Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn this morning was set off by an executive quote in Deadline’s box office coverage on the success of Deadpool, which blindsided the industry with a historic R-rated opening of $132.75M.
One non-Fox suit explained yesterday that Deadpool worked because, “The film has a self-deprecating tone that’s riotous. It’s never been done before. It’s poking fun at Marvel. That label takes itself so seriously; can you imagine them making fun of themselves in a movie? They’d rather stab themselves.”
Gunn, who has his own success under the Marvel label with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy ($94.3M FSS, final domestic $333M), provided his own insights as to why Deadpool was a box office phenomenon (“It’s original”) and, “For the theatrical experience to survive, spectacle films need to expand their definition of what they can be.” Yes, Gunn broke the mold on the comic book film genre, generating mass appeal from an arguably lesser known property in Marvel’s vaults (some even compare his GOG to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back). He’s currently working on GOG2.
But more to the executive’s point, Disney Marvel films by and large can play it safe in their design, so as not to ostracize their PG-13 fanbase (not to mention, Disney would never release an R-rated Marvel film). There’s a lot of risk inherent for a major studio in distributing an R-rated superhero title complete with violence and nudity. Previous attempts didn’t exactly send out shockwaves at the B.O.: Critically acclaimed Kick-Ass wound up catering to a niche crowd with a final stateside of $48M, and DC’s storied Watchmen wasn’t exactly The Avengers at the box office when it finally hit the screen with a final domestic of $107.5M, almost twice its $55M.
Here’s what Gunn had to say:
“The film has a self-deprecating tone that’s riotous. It’s never been done before. It’s poking fun at Marvel. That label takes itself so seriously, can you imagine them making fun of themselves in a movie? They’d rather stab themselves.”
That’s a quote from Deadline Hollywood, attributing it to a Hollywood “suit.” I love Deadline and get a lot of my film business news from them. And I love Deadpool even more – the film is hilariously funny, has lots of heart, and is exactly what we need right now, taking true risks in spectacle film – but COME THE FUCK ON. That’s no reason to rewrite history. This quote has to have been said by the dumbest fucking Hollywood exec in the history of dumb fucking Hollywood execs.
Let’s ignore Guardians for a moment, a movie that survives from moment to moment building itself up and cutting itself down – God knows I’m biased about that one. But what do you think Favreau and Downey did in Iron Man? What the fuck was Ant-Man??!
Come on, Deadline.
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 Guardians,” and I start seeing dozens of trailers exactly like the Guardians trailer with a big pop song and a bunch of quips. Ugh.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
Deadpool wasn’t that. Deadpool was its own thing. THAT’S what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks.
For the theatrical experience to survive, spectacle films need to expand their definition of what they can be. They need to be unique and true voices of the filmmakers behind them. They can’t just be copying what came before them.
So, over the next few months, if you pay attention to the trades, you’ll see Hollywood misunderstanding the lesson they should be learning with Deadpool. They’ll be green lighting films “like Deadpool” – but, by that, they won’t mean “good and original” but “a raunchy superhero film” or “it breaks the fourth wall.” They’ll treat you like you’re stupid, which is the one thing Deadpool didn’t do.
But hopefully in the midst of all this there will be a studio or two that will take the right lesson from this – like Fox did with Guardians by green-lighting Deadpool – and say – “Boy, maybe we can give them something they don’t already have.”
And that’s who is going to succeed.
Have a great day.
After our back and forth with Gunn, it turns out he likes us after all. Check out this Tweet: