What do you get when you make a superhero movie with a male lead but keep your female audience at the forefront in your decision-making? Apparently a box office hit.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the wild success of the little superhero film that could: Deadpool. Nobody expected much with an R rating, but the film’s domination of the box office has already led to a couple of rivaling projects announced to capitalize on the same raunchy energy. That energy may consist of more than just dirty jokes, though.
Deadpool producer Simon Kinberg (at right in the video below) says that having the trash-talking antihero embrace his feminine side became part of the production team’s grand plan in the 11 years it took to get the picture greenlit. While Batman broods, lashing out like a guy who desperately needs some therapy, Deadpool’s emotional résumé — despite his numerous testicle cracks — reads like an OKCupid dream for women: He deals with his problems head-on, with humor and heart. He may have brute strength, but he’s portrayed as being totally comfortable with vulnerability. And he also has a remarkably healthy relationship with women, specifically his main squeeze Vanessa, who matches Deadpool’s comic prowess in every scene.
At the press junket for the DVD and Blu-ray release of Deadpool, moderated by rap trio Salt N Pepa (yes, that happened, and it was wonderful), director Tim Miller (at left in the above video) stated multiple times that the part he loved filming most was a touching scene between Ryan Reynolds and actress Morena Baccarin. He loved it so much he cried when they filmed it. I’m having a difficult time imagining Bryan Singer or Zack Snyder crying during any production (insert whatever Batman v Superman jokes you want).
Miller knows women watch the same superhero movies that men do, but he wanted to see what would happen when you release a film that specifically targets what a woman might want to see, without pandering (i.e., paper-thin romance storylines). Miller thinks focusing more on the heart of a superhero — however messy that may be — doesn’t just attract women, even though women consistently scored the film higher than their male counterparts in every pre-screening. Transforming what makes a compelling superhero from the doom and gloom of a tortured man to a guy who tries to get over his own neuroses may also draw some male audience members tired of the same downer origin story. How many more times can any one human see Batman’s parents die?
“I think men liked the love story, even if they can’t identify why,” Miller says. To him it’s a matter of authenticity.