Deadpool: Marvel’s R-­Rated Antihero

Marvel’s “Merc with a Mouth” once again hit the big screen Feb. 12 in Deadpool. Wade Wilson—and his antihero alter ego Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds)—made his first silver screen appearance in 2009’s X­Men Origins: Wolverine. A standalone Deadpool movie had been in the works since Origins, only to be recently greenlighted by 20th Century Fox. The character of Deadpool has been completely revamped from the Origins incarnation—where the “Merc with a Mouth” had his mouth sewed shut—while staying in the X­Men universe: including appearances by mutants Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. This time around, everyone involved looked to stay true to the vulgar, omnisexual, mouthy comic book version that fans have longed to see on screen.

Deadpool originally appeared in The New Mutants #98 in 1991. He was seen and created as an obvious spoof of DC’s Deathstroke—the name Wade Wilson mirroring Slade Wilson—and looks vaguely like Spiderman. In 1997 he received his own ongoing title and the series gained an established supporting cast and cult following.

After being abused as a child, Wade Wilson runs away from home as a teenager. He ends up a trained assassin and works as a mercenary. After being diagnosed with cancer he volunteers to let a government research lab experiment on him as part of the “Weapon X” mutant weaponization project: the very same that gave Wolverine his Adamantium skeleton.

Wilson becomes the experimental subject of Dr. Killebrew and his assistant Ajax, and Deadpool is born. With a newfound regenerative ability, that can do anything from heal a bullet wound to regrow his head—something that happens many times throughout the comics—Deadpool becomes virtually unkillable. He gains enhanced speed, strength, and reflexes that only compliment his already deadly assassin techniques. The testing also leaves him with scarring all over his face and body—which leads to the iconic full­body red and black suit.

Deadpool is known for being the “Merc with a Mouth.” He’s witty and wisecracking—enough so to even break the fourth wall. The self­aware antihero often addresses his readers and acknowledges the fact that he is a comic book character. Breaking the fourth wall became a big marketing tactic for the movie, with Deadpool addressing the viewers in the trailer and even addressing the fact that he is Ryan Reynolds in short spots.

Deadpool’s humor is one of the things that made having a standalone movie seem impossible. He’s foul mouthed, sexual, vulgar, and his fight scenes are quite violent. So while most superhero movies are family friendly—think good ‘ole Captain America and wholesome Thor—a comic­based Deadpool just doesn’t fall into this category.

So when the movie did get greenlighted and produced, the big question became what the rating would be. There was a lot of talk about the film being rated PG­13—opening up the film to a wider audience and potentially bigger box office—which would involve some serious censorship and cuts. Many fans spoke out against the PG­13 rating, and Reynolds proved to be one of the biggest and most vocal supporters of an R­-rated Deadpool. On March 30, he responded to a fan’s tweet saying “I want #Deadpool to be R. Always have. Fighting the good fight still. Lotta yelling today.”

On Jan. 12 the film’s R rating was announced and while many rejoiced, a petition soon arose for a PG­13 cut in addition to the R-rated version. The petition was launched by Grace Randolf—who is the creator and host of YouTube channels Beyond The Trailer and Think About The Ink. Randolf is also the writer behind comic books such as Justice League Unlimited and Supurbia among others.

Randolf launched the petition on and tells the story of Matthew—an eight­year­old viewer of her show Beyond The Trailer who is desperate to watch Deadpool. In the description she pleas, “if there was a PG­13 version he could, and his mom Kristina could be a superhero rather than a super­villain...”

Randolf’s petition has garnered over 3,500 signatures, while her Beyond The Trailer video in support of the PG­13 movie has gained over 9,000 dislikes. Eight­year­old Matthew and Randolf aren’t the only one’s looking for a PG­13 version of Deadpool, the film has been denied release in China—the world’s second-largest movie market—according to local media due to its nudity, language, and violence.

China doesn’t follow the G to NC­17 rating system laid out by the Motion Picture Association of America. Instead, a media regulations branch of China’s government simply gives films a thumbs up or down as to whether they can be shown. Censorship authorities in China often work with Hollywood to produce cleaned­up cuts of R-rated films, but in the case of Deadpool it was decided that cutting said offensive material would cause plot problems.

This is a big move for Marvel as its comic­book based movies have done huge in China: with Avengers: Age of Ultron grossing $240 million last summer, and titles such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant­Man grossing $96.4 million and $105.4 million, respectively.

In fact, instead of answering the plea for a censored cut—set forth by under­17 and Chinese fans alike—Deadpool only looks to get more graphic. At a fan event in London, actor T.J. Miller, who plays Weasel in the film, teased an “even more raw” and dirtier director’s cut of the film to be released later this year. While at a fan screening in NYC Reynolds promised to champion for a beefed up extras section on the DVD.

"This movie’s going to have a shit ton of DVD extras, because for every joke in the movie, there’s probably 3­10 alternates. We just tried so many different things. It was sort of heartbreaking, too, because you can’t put it all in. We sat in the edit room for months and just painstakingly went through the movie—you gotta kill some of your darlings," he said during the screening’s Q&A section.

The “Merc with a Mouth” has officially made his standalone big screen debut. The question is no longer the rating but more so: what comes next? Marvel is famous for superhero series and crossovers—more X­Men movies than one can count, Captain America and Iron Man trilogies, and the ever popular Avengers. Will this movie—laced with violence and vulgarity—be the death of an on­screen Deadpool?