Talk everywhere in my circle of nerdom is about some flick that came out over the weekend. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? I believe it’s called Deadpool.
Ok, I’m being facetious. Pretty much everyone with an ounce of comic book nerdity (which can be substituted in this case with major media superhero pop culture-ism) knows who Deadpool is. The famous “merc with a mouth” finally got his own flick, with a major push from Ryan Reynolds. Word is already out that a sequel is on the way.
Despite knowing who Deadpool is, and despite my absolute love for most superhero-themed movies of the last two decades (or so), I won’t be seeing it. I’ve already decided to add it to my personal pile of “Won’t Watch” flicks, alongside Batman v Superman (or whatever it’s called now) and any Marvel movie not made by well, Marvel (aka Disney).
There’s a simple reason for it, though it took me a while to finally admit it. This simply isn’t the Deadpool I grew up with.
Let me ‘splain.
I got into the comics universe back in high school, when I also entered my gaming nerd phase. I was fascinated with the endless stories (often reading like action-style soap operas), the seemingly unlimited proliferation of characters, and the simple format. I got hooked first on GI Joe, then moved into Batman, X-Men, X-Factor, Wolverine, and other spinoff titles.
I saw a t-shirt the other day that neatly explains why I really loved this world of superhero and mutant comics:
I collected and read comics religiously from the mid-80s through the mid-90s, right when I really needed the simple escapism the most. I went to the Chicago ComicCon several times, adding back issues to various titles – I had every X-title written by Chris Claremont at one point – because I loved the story arcs, the interconnectedness of plots across titles, and a lot of the characters.
Deadpool arrived on the scene in the early 90s and quickly became a recurring enemy character in X-Force. He looked cool, he was a great villain, and I was intrigued enough to get his first miniseries, The Circle Chase.
Marvel morphed Deadpool into his newer, brash, fourth-wall breaking smartass self in the later 90s, after I had already stopped collecting and reading comics. There were a few reasons for my breaking it off with the hobby, of which the first was, obviously, money. I was collecting more than 30 titles a month, and that is expensive change to drop when you’re only making 20K a year and living on your own.
Second, I gave away 98% of my collection to a kid who had lost everything in a house fire. I’d heard he was a huge X-Men fan, and the other titles and whatnot in the boxes we dropped off could easily be sold to help him and his family rebuild.
Third, I was at a point where I really needed to pare down my hobbies to just a few more passionate pursuits. Because I adored role-playing and computer games, with a healthy side of miniature assembly and painting, comics just faded from view.
They remain a staple of who I am, though. When Hollywood started making better versions of the superhero movie, I was ecstatic. When X-Men was announced, I felt like I was going to get to revisit some old, dear friends from high school. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed with the first movie; it didn’t measure up to my own imagination. I took a chance on the second, and after that travesty I knew I wouldn’t pay any more attention. (The newest one being advertised – X-Men: Apocalypse – horrifies me because there’s no way they can do justice to the original Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen, who were fantastic in the second incarnation of X-Factor.)
I embraced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because they reminded me of the classic comic heroes I remember during that formative decade of time. Slightly campy, unrealistic ‘violence,’ snarky-yet-serious – sure, the plots don’t hold up perfectly, but neither did the comics! They are, to me, great renditions of the lighthearted action soap operas I remember, and a perfect escape vehicle.
Which circles me back to Deadpool.
I don’t remember Deadpool being the way he’s described in the current movie, a rated-R raunchy romp that glorifies the current incarnation of the character. A fourth-wall breaking, pop-culturized anti-hero built on internet memes, over-the-top violence, snappy buzzwords, and sexualized gratification is not what I want from my superhero escape. It sullies the memory I have of a scheming, snarky, capable villain. I’m sure the movie has its moments, and by all accounts, people have been flocking to it in record numbers.
But it does raise a concern to me, being that this might alter the superhero movie landscape. Its success (and profitability) may well make Hollywood take a turn into the more pop-culturized, over-the-top violence, snappy snarky buzzy internet meme-mouthing mentality with future flicks. Already, Fox (who owns Deadpool‘s rights) has made noise about the next Wolverine movie going for an ‘R’ rating, and others may soon follow.
It’s not a trend I particularly crave to see. (But may well happen.)
I do rest in the fact that Disney, who owns the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will most likely NOT go that route since most of its movies aim at the family audience, pushing at the PG-13 element. So, for now – at least through the current Phase 3 of Marvel movies – I’m satisfied.
But if this trend persists, as Hollywood is wont to do, I may well end up walking away from my superhero friends once more.
And I’m okay with that.