Pillbox

Deadpool set to spawn dozens of imitators

It is no secret that life is completely unpredictable. The only certainty is uncertainty. This lesson has blinded Hollywood creatives on a consistent basis. When a movie hits, or a phenomenon catches hold, Hollywood will do everything in their power to reproduce it. 2001: A Space Odyssey did not start with credits as prior movies did. Trailers stopped using the gravelly voiceover of Don LaFontaine.

The trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy had a catchy pop song, and now all trailers do. But when that journey for reproductive success means blindly creating content that does not appreciate itself, audiences just buy tickets to the opera or spend the weekend at home binge-watching House Of Cards. On Feb. 12, the highly anticipated Deadpool was released and audiences jammed the ticket booth. Why?

For the sake of argument, let’s not consider the absolutely brilliant marketing campaign. In February 2004, a movie based on the Marvel Comics character Deadpool was announced and writers were hired to develop a story with Ryan Reynolds in the title role.

After getting tossed around like a pack of gum at a high school pep rally, the character landed at 20th Century Fox, along with the rest of the X-Men, when Marvel sold off some properties to avoid bankruptcy. The Deadpool movie was shelved. In 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine happened and depicted a version of the Deadpool character that was, let’s just say, frowned upon. In the six years since, the initial script was rewritten and Reynolds, operating as a producer, pushed for a proper story and a theatrical release.

Am I saying that every movie should take six years to hash out every detail? Of course not, but there is not yet any evidence of projected success in this tale. Movies are shelved all the time.

What separates this Deadpool movie? Reynolds’ producing and Tim Miller’s directing comes from a place of passion for the character. In an issue of the comic, and this story is now becoming famous, the “Merc With The Mouth” is asked what he looks like under his mask. Deadpool responds saying he looks “like Ryan Reynolds crossed with a Shar-Pei.” Reynolds read the issue and became interested.

Over the years, Reynolds connected further with the character and had ample time to consider every angle for a film. He realized a “proper” Deadpool story is naturally cinematic. The writers agreed and penned a brilliant script that captures all the best cinematic qualities of Deadpool. Lucky for us, the audience, the best cinematic qualities of Deadpool are the best qualities of Deadpool: fourth-wall breakdown, condescending sense of humor, graphic violence, and cheeky, harsh language.

Writing a proper story for a cinematic adaptation is not a universal quality. A proper Batman story is not cinematic, most notably because of “The Boy Wonder.” A proper Batman story has Robin: a teenage, orphaned, acrobat who wears red and green tights and confronts homicidal criminals. That will not work on screen.

Deadpool’s cinematic appeal is the ability for it to be taken off the page and put on screen. The audience responds to authenticity, not comedic gimmicks or star power. The passion Reynolds and Miller hold for the character fuels the film to its record-breaking success. Maybe Hollywood will take notice and learn something.

You can expect plenty of movies “like Deadpool” in theaters soon. The fourth wall is no longer sacred. R-rated action films are going to make a comeback. Unfortunately, I anticipate these films to not be treated with the same appreciation for the story that the creators of Deadpool had for theirs. I anticipate them to be “like Deadpool” in every aspect except the one that audiences appreciate: authenticity.

It doesn’t hurt that the marketing campaign was just as authentic as the film itself. A successful film marketing campaign must be treated as an extension of the film, not a simple representation of it. That is what Deadpool and Fox did perfectly. 20th Century Fox embraced a self-awareness of the character and used it to expand upon their movie. Billboards depicting the film as a Valentine’s Day release (it wasn’t) love story (it was) were brilliant. They released viral pieces of Deadpool himself spoofing other pieces in entertainment and pop culture. They used the fourth-wall breaks to their advantage when Deadpool addresses the camera and does press interviews in character. The studio piqued everybody’s curiosity and then released a spectacular movie. Word of mouth took over, and Deadpool is now breaking more records than Michael Phelps.

If Hollywood can embrace the fact that movies are more than a dollar amount, take pride in their product, and hire filmmakers that are passionate about making the right film, we can expect more movies “like Deadpool,” movies that are remarkable and profitable at the same time. With any luck, the writers of the next Transformers movies are taking notes.