'Wolverine 3' Eyes R Rating After 'Deadpool' Success

Deadpool's $132 million opening would have been impressive under any circumstances, but it was especially noteworthy given the film's R rating. The conventional wisdom has been that PG-13 is the way to go if you want to make lots of money, because an R rating, by its very nature, excludes a sizable chunk of the potential audience. But not only did the R rating not hurt Deadpool, it seemed to actually help. It signaled to moviegoers that this wasn't going to be just another bland, safe comic book adaptation, and they turned out in droves to see what it would be.

Naturally, Hollywood has taken notice. For the past several days, the question has been whether Deadpool could spark a whole new wave of R-rated superhero movies. And while it's too early to tell, it seems like 20th Century Fox, at least, is ready to take the plunge again. Rumor has it the studio is considering an R rating for the upcoming Wolverine movie, to be directed by James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman

The "Wolverine 3 rated R" rumor began at Toy Fair, where — according to the photograph below via ComicBook.com — 20th Century Fox was handing out pamphlets that suggested they were targeting an R rating for the upcoming film.

Just so we're clear: this does not "confirm" that Wolverine 3 will be rated R. The movie hasn't even started shooting, let alone gone before the MPAA ratings board. And whichever way 20th Century Fox is leaning right now, they have plenty of time to change their minds between now and March 3, 2017, when the movie opens.

Assuming this is real, however (and it looks realistic enough to pass the sniff test, at least), an R-rated Wolverine is an intriguing possibility. It made sense for Deadpool to be rated R, since the character's known for his rule-breaking, no-holds-barred sensibility. Wolverine, on the other hand, is a character who's only ever appeared in the movies as a PG-13 character.

An R rating represents a big change of pace. It's not a complete stretch – in X-Men: First Class, Wolverine was the guy who used up the one f-bomb allowed by the MPAA for PG-13 movies — but it definitely suggests we may get a much darker, more grown-up Wolverine than we've seen in years past.

To be sure, it's not solely because of Deadpool that 20th Century Fox is considering an R-rated Wolverine movie. Way back in 2013, Jackman confirmed he'd discussed the possibility of making an R-rated Wolverine with the studio.

"By the way, they were open to that idea because if you're ever going to make a real character R-rated, Wolverine's the one," he said at the time. But to hear him tell it at the time, he eventually decided not to exclude the character's younger fans. "And I just said, 'In the end, actually, everything we wanted to do with an R-rated version, we are doing in terms of who the character is,'" he added.

Now, however, Deadpool's performance has definitively proven that an R-rated superhero movie can do big business. And Wolverine might benefit from mixing it up. Despite being far and away the most popular and most recognizable X-Man, Wolverine has struggled in his attempts to fly solo on the big screen. 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one of the most reviled comic book movies in recent memory. 2013's The Wolverine was more warmly received, especially among critics and international audiences, but it landed with a dull thud at home in America. To put things in perspective, Deadpool made about as much in its first weekend in the U.S. as The Wolverine did in its entire domestic run.

All of which suggests Wolverine could use some freshening up, and an R rating could allow him to do just that. Wolverine and Deadpool are very different characters, and it wouldn't really make sense for Wolverine 3 replicate Deadpool's formula too closely by adopting his gleefully unapologetic attitude toward explicit violence, language, and sexuality. But a Wolverine movie that has the freedom to embrace darker themes or saltier language or uglier violence? That could give Jackman and Mangold the room to explore the character in a way we haven't seen before, even after over 15 years and over half a dozen movies.

Details on Wolverine 3 are still under wraps, but it's believed to be based on the Old Man Logan plotline from the comics, in which a now-retired Wolverine goes on a road trip through a dystopian, supervillain-ruled future. Jackman has confirmed it will be his last outing as the character, whom he's been playing since 2000's X-MenPatrick Stewart's Professor X is said to play a significant role in the story.