Rise of the anti hero

by Syed Tashfin Chowdhury

xtra0012Of late, Hollywood’s fascination with superhero movies had become monotonous. Since 2000, the formula has remained more or less the same.
Almost all the big-budget superhero movies based on popular comic book characters were released as summer blockbusters. Starring some of the biggest names in the global film industry, the movies usually managed to rake up cash in the global box office that sometimes hit the billion dollar mark.
As there seemed to be little or no shifts in the paradigm, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg had said last September, ““We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns.”
The comments irked many fans of the genre but it made sense to many. Some of these people were the ones who appreciated the release of Deadpool, one of the most low-budget comicbook movies made over the past two decades.
The movie, from Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox, was not a summer release. It was released worldwide on Valentines’ Day with an R-rating, signifying that the movie will be off-limits for viewers under 17 years of age.
Still the movie managed to break a number of records including the biggest R-rated opening weekend, the biggest 20-century Fox debut ever, the biggest Fox movie weekend ever among others.
Also since its release, the movie has generated a global revenue of $ 708 million, when the total budget for the movie was a paltry $ 58 million, nearly nothing compared to other releases from the genre.
For example, the Josh Trank-directed ‘Fantastic Four’ (2015) had a budget of $ 120 million. After being released in August last year, the film did so bad that it currently has a rating of 4.3 out of 10 in IMDB.
Other recent superhero movies include ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ with budget of $ 170 million, ‘The Wolverine’ made with $ 120 million and ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ at $ 250 million.
It is clear that the producers did not have the same confidence on ‘Deadpool’ as they had on these earlier titles. And the reason is most likely it’s R-rating. Except for ‘Kick-Ass’, most superhero movies had a PG rating, with very few like ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ getting the PG-13.
So why is Deadpool still doing so phenomenally? Primarily, it would have to be the formidable direction by Tim Miller (Scott Pilgrim), the dynamic duo of writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland) who tried to honour the comic book character by including as much content from the comic books into the movie as possible and the acting skills of Ryan Reynolds.
Also, the movie tried to keep in line with the storyline in the comics, as much as possible.
Deadpool, as a comic book character, was introduced by Marvel Comics around the early nineties. Created by Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza, Deadpool was initially introduced as a super-villain. But over the next few years, fans loved the character so much that Deadpool became the quintessential anti hero.
Unlike superheroes like Superman and Captain America who always gets to do the right thing and are nearly perfect, Deadpool’s origin story was something that the common man can relate to.
In the comics, Wade Wilson is a former special ops operative who opts into a government weapons program as the facility promises to cure him off his terminal cancer. After undergoing torturous experiments and getting Wolverine’s healing factor, Wilson becomes Deadpool. Though he recovers from cancer through the super-healing factor, Wilson loses his mind, apparently hearing voices in his head and constantly getting into conversations with them.
As a mercenary, Deadpool takes up projects based on the money offered to him. While carrying out his tasks, he often crosses paths with super-villains and superheroes alike.
His insanity helps him realise that he is in a comic-book and he has since been the Marvel comics character to break the fourth wall in the comics as well as in the video games featuring Marvel characters.
He also has an affinity for popular culture. For example, he often humorously refers to Batman, Hello Kitty and even pokes fun at other Marvel characters like Wolverine, Spiderman, the X-men etc.
While the ‘voices in his head’ and the other minute details from the comic books were not portrayed in ‘Deadpool’ (most likely due to the budget constraint), the movie still had its humor-filled action sequences, pop culture references (Ferris Bueller, Hello Kitty, Green Lantern, Wham! etc.) and also a really, really foul-mouthed superhero, who can give Captain America a run for his money (“Language!” from ‘Avengers AoU’).
The unnerving success of the movie has already forced 20th Century Fox to announce a sequel with rumours making the rounds on the internet about ‘Deadpool’ becoming a franchise similar to ‘Mission Impossible’.
Interestingly, this is the same Fox studio which had its reservations about making a movie on Marvel comic’s anti hero character, since 2004. After a test footage leaked in 2014, the overwhelming response from fans worldwide drove Fox to reconsider.
This popularity with the fans is still helping the success of the movie. If you randomly go into instagram or facebook, you are bound to see at least a few photos of people taking selfies with tickets to the movie.
The R-rating may keep away plenty of families from watching the movie in theatres. Still, the movie is running to nearly packed houses even on weekdays, as the actual fans of Deadpool know that the script of the movie has tried to stay true to its comic book storyline.
Deadpool’s success, which stems from the popularity of the comic-book anti hero, proves the point that the mass audience is more likely to embrace something with which they can relate to, as opposed to the picture-perfect characters with little or no flaws, in most popular media.

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