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If you’re a fan of comic books, Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds, or even – gasp – a fan of all three at the same time, then you’re probably aware that the Deadpool movie, long in production limbo and only recently started filming, will receive an R rating. This is good news and as is befitting of the Merc with the Mouth, the team bringing him to the big screen (for realz this time!) announced the rating victory in the only way that made sense.deadpool footage

Some of you might be wondering why it’s so important that Deadpool has an R rating. Even Mario Lopez points out in the video why having a PG-13 rating would benefit the movie; franchise, sequels, toys, etc. But what it really boils down to is authenticity. Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, isn’t a PG-13 character, he’s an R character. His world is full of graphic violence, ambiguous ethics, and some pretty choice language. Yes, he’s funny, irreverent, and breaks the fourth wall, but a lot of that is used as a stark contrast to the awful things he says and does. Emphasizing one aspect over the other kind of misses the point.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a little background, yes? Yes.

Deadpool has been kicking around Hollywood since about 2004 when New Line Cinemas tried to produce a film with writer/director David S. Goyer, who you may remember from such films as The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, and Blade, helming the project and Ryan Reynolds starring as the titular character. This was around the same time as Blade: Trinity (2004), which Goyer wrote, produced, and directed and Reynolds starred in alongside Wesley Snipes and Jessica Biel. Goyer apparently lost interest, but 20th Century Fox picked up the film rights and put a spinoff into production as a potential followup to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) where Reynolds was cast as Wade Wilson/Deadpool.

Sort of.

that-deadpool-movie-we-were-all-excited-about-will-be-pg-13While X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a box office success, it was a critical failure and didn’t sit right with many fans of the X-Men universe, the comics or the film series. Regardless of its prequel status and the inflated cast of mutant cameos, one of the more egregious errors was the treatment of Deadpool to the point where most fans don’t even consider the character on screen to be the same as the one they found in the pages of Marvel comics. To be fair, none of the X-Men movies have stuck to the comic book canon completely, but Origins seemed to be checking off a list of names to use without any thought put into motivations, personality, or anything else that would make a character compelling. Reynolds does, however, have one of the best scenes in the film and his sarcastic, snarky attitude resonated with fans of Deadpool. The movie may not have gotten it right, but Reynolds did.

Since then it’s been an ongoing battle to get Deadpool his own movie with Reynolds being the character’s biggest champion and cheerleader. So it was to everyone’s delight when the film was given the official green light in 2014, not long after the test footage for the film was leaked, with a scheduled release date of February 12, 2016. The timing of the film’s production and release within the context of the current landscape of superhero and comic book franchises, however, is what makes Deadpool‘s rating so important.9df2a3cce7aae4167e8461ac7ab22c9d

Deadpool‘s status as a viable property emerged during the first wave of successful Marvel films of the late 90s and early 2000s. Basically, it was post Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), and Spider-Man (2002) but somewhat preceded the concept of a shared cinematic universe propelled by Iron Man (2006) on down to The Avengers (2012). Yes, the X-Men films had an internal continuity (sort of) but aside from being based on Marvel characters, the film rights under 20th Century Fox left any possibility of a crossover with Marvel Studios off the table. In the wake of Marvel’s billion-dollar franchise of films, pretty much every studio has tried or is attempting to copy their model. One of the more consistent elements of the Marvel films, and most superhero films in general, has been a PG-13 rating.

ryan reynoldsThe PG-13 rating is a studio’s dream for franchise films. It allows for the broadest range of audience demographics while still maintaining a level of action, violence, salty language, and sexual innuendo that we’ve collectively accepted as appropriate for children to see with their parents and teens to see on their own. Adults, obviously, are always welcome. From a marketing standpoint, kids and teens are the target audience because, as we all know, studios are looking to make bank on merchandise. One need only look at the plethora of Marvel Cinematic Universe toys and the children gravitating towards them to understand why Marvel Studios hasn’t let any of their films break the PG-13 barrier. Not that it’s handicapped the movies at all, but then again we’re not dealing with characters who occupy an R-rated world.

Comic books published by the big two of Marvel and DC currently maintain an unofficial PG-13 rating, though your mileage may vary on whether or not that’s true depending on the subject matter. Either way, both companies have imprints, MAX and Vertigo respectively, meant to handle mature content for readers and the MAX books regularly featured characters like Wolverine, the Punisher, and Deadpool in stories that went beyond acceptable levels of violence, language, and bloody satisfaction. But these are also the stories many fans of the characters latched on to before Hollywood got a hold of them. Wolverine and the Punisher were products of a lax Comics Code and the ultra-violence of the 80s and early 90s and Deadpool was an inspired copy of DC’s Deathstroke. These are not characters who regularly cuddle bunnies and sing show tunes. Well, Deadpool would, but he’d probably be murdering a guy to death while doing it. The point is when adapting characters like Wolverine and the Punisher to the big screen, there’s a reason why Fox continues to produce the exploits of deadool_vs_deathstroke_by_luizhd-d7546h6PG-13 Logan, in X-Men or solo films, while Frank Castle’s two rated R theatrical releases have become cult classics.

Given everything that’s occurred since the initial interest in Deadpool, one would think Reynolds, director Tim Miller, the writers, and producers would attempt to go the safest and seemingly most profitable route. But I think it goes back to what I mentioned earlier. This is about authenticity, bringing the real Deadpool to the big screen. There might be some thoughts of sequels or a franchise, but I guarantee that what’s really at the forefront of the filmmakers’ minds is making the best damn Deadpool movie they can, which means getting a hard R rating so they can at least say they made their Deadpool.

And really, a rated R movie for a Marvel character isn’t a huge stretch at this moment in time. Marvel Studios is about to release their Daredevil series on Netflix, which has no standardized ratings to speak of, and from all accounts it sounds like the series could be Marvel’s grittiest venture to date. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist are slated to follow but no one’s talking “franchise” just yet. This is as much Marvel experimenting with how far they can go deadpool-ryan-reynolds-450x244with their “street level” heroes as it is building their live action universe. Yes, Deadpool is owned by Fox, but he’s also part of a growing trend of studios exploring comic book properties beyond broad spectrum demographics. Dark Horse’s Powers has already premiered on Play Station, Valiant has started the process of developing a shared cinematic universe with their properties, and Image Comics darlings Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction will be developing several of their works from the publisher for television. There may be blockbuster superhero films, but niche audiences are also proving to be just as lucrative.

And I’m sure Deadpool would appreciate that.

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If bending to the will of North Korea wasn’t bad enough, it looks like Sony also likes bending over backwards to appease the male movie-going audience of crybabies who see an all-women cast for the Ghostbusters reboot as a threat to the time-honored tradition of busting ghosts. Clearly the lady-folk donning unlicensed nuclear accelerators is most unorthodox and ghostbusters-castcannot be tolerated by polite society.

As reported by Deadline, Sony has given the greenlight for director/writer/producer Ivan Reitman and actor/writer Dan Aykroyd to form a subsidiary production company, Ghostcorps, that will focus explicitly on developing Ghostbusters related properties and merchandising. First on the docket is another Ghostbusters movie slated to immediately follow director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids) 2016 reboot staring Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. This sequel (?) already has Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Solider) on board to direct following their first-look deal with Sony as well as Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Mission: Impossible 5) tapped to write the script and Channing Tatum on board to produce and, most likely, star per the pitch uncovered during the Sony hack.

Reitman further explained how the films will kick off the new Ghostbusters franchise to Deadline:

Paul Feig’s film will be the first version of that, shooting in June to come out in July, 2016. He’s got four of the funniest women in the world, and there will be other surprises to come. The second film has a wonderful idea that builds on that. Drew will start writing and the hope is to be ready for the Russo Brothers’ next window next summer to shoot, with the movie coming out the following hear. It’s just the beginning of what I hope will be a lot of wonderful movies.

Ghostbuster-Lady-ThumbThe key to comedy is (pause for effect) timing. So it’s really mind-boggling that Reitman and Aykroyd, two people known primarily for their comedic ventures, would have the inability to understand how poorly timed their deal with Sony truly is. Look, I’m all for expanding the Ghostbusters world. The premise is solid regardless of the cast, but I’m not the only one who sees how suspicious it is that Ghostcorps was announced in conjunction with the film following the all-women cast. World building is important to a burgeoning franchise, especially one with a 30-year gap, but this announcement feels exclusionary to Feig’s Ghostbusters. It also reeks of panic in response to the vocal minority of dudes who took to social media with their complaints about the reboot and the female leads while the tiniest violin played in the background. Not helping is the fact that Reitman and Aykroyd’s involvement lends greater legitimacy to the film starring Tatum and puts the movie-going audience in the position of creating a gendered dichotomy between the films. The kicker being that Feig’s Ghostbusters will most likely be referenced in the news as the all-female Ghostbusters while the Russo Brothers film will just be referred to as The Ghostbusters because Hollywood is stuck in the male-as-default mentality.a886df9e392dba27a9dd27225c748b56

Seriously, I wouldn’t be opposed to a Channing Tatum, and possibly Chris Pratt, starring followup if the studio had either announced Ghostcorps along with Feig’s reboot or waited until maybe the film was further along in production before throwing another one into the mix. It sends a message that the studio lacks confidence in Feig’s film and it’s disappointing that, as it stands, Wiig, McCarthy, Jones, and McKinnon won’t get to just be The Ghostbusters. It’s always going to come with the caveat of the female Ghostbusters despite the fact that women hold the same love and nostalgia for the original movies as men. Women cosplay as Ghostbusters, read the comics, and watch the cartoons, but you know what women haven’t really had in regards to busting ghosts? Representation on film. That’s what it all comes down to. Sure, a team of men and women would be great in future films, but having a full team of women in an action/horror/comedy sends another message about who can lead a film, the openness of multiple genres, and the strength of thoughtful world building.

Like I said: