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February 24, 2016

Mature Marvel

by Ross M. Kitson

My friends and colleagues have learned now not to ask if I’ve seen any film with a certificate greater than PG. The downside of three children with a wide age spectrum (five to thirteen) is that when it comes to the flicks, the lowest age wins out. So it is with a touch of chagrin that I write a blog about Fox’s latest blockbuster, the Marvel character, Deadpool.

I’ve never been a massive Deadpool fan. The humour in the comic is rather hit and miss, and the use of the fourth wall in the writing irritates me: I like my characters in comic to remain in the imaginary world, not wittily enter mine. Nonetheless, he has become an amazingly popular character, and Fox were staking a lot on this film.

Deadpool image from www.foxmovies.com 

The reason for the high stakes is that the only way to do Deadpool properly was as a mature film, and for months fans had been peering through virtual fingers on virtual eyes awaiting confirmation that the release would be ‘R’ which equates to ‘15’ in the UK. And they were rewarded, as was Fox as Deadpool has this week reached the $500 million mark, which coupled with the biggest opening of an R-rated film, and the second biggest for Fox studios. The film continues the successful X-men franchise owned by Fox (the next instalment being Age of Apocalypse), and indeed Ryan Reynolds had played Deadpool in the movie, X-men Origins: Wolverine. Reynolds seems pretty clear that the two versions are separate—the one in Wolverine was created by Stryker and collected mutant abilities and this new one has an origin related to a cancer-cure, with no Stryker in sight. Given the appalling continuity of the X-men films and its jarring re-set in Days of Future Past (which is a great film regardless) I suppose we could just forget we’ve seen Deadpool before this.

What interests me more is the shift in the tone of superhero media. In the comic medium, mature reader comics are nothing new. DC got the ball rolling with Camelot 3000, which really had only moderate violence and some intimate scenes,  and then began running more mature storylines in its mainstream comics (Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Shade, The Shadow) as well as series that were distinctly mature from the outset, such as Gaiman’s Sandman and Moore’s Watchmen. DC then produced the imprint, Vertigo comics, from which we saw Preacher, Y-the last man, Fables, Enigma, Hellblazer, and Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. Yet TV and film adaptations remained embedded in the lighter end of the superhero market, and it’s only recently we’ve seen a shift in this.

Sandman. Image from www.starburstmagazine.com 

The movies took the plunge first, with the gloomier style of DC’s heroes Batman (in his Nolan incarnation) and Superman (in his Man of Steel re-re-boot). Marvel in film have gone for the blockbuster big action style, and with Iron Man, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Cap America and Avengers, they’ve hit the nail on the head. Of the current selection of superhero TV shows, there are two distinct flavours. DC’s The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and Peggy Carter, are all family orientated slickly produced offerings. In contrast, DC's Gotham, and Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones are geared more towards the older teen. All three are superb—well written, well acted, and no holds barred. Personally I like the Netflix Marvel series more, but I’m a Marvel boy through and through, and the violence in Gotham (mainly head-splatting gun stuff) seems put in there for shock not plot. Marvel-Netflix look to consolidate their success with Daredevil season 2, starring the Punisher and Elektra.

Jessica Jones (Netflix). Image from www.marvel.com 

It’s a good move in my opinion, providing the quality of the production is maintained, and the integrity of the source material is respected. On the film horizon this year we have the incredible looking Suicide Squad. It’s a tester for DC/Warner Bros to see if they’ll release it as a toned down ‘12’ (PG-13) or a gored-sweared up ‘15’ (R). I suspect the former, as it’s designed to follow the Superman v Batman movie, but I think they’ll push the limit on the content to the fringe of what would be accepted as a PG-13….

And to leave you with Deadpool:
‘Crime’s the disease, meet the cure. Okay, not the cure, but more like a topical ointment to reduce the swelling and itch.’


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