The Dawn of the R-Rated Superhero Movie
By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor
Everyone knows that Hollywood produces movies with graphic violence, perverse sexual content, explicit nudity, and foul language. For the most part, however, as bad as these movies were, they weren’t targeted at children. Looking at the top grossing R-rated movies from the last several years, it’s fairly safe to say that movies like THE REVENANT, BAD MOMS or even this year’s GET OUT weren’t movies that your 10-year-old son or daughter were begging you to take them to see, even though they might see the movie later at their friend’s house.
Sadly, that’s all changed.
Last year, DEADPOOL opened the floodgates of what a superhero movie could get away with in terms of hard R-rated content and still make money. . . a lot of money. The studios have tried it in the past with movies like THE PUNISHER or DREDD, and ultimately failed. There was a key difference with DEADPOOL though. The studio and filmmakers behind the incredibly graphic movie starring Ryan Reynolds didn’t seem to care if children were part of the targeted audience. In fact, they seemed to embrace it.
The distributor of DEADPOOL, 20th Century Fox, certainly didn’t expect DEADPOOL to perform like it did, since they only gave the filmmakers a $58 million dollar budget when Marvel movies like IRON MAN get a $200 million dollar budget. Still, DEADPOOL ended up grossing $363 million dollars in the United States and Canada, and nearly $800 million worldwide. Because of this, the R-rated superhero movie is the new cool kid on the block.
In March, Fox released the R-rated Wolverine movie, LOGAN, to rousing success critically and financially. Now, nearly half of the X-MEN movies in development at Fox are R-rated movies. Sony just announced this week a new Cinematic universe surrounding the characters in the Spider-Man comics, and the first movie they’re releasing is an R-rated movie centered on the villain VENOM, starring Tom Hardy, which will be released next year.
Thankfully, Kevin Feige has stated that you won’t be seeing an R-rated AVENGERS movie in his cinematic universe, but unfortunately, they’ve made the same mistake by including an increased amount of foul language in the recent GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY sequel.
How did we get here?
We got here because studios and filmmakers chose to not self-regulate the content they create, and many Americans still aren’t self-regulating what they watch. It may be one thing if you decide to see LOGAN or DEADPOOL with adult friends, but when did it become okay to play it on the iPad for your children? Do we want our children seeing other children commit awful acts of violence like they do in LOGAN? Thanks to social media, YouTube and children having full access to the Netflix account, children are exposed to pretty much the same things adults are, and that’s a terrifying thought, because the Internet is filled with garbage. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”
The worst thing about R-rated superhero movies is that they pervert the very reason they’re powerful stories. Superhero movies shouldn’t be reflections of the brokenness around us; they should be projections of what we want our society to be. Throwing out catch phrases like “gritty” or “realistic” are simply excuses to shock audiences with graphic content, and then convince them that it’s somehow better artistically because of it. LOGAN would’ve been just as good as a PG-13 movie, and there’s no reason Hollywood studios can’t have an irreverent superhero character who breaks the Fourth Wall but keeps everything relatively family friendly. For example, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is more creative, funny and entertaining than an R-rated DEADPOOL movie will ever be. So was Pixar’s popular animated superhero movie, THE INCREDIBLES.
For the sake of our children, though, it’s time that people are much more vocal about the content they don’t want exposed to society’s children. That may require some sacrifice, however – the sacrifice of living by example for the children we’re protecting and practicing self-control in the content we ourselves view as adults.
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