February 21, 2016

Robocop v. Robocop, and Deadpool's Boldest Statement

Deadpool, as you just might have heard somewhere along the way, is an R-rated super hero film.  This is supposed to be the legendary Kiss of Death for those stories, as the assumption was that an audience of kids was a necessary ingredient for success.

That suspicion has to some degree proven itself to be true: when such movies take on 'adult' themes, and use adult material, the results are mixed at best.  Watchmen was big and expensive, but also messy and uneven.  Darkman was very good (despite the trailer), but made little impact at the box office.

So we end up with dark or adult themes while retaining a bloodlessness that lets them keep that magical ($!) PG rating: Batman and Wolverine are two that stand out as characters that should have R ratings.  Those two have characters with troubled backgrounds; move in thematically dark worlds (literally in Batman's case, I suppose); and use violence to a ridiculous degree to achieve their goals.

But probably the best example of the inherent weirdness of the PG vs. R rating is Robocop.

The original, with fountains of blood and deaths happening every few pages, is rated R.  Paul Verhoeven had to recut and resubmit the film 12 times before he got to an R rating, down from the X that the MPAA wanted to give it.  The remake from 2014, with deaths happening every few pages but no blood at all, is rated PG-13.  I'm not here to comment on whether one was better than the other (the first one was), but to note that the remake box office more than doubled the budget - not an easy thing for a $100 million movie.  Not as statistically impressive as the quadrupling the original did, the first had a budget of only $13 million(ish).

But which was more successful?

A nebulous term, I realize: but I don't hear people talk about the remake as being influential or inspiring in any way.  It broke no new ground, sparked few imaginations.  I think it was a good movie, but it won't change anything.  I feel like in another ten years, the only time I'll hear it mentioned will be after the question "Didn't they do a remake?"

So why the heck was it made?  They got the nostalgia kick, and it was a success financially, but there was no guarantee that would have happened (see also: Dredd).  Still, to better their chances the powers that be decided to get rid of the blood and target the PG rating, making the violence sanitized for whole families to enjoy.  To compare: the original Robocop had 32 deaths; the remake has over 50.  Killings aren't a moral problem for the MPAA, so long as there is no immediate, visual consequence to them.

Back to Deadpool.

Deadpool without the blood would be ridiculous, but possible.  Most of it was animated in the 'during' shots any way, and could have simply not been added in post-production.  Don't show him sawing frantically (and comically) through an arm and avoid showing the bloody stump on camera, and Hey, Presto! you have yourself a PG-13 film.  Well, except for one thing:

Swearing.  And sex.  Swearing and sex.  Okay, two things, fine!

The swearing would be easy enough to eliminate as well - he's speaking with a full face mask 90% of the time any way, so redubbing would be a piece of cake.  It could even be incorporated into the 4th-wall breaking humour in a "Monkey fighting, Monday to Friday" way.  They certainly do enough lampshading to make that part of the script.

The sex, on the other hand...

The sex scenes are varied, lively, and fun, and they work as an excellent shorthand for audiences to see how their relationship progresses over time.  Announcing the holidays as they go was inspired time leaping.  They missed Black History Month, which would have been interesting; but I suppose that's not technically a holiday.  Then again, I'm certain there's no way they kept Lent - that 40 days of going without!  Yerk!

But there's a detail or two that I haven't heard mentioned much that I think should be.  First, he shows no mercy to her as a newbie to the game of skeeball.  Yes, he's massively attracted to Vanessa; but his priority is to win a Voltron the Defender ring, not to get laid, dang it!  (She does win what I'm sure is a lovely pencil eraser.)

The detail I liked most, though?  Vanessa - the girl of his dreams and the woman he falls madly in love with - is a prostitute.  She gladly takes his money for their first meeting, and he happily gives it to her.  It's not even an issue.  If they hadn't become a couple, he would have been just as happy to hand over the cash in exchange for her company without a single moral qualm raised.

Her past isn't flung in her face; she's never shamed for it; he doesn't regard her as less of a human being because of it.  The movie never mentions it again, and in fact has her later working in a strip club and he's wondering if he's good enough for her.

Neat, huh?

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posted by Erin Butler at 3:47 pm

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