Now, while a small number of younger or more violence-averse fans (along with a vocal minority of concerned parents) may have been disappointed to see the recently-released Deadpool receive an R-rating, the response of the vast majority of fans was... positive, to say the least. The broadly PG-13 nature of the superhero industry had, for many, become a symbol of major movie studios's disinterest in what many devoted fans wanted to see, with the financial bottom-line being placed firmly ahead of the creative needs of the movies themselves.
And then... Deadpool made half a billion dollars in less than two weeks of wide release, and everything changed.
Suddenly, in the brave new world of... right about now... studios have been freed up to make all the R-rated movies fans could possibly desire. Not only are we likely to see a whole host of Fox movies become R-rated (including Wolverine 3), but it now seems that other studios are set to jump on the gore-soaked bandwagon, with Warner Bros. recently revealing that the 'Extended Cut' of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be R-rated.
Is that Deadpool's greatest legacy, then? That R-rated superhero movies will now be very much a thing, at least for as long as they still make money? Well, perhaps - but I would like to argue that...
The Real Reason That Deadpool Being R-Rated Actually Matters Is...
...that it was the only way to properly adapt the comic books on which it was based. Which makes the decision to allow Deadpool to aim for an R-rating less a commercial one – though that will surely have been part of the folks over at Fox's thinking – than a creative one. The Red Band trailer told us what to expect from the get-go:
In other words, Deadpool is R-rated because that's the best way to make that particular movie, much as The Avengers is a PG-13 in part because that's the best way to reflect the comic books it represents (though also because hardly anyone wants to watch Captain America splatter his enemies' blood onto the walls).
Why Is That So Important, Though?
Well, the thing is – while The Avengers makes perfect sense as a PG-13, there was never any realistic chance of it being anything else. Between parent company Disney's preference for family-friendly entertainment, and the movie industry at large's long-held belief that R-rated movies can't make all that much money, The Avengers, much like the vast majority of the superhero movies we've ever seen, was never going to get an R rating.
Which... isn't likely to change. The vast majority – if not all – of Marvel Studios's cinematic output is likely to remain firmly within the PG-13 camp – much like the vast majority of its comic book output is. Outlying parts of the company may experiment with darker material – Netflix's Daredevil-oriented shows, for instance – but the company will in large part likely stick to the family-friendly stuff it's known for.
Which, since this is Marvel we're talking about, makes perfect sense. Iron Man, Cap and the gang make sense as PG-13 heroes and as long as the movies Marvel Studios is coming out with are pretty much universally fantastic, why would they need to change what they are? Meanwhile...
The Success Of 'Deadpool' Means That Other Comic-Book Movies Can Be What They're Supposed To Be
Specifically, there's reason to believe that Deadpool's success at the box office won't just prompt a rash of R-rated super-knock offs – but will instead open up a brave new world of superhero movies with ratings that match the original comic books's tone or content.
Wolverine 3, for instance, can become R-rated – giving fans of the darker side of Marvel comics the chance to enjoy their version of the hero – while the character's other cinematic appearances can do the same for those who like him best when he's forced to show some restraint.
Indeed, Batman v Superman may prove to be a model of a new way of making darker superhero movies – as Warner Bros.'s new DCEU is seemingly expressly setting out to do – with a gentler PG-13 release being followed by a darker, R-rated 'Director's Cut.'
In other words?
We Might Now Be Able to Have Our Cake and Eat it Too
Imagine a world in which there were PG-13 and R-rated versions of most of your favorite superheroes – with the only limitation on whether a movie targeted a higher or lower rating being the requirements of the story. A world in which dark independent comic books could easily find funding, knowing that there was likely an audience for them - but in which there was still scope for optimistic, lighter-hearted PG-13 blockbusters like those Marvel Studios do so well.
A world, in short, in which we could all have the exact kind of superhero movies we want, without having to stomp on the source material to make it work. That's the world that Deadpool's R-rating, and its subsequent box office triumph, might – just maybe – have made possible.
Which, if so, means there's all the more reason to go and watch it again in celebration...