Forget Days of Future Past. Sending Wolverine’s consciousness back to the 1970s may have erased the calamity of X3: X-Men United, but that’s small potatoes compared to how Deadpool may have altered the trajectory of the future of Fox’s X-Men movie universe—and a lot of other superhero movies, too.
Here’s the deal: Deadpool is a major, major success. It’s made $132 million in its opening weekend alone, bigger than the first Spider-Man movie, Man of Steel, the third X-Men movie, and many more. More stunningly, it did this despite having a comparatively tiny budget of $58 million. Deadpool isn’t just a hit, it’s one of the most profitable superhero movies of all time—and it’s only been out for three days. It’s this incredible profitability that’s going to irrevocably change Fox’s superhero movie plans, but that may just be the beginning.
The first and foremost change is that Fox will finally manage to put the X-Force movie in production, especially since it’s Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds’ self-proclaimed priority. As with a lot of superhero films, Fox has been toying with the idea for years—and until this weekend it would absolutely have been visualized as a PG-13 X-Men spinoff, another entry in the franchise. Now, however, it’s effectively going to be a Deadpool sequel (yes, despite the fact that there’s also an actual Deadpool sequel actually in production).
Ecstatic over Deadpool’s profitability, Fox has undoubtedly already approved an R-rated X-Force movie with Deadpool as a lead. It’s a tone that will suit X-Force, best characterized as the X-Men universe’s spec ops hit squad, well. The modern X-Force comics are brutal, and violent, and funny, and they actually star Deadpool. Making X-Force a spiritual Deadpool sequel targeted to the same crowd is a no-brainer.
These changes have probably already been made. The real question is, what could be next? Fox will obviously look through their X-Men rights for other characters to make into R-rated stars. It will undoubtedly think about increasing the adult content of the Gambit movie, which (like Deadpool before it) has been in pre-production for a suspiciously long time. There’s a chance that Fox could even alter the main X-Men franchise to be more mature—although those films generally do well enough that I’m better Fox will not want to mess with them. This would also be a terrible idea, of course, but studios make terrible decisions in their desperate bids for profits constantly.
But I have a theory, although it is pure speculation: Fox knows it has no idea how to handle the Fantastic Four franchise. Their last attempt—a morose but thoroughly PG-13 reboot—was a complete flop. In a world where the public looks to be insanely excited for R-rated superhero action-comedies, I could so, so easily see Fox asking for some screenwriter to turn a brand-new Fantastic Four into a raunchy, R-rated comedy. This would practically be the polar opposite of last year’s Fantastic Four—and god help me, while I know the fans would lose their minds, this may actually be something that mass audiences want. They certainly haven’t cared for the other versions of the FF. Maybe a version with Johnny Storm making jokes about Mr. Fantastic’s extendable penis is just what they’ve been waiting for.
But that’s just Fox. There’s literally no way that Marvel Studios and Warner Bros haven’t also noticed Deadpool’s amazing success and aren’t at least pondering whether there’s an opportunity there.
Marvel’s “mature”-rated comics have been turned into Netflix TV series, but there are plenty of Marvel Knights and Marvel MAX series that could be turned into smaller, R-rated flicks, starring heroes like Black Widow, Blade, Ghost Rider, War Machine, Howard the Duck, and more. Certainly the studio’s schedule is currently full with its current roster of films, but a smaller, $50 million movie could probably be added to their line-up pretty easily.
And Warner Bros. could be looking to its Vertigo comic line for possible cinematic adaptations. In fact, Deadpool may give DC/WB enough confidence to finally make some of the more mature movies it’s had languishing in development for years, including Sandman, Y: The Last Man, Fables, and more.
Again, this is all speculation, but a success like Deadpool does not go unnoticed. It has shown Hollywood that superhero movies don’t have to be PG-13; they don’t have to be super-serious; and they certainly don’t need to adhere to some bizarre idea of “realism.” More importantly, it’s shown them that there’s a ton of money to be made, if they can expand their preconceived notions of what they think audiences want.
Admit it, it would be kind of perfect if Deadpool—a movie Fox ignored for years until the test footage leaked—ended up having a profound influence not just on the X-Men movies, but the entire genre. Certainly Deadpool would very much approve.