Superhero movies remain some of the biggest motion picture on the planet, but the cornucopia of costumed crimefighting content creates a problem for filmmakers, who need to constantly stay innovative in order to keep audiences interested. Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, is well aware of that, but he doesn’t think R-rated movies are the solution. At least, not specifically.
In a new interview with Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Feige argues that the success of 20th Century Fox’s R-rated superhero films Deadpool and Logan has more to do with their storytelling ambitions than the fact that they’re super-violent and use lots of swear words.
“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,” according to Kevin Feige. “That should be the takeaway for everyone.”
Kevin Feige went on to argue Deadpool broke the fourth wall and Logan was the last chapter in Wolverine’s story. The R-ratings may have been noteworthy but the important thing was that they told stories that other superhero films hadn’t told before.
This is an interesting position for Kevin Feige to take, for a variety of reasons. On one hand, the consistent, family-friendly tone of Marvel Studios’ superhero films have become an indelible part of their brand. On the other hand the studios’ television series on Netflix have mostly been disturbing, violent, foul-mouthed productions. Daredevil and Jessica Jones, in particular, would almost certainly have been R-rated movies if they were released theatrically with the same content.
So it’s not as though R-rated content, at least in theory, is completely off the table for the studio. But given the enormous expense involved in producing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies, it’s unlikely that Feige would be eager to go out of his way to limit his audience without a damned good reason. Right now Marvel has been getting away with some pretty big ideas without having to resort to an R-rating – heck, they even accused Washington D.C. of being completely infiltrated by fascists – so it’s not like they’re desperate to follow a new trend to stay relevant in the marketplace.
And that right there is probably the most important aspect of what Kevin Feige is articulating here. Although the ability to tackle subject matter that benefits from an R-rating is a factor in the success of both Deadpool and Logan, it would be a mistake to assume that audiences will flock to any new fantastical action movie just because it’s violent and/or sexy and/or features curse words. If that was the case we’d be up to our ears in Chappie sequels, and we all know that’s not going to happen.
Does this mean we’ll never, ever get an R-rated Marvel Studios movie? Not necessarily. Kevin Feige isn’t arguing that the R-ratings for Deadpool and Logan were mistakes, he’s saying they were born out of storytelling necessity. So presumably if someone pitches Kevin Feige a Marvel Studios movie that warrants an R-rating, it’s not entirely off the table. But if that pitch had come along already, he probably would have given a somewhat different response to this question. Probably.
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William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.