So Deadpool was apparently a big learning experience for all the companies building their own Cinematic Universes. Apparently the main lesson they learned was that an R-Rated genre film could, in fact, succeed at the box office. So yay for that! I look forward to a Restricted Transformers film being released and I not having to attend it.
But that’s not the main lesson that should be learned from Deadpool’s success.
There are actually two lessons that people should take away from it, located after this cut.
The first thing that Warner’s should learn from Deadpool is that a well constructed, well marketed piece about a C-Grade character will be successful. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was proof of that (as was Green Lantern (2011), in the other direction).
Deadpool built on the history of that character as well as the general mythos of the X-Men.
Even the most successful comic in publication pulls down numbers that would get a TV show cancelled or make a movie go direct to Shomi. But Deadpool, made with a low budget (and love), managed to draw in audiences and win the box office for several weeks.
The second thing you should learn from Deadpool is what movie stopped its box office momentum. Not an acclaimed horror film (The Witch), not a rom-com (How to be Single), not a crime thriller (Triple 9), or a terrible fantasy epic (Gods of Egypt). No, Deadpool’s crown was eventually taken by Zootopia, a Disney family movie about a wunza team of a rabbit and a fox. It actually added $50 million to the box office of the previous week.
So what do we see here?
People will enjoy a film based on a lesser-known product that’s got a strong mythology to build upon, and people really enjoy films that the whole family can enjoy.
Now, some people might take this as a call to arms to make a Lobo movie. Those people are wrong and probably shouldn’t be allowed out in public.
The DC Property that would best build on both of those previously mentioned important qualities is: The Legion of Superheroes.
The Legion has found it difficult to get a footing under recent DC Comics editorial regimes. After being in print for several decades, building up several generations of followers and an intricate mythology, the New 52 relaunch in 2011 gave it a try but it didn’t catch on with readers. Okay, that applies to a lot of the books the publishing company tried during the New 52.
But I think the Legion makes a great choice for a cinematic story. It’s a superhero tale that’s also an SF story, it’s family friendly, and it has lots of room for a top level FX team to let loose. Plus, it’s about a team of super-teens, and young adult films have proven to be strong contenders for box office glory like the Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight series of films. (Although now I’m terrified that we’ll see a Twilight-esque love triangle with Legion of Superheroes characters Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy.)
The Legion could be a great franchise builder for DC. It would allow them to create a family friendly superhero SF series (which Pixar has repeatedly shown us to still be really good entertainment).
The Legion has had some presence in various DC settings. They appeared in the Justice League cartoon, and had one episode in Smallville (which fit well with their origins in the historical DC Universe) as well as their own self-titled cartoon for two seasons. Their presence has also been hinted at in the current DC television series’ – with their iconic flight rings appearing in both The Flash and Supergirl.
Adding the Legion as a futuristic team in the current DC Extended Universe (DCEU) of big-budget movies would be as easy as pie. They don’t even need to initially tie into the mainstream of films; they could be as separate from the upcoming Justice League films as the Guardians of the Galaxy have been from the Avengers films.
Plus, a well-developed Legion series could allow for a diverse membership.
The Legion has decades of comic book stories that could be told on the silver screen: Earthwar or the Great Darkness Saga would fit well into a large cosmology and a multiple film arc, and battles against sun eaters and the Fatal Five would be a great tale to be told in a single film.
Although Warner Brothers has fixed their sights on making a more “mature” superhero universe with their A-listers, hopefully someone in the organization takes a look at what also succeeds at the box office. There’s a gap in the superhero films coming out that could be filled by enjoyable family friendly films based on an established franchise with a strong history.
Long Live the Legion!