In the past year, Fox's Deadpool and Logan proved once and for all that an R-rating is no limit to a superhero movie's success. Now Marvel Studios, known for its family-friendly blockbusters, is suddenly facing fan pressure to react. Will Marvel ever embrace the demand for R-rated movies? Will they abandon their characteristically humorous tone and go for something different?
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel Studios chief #KevinFeige finally responded — and he made it clear that nothing's changing.
Don't Expect Any R-Rated Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies
The forthcoming, PG-13 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is as NSFW as the MCU gets. Reflecting on the remarkable success of Deadpool and Logan, Feige suggested that fans are missing the point.
"My takeaway from both of those films is not the R rating; it's the risk they took, the chances they took, the creative boundaries that they pushed. That should be the takeaway for everyone."
In other words, Feige doesn't believe these two films worked because of their R rating. They worked because the studio dared to be creative. He reportedly went on to cite examples — the way Deadpool breaks the fourth wall, for example, or the "finality of the Wolverine story." Nobody goes to see a movie just for violence and profanity.
This is becoming something of a party line for Marvel. Last year, #JamesGunn responded to Deadpool's success with a similar observation:
"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."
Both Kevin Feige and James Gunn believe, quite simply, that the rating is a distraction; the real challenge is simply to make a good film, whatever rating you're hoping to get.
Humor Is A Key Component Of The MCU
Some fans are looking at Marvel's rival cinematic universe, the DCEU, and wondering whether or not Marvel will ever embrace the darker, moodier approach. Again, that doesn't look likely. So far as Kevin Feige is concerned, humor is written in the #MCU's DNA:
"We don't sit there and say, 'We need 15 jokes in the first 45 pages,' but it just is something that we are naturally entertained by. Certainly in the Guardians films, as James would point out, in the Ant-Man films — it might rise to the surface more. It's been a long time that we haven't done a screening of a film that humor and action aren't the top two things that are listed in those movies."
That certainly holds true for the GOTG sequel, and fans have responded extremely well to the surprising humor in Thor: Ragnarok's trailer.
Amusingly, Feige reflects that humor is one of the first things they can assess during the testing phase. At those early stages, with special effects not yet added, he can still see how people are reacting to the film — through their laughter. And it's an important way to get audiences on Marvel's side:
"I also believe that laughter is the way you hook the audience. Then you can scare them. Then you can touch them deeper than they were expecting to in a film about a tree and a raccoon and aliens that don't understand metaphors. Humor is the secret into the audience's other ranges of emotions."
This dovetails perfectly with comments Feige made back in 2015 at a Q&A for Avengers: Age of Ultron. Back then, he described humor as a core part of Marvel's brand, hoping people would have caught on — if you watch a Marvel movie, you're going to get humor baked into it. If you prefer your superhero films to be joke-free, if you believe a movie needs to be dark and gritty in order to convey a sense of menace, then I'm afraid you're going to find yourselves disappointed with Marvel movies.
That's not to say the films won't have a tonal range; contrast Captain America: The Winter Soldier with Ant-Man, for example, and you'll get a sense of just how diverse a range you can find in the MCU. But however dark the movies may become, there'll always be star-bright pinpricks of humor and joy.
It's telling that, even as Feige made these points to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel was filming #InfinityWar over in Scotland. That's expected to be the triumphant climax of Phases 1-3, with our heroes facing the overwhelming threat that is Thanos. If Kevin Feige is telling the truth, though, then even as the Avengers face a reality-destroying opponent, you'll still find a rich vein of humor running through the film.
- The First Reactions To 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' Are Out: What's The Verdict?
- Son Of A Gunn: Why 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' Is James Gunn's Baby
- 'Logan' Triggers Calls For More R-Rated Superhero Movies — But Are They Wise?
I'm sure some fans will be disappointed by the news that Marvel isn't planning to embrace the demand for R-rated superhero films. (For more adult material, fans have Marvel's Netflix shows.) I'm sure some will disagree with Feige on the importance of humor. But these things are simply part of the MCU's brand, hard-wired into the franchise's DNA.
Given the fact it's succeeding so well, why should Marvel change it?