. So, now that we know an R-rating is no roadblock to making money, let’s consider what other superheroes deserve a more mature, or at least potty-mouthed, tone?
Tellingly, David Ayer’s forthcoming Suicide Squad, despite its many trailers, doesn’t have a rating yet. The film should consider just going for the R, not least because a key feature of the comic has always been that the members of the Squad are disposable. Members drop like flies, sometimes thanks to the bombs implanted in their necks, and they’re not nice people in the first place. Furthermore, the movie is directed by David Ayer, notable for his hard-R crime dramas and war movies like End of Watch and Fury. It’s clear Ayer was hired to provide a certain tone, so let him follow through.
Guardians of the Galaxy
True, Guardians of the Galaxy was a massive hit for Disney, but at the same time it often looked like James Gunn wanted to make a rowdier movie. So, why not let him? If there was ever a time to let Gunn loose, it’s the guaranteed hit followup to a movie everyone loves. Gunn’s other superhero movie, Super, was a hilarious satire of the superhero genre and especially its fans, and his resumé, from his work at the notorious Troma to the gross-out achievement Slither, has been a little rougher than Guardians. The kids will still buy Rocket Raccoon plushies whether they see the movie or not, so let him have a little fun.
Any film version of Neil Gaiman’s complex, literary comic would almost have to be rated R. It’s difficult to imagine a way to deal with the world of Dream that wouldn’t get that rating, especially as Gaiman wasn’t shy about dealing with social issues in a grounded, patient way; the book featured gay and trans characters not as monsters and freaks, but people living their lives, something mainstream movies still struggle to do. There’s sex and violence; the book has gone straight into horror, especially early on as Gaiman was exploring the tone and revealing that Dream was not a sweet, sensitive Robert Smith type, but something of a bastard.
It’s true that Gaiman’s sensitive exploration of the power of stories and dreams is a world away from Deadpool’s smart-assed violence, but if we’re ever going to see this turned into a movie, it’d be nice to see DC give Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s currently working on an adaptation, the budget and creative room he needs.
This is not to say Ant-Man movies should aim for an R-rating. But if you’re stuffing a cast with funny people who can improvise, you should give them the leeway to improvise freely. Ant-Man’s creative team features two alumni of Anchorman, and honestly, the first one was something of a missed opportunity for Marvel to turn out its own action comedy with a smart-assed anti-hero. Everybody involved is returning for the sequel, including director Peyton Reed, no slouch at sophisticated, sharp-tongued humor himself, and they could make something with the same snappy chemistry.
2013’s The Wolverine was a smart change of pace for the franchise — for much of the movie. Instead of Wolverine fighting massive government conspiracies or giant robots, he was a tough guy out of water, struggling with his past and uncertain about his future. Until, that is, the movie deliver a requisite third-act full of giant robots and ninjas because people want a big finale, right? Hugh Jackman and James Mangold clearly want to explore Logan’s darker, more complex side, and seeing Jackman’s Wolverine off with an R-rating would at the very least let them show people bleeding when he stabs them.
Of course, it doesn’t have to all be about familiar DC and Marvel characters. Incognito, one of the many noir-tinged stories from the team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, follows a pulp villain who joins the Witness Protection Program after selling his boss up the river. It’s a story of sex, drugs, amoral violence and immoral people, much like Criminal, their noir about a superhero under cover in a terrorist organization Sleeper, or their Lovecraftian crime story Fatale. Really, if you’re going to adapt Brubaker and Phillips, R is the only way to go.