Bawdy 'Deadpool' Breaks From Comic Norm

By Robert Marich
   Feb. 21, 2016—R-rated comic book adventure-comedy Deadpool remains the #1 box office film in its second weekend, raising the question why this 20th Century Fox youth-audience film became a surprise blockbuster.
   In 12 days of release, Deadpool has grossed $234 million domestically, including $55 this weekend. It's all the more
'Deadpool' Shines By Risk for Raunchy

surprising that blockbuster performance is for a movie based on middle-of-the-pack Marvel Comics superhero.
   What gives?
   My feeling is Fox shrewdly saw the comic-book-to-movies adaptations remain popular with moviegoers, though risked audience fatigue from constant PG-13-rated variations of coming-of-age by youthful goodie-goodie characters. The restricted-rated Deadpool is foul-mouthed, self-reverential and features an anti-hero. The lead character delivers dry deadpan humor talking to the camera, which is different for comic-book adaptations.
   In short, Fox felt it was time to "zig" when the rest of Hollywood "zagged"--sticking to the traditional PG-13 formula.
   The risk wasn’t that great for Fox because Deadpool reportedly cost $58 million to make—about one-third of glossy earnest comic book films. And raunchy films like The Hangover and a spate of moderate hit female R-rated comedies also buttress the rationale for Deadpool.
   The bawdy creative thrust, though unusual, wasn’t unprecedented.’s Anthony D’Alessandro reminded that Lionsgate’s 2010 R-rated superhero romp Kick Ass generated just okay boxoffice (the audience wasn’t ready in 2010!). Like Deadpool, Kick Ass is very irreverent and in the super hero space.
   “The studio is giving hardcore fans what they’ve been demanding for years — the character’s trademark brand of smarminess,” writes Chris Boyles of Business2Community.
   Fox marketing executives told Jeanine Poggie of Advertising Age that they credit social media embracing the movie in the run-up to its premiere, along with a big traditional-media blitz concentrated in the week prior. “And heading into opening weekend, Deadpool took over three Viacom networks, with custom ads running during a three-hour stretch on MTV, VH1 and Spike,” wrote Poggie.
   Writes Pamela McClintock in Hollywood Reporter, “In March 2015, a first-look photo was release depicting Deadpool in his costume lying on a bearskin rug, mimicking the famous Burt Reynolds Playgirl centerfold. The image was a key test to see if fans approved of the costume. They did. Then in the summer, Fox teased the first trailer at Comic-Con. Two weeks later, Fox and the filmmakers convinced Conan O’Brien’s show on TBS to change its rating to TV-MA so as to debut the first Deadpool red-band trailer. It was the most viewed red-band trailer in history, garnering 114 million hits. The second red-band trailer debuted on Christmas Day, nabbing 90 million views.”
   Indeed, it seems the marketing was clever with some great tactics but a swell film that cut against the grain was important too. Others trying to duplicate the against-the-grain formula may fall short because similar films will not longer be unusual.
   One matter lost amid the boxoffice bonanza is that pre-release movie tracking research inexplicably under estimated Deadpool. Inexplicable is the word because the opening forecast $60-65 million was far below its actual $132.4 million Feb 12-14; particularly surprising because the young adult fanboy demographic is supposedly targeted by movie research firms. It’s a demo of heavy moviegoers that researchers should be knowledgeable.
   James Gunn, director  of another irreverent though more family-friend off-center comic book adaptation Guardians of the Galaxy, wrote on Facebook: “After every movie smashes records people here in Hollywood love to throw out the definitive reasons why the movie was a hit. I saw it happen with Guardians. It 'wasn't afraid to be fun' or it 'was colorful and funny' etc etc etc. And next thing I know I hear of a hundred film projects being set up ‘like Guardian.’”
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