Why ‘Deadpool’s R-Rating Will Make For Better Superhero Movies

It was announced yesterday that Deadpool would be rated R by brutalizing Mario Lopez with a stage light. While entertainment journalists being beaten is always entertaining provided they’re not me, I was actually excited for an entirely different reason.

When I ran my Guardians of the Galaxy review, I got a lot of flack for saying Marvel was playing it safe. But I couldn’t help that feeling, even if I enjoyed the movie; if you’re familiar with James Gunn’s previous work at all, you could feel the guy holding back because Disney was worried one too many f-bombs might alienate somebody and they’d sell one fewer plush Rocket toy. It’s a problem that’s getting worse.

All superhero movies are, to Hollywood, products first and foremost. They cost a lot of money, and they exist to make even more money in lots of ways, and creating a shared universe around them raises the stakes even higher. Say Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out May 1 and bombs for some reason. There are no fewer than eight movies and four TV shows based around the idea that movie’s going to be a huge hit. Granted, the idea this movie might tank is more or less inconceivable at this point… but if it did happen, Disney would lose billions.

That’s not a situation where filmmakers are generally allowed to express their personalities beyond a shawarma joke or give the ideas a new spin. The saga of Edgar Wright and Ant-Man demonstrates that all too well.

This is why Deadpool embracing an R-rating is way more than just good news for fans. It’s a chance to demonstrate that superhero movies don’t have to just be PG-13 adventures to set up multiple franchises, that rather they can be anything a smart filmmaker wants them to be. In the current Hollywood climate, some of the best superhero stories in comics would never get made because they’re too much of a risk, and nobody wants to be the one to roll the dice.

Really, if movies like Bridesmaids and Neighbors hadn’t been hits, Deadpool would have been forced to accept a PG-13 rating. Fox isn’t making that big of a bet. But Deadpool is likely to be a hit, and when that happens, there’s a chance for Hollywood to realize they can do more than play it safe.