Marvel Studios have always been known as a PG-13 brand, and it’s that family-friendly nature that has seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe become the highest-grossing movie franchise in history to the tune of over $22 billion and counting at the box office.
Following the expansion of the MCU onto television with the launch of the Disney Plus shows though, coupled with the announcement of the Mahershala Ali-starring Blade reboot and the acquisition of the foul-mouthed mercenary Deadpool as part of the Fox takeover, could the MCU finally go R-rated in Phase Five?
Back when the Fox deal was first announced, Disney CEO Bob Iger didn’t completely rule out the idea, specifically citing the success of Deadpool and the need to differentiate the fourth wall-breaking, profanity-spewing character from the MCU’s usual all-ages fare.
“We do believe there is room for the Fox properties to exist without significant Disney influence over the nature of the content. Meaning that we see that there is certainly popularity among Marvel fans for the R-rated Deadpool films, for instance, we are going to continue in that business, and there might be more room for that. As long as we are very carefully branding them and making sure we are not in any way confusing the consumer with product that would be the Disney produce or more traditional Marvel product.”
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The Deadpool movies are the two biggest earners in the entire X-Men franchise after making over $1.5 billion combined, so obviously Disney and Marvel aren’t going to let such a lucrative cash cow go to waste, and Ryan Reynolds’ recent Instagram post only increased the speculation with a very deliberate mention of Phase Five.
As for Blade, it would be very difficult for the MCU to introduce a character whose sole purpose is killing vampires and keep it PG-13, so Deadpool 3 and the rebooted Daywalker may end up being the studio’s first-ever R-rated feature films.
Of course, Marvel trialed the idea a decade ago, releasing Punisher: War Zone and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance under the Marvel Knights banner, but the disappointing response to both movies seemingly ended the notion of making comic book films specifically for older audiences. With the MCU officially the biggest brand in the business though, now would be the perfect time to test the waters again with Deadpool 3 and Blade being two of the most ideal projects to do it with, ones that would virtually guarantee box office success and relaunch Marvel Knights as a viable R-rated arm for the MCU.