There has been an incredible shift in recent years regarding comics, superheroes and movies. I grew up with different versions of Batman, Superman and an onslaught of varying X-Men line-ups. It was always cool to see Batman kick some bad guy ass and Wolverine always carved the heads off of Sentinels like nobody’s business. Even the Justice League America cartoons, Batman Animated Series and X-Men Animated series got a bit grittier and serious to reflect the true nature of the struggles of being a superhero. As I got older, however, I quickly realized that the only place I would be able to continue to see the seriousness of my beloved characters grow with me are within graphic novels. Movies such as Batman Forever and Batman and Robin as well as Superman Returns either became caricatures of the genre or fell flat, leaving audiences disappointed.
Moving on to the early 2000’s, things took an interesting turn. The debut of the X-Men on the big screen showed that comic book characters could be marketed to an older audience. Following this was The Punisher (rated R), starring Thomas Jane, brought ultra violence to Marvel cinema via a character that serves vigilante justice a step past what Batman is willing to do (and yes I mean murder the shit out of people). Another massive push was Christopher Nolan throwing his hat in the ring with 2005’s Batman Begins, showing the dark origins of the Caped Crusader. Nolan’s sequel, The Dark Knight redefined how intense a superhero cinematic experience could be with the performance of a lifetime (no pun intended) by Heath Ledger as The Joker. Fast forward to Man of Steel and we see Superman straight up snap an adversary’s neck and X-Men are now showcased throughout history.
The present course shows that R-rated characters can make studios money and keep an aging fan base happier than ever. The case and point is this year’s Deadpool. Honorably dubbed ‘The Merc with the Mouth’ Deadpool is proof that a superhero (or antihero, however you see him) can get messy and not be afraid to carve up and lay waste to those who oppose him. He’s sarcastic, vulgar, inappropriate and everything that is sure to piss off the online mommy brigade, who thinks that every good guy has to be kid-friendly. By the end of the movie, where Deadpool has been shot, stabbed, burned and amputated, all while dealing out punishment tenfold. A movie such as this is evidence that not every superhero film has to be about saving the world from villains whose agendas won’t be revealed for god knows how many movies (coughTHANOScough). They can be standalone plots about a character, who just happens to want to pursue their own agenda of bloody revenge killings to win back the woman they love.
2016 has proven that it’s okay to have R-rated superheroes. The subject matter for our some of our favorite characters has always been dark and gritty and now studios have taken the leap to cater to an aging audience. While The Avengers is still widely considered for all ages, series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones cover subject matter that is sure to leave some younger watchers a little traumatized. I’m eager to see how the trend continues, as Old Man Logan (the final Wolverine movie) and a Bluray cut of Batman V Superman are both slated to be rated R. Until then, I’ll be the guy in the back of the theater telling your crying baby to shut it.