The devil works hard, but the 'Deadpool' marketing team works harder. (Illustration by Jesus Acosta)
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The devil works hard, but the 'Deadpool' marketing team works harder. (Illustration by Jesus Acosta)

Ryan Reynolds didn’t even break a sweat while campaigning for his film.

This past weekend, 20th Century Fox’s R-rated “anti-hero” film, “Deadpool 2,” overtook “Avengers: Infinity War” in theaters by grossing over $125 million in its opening weekend.

While fans who saw the first installment of “Deadpool” likely returned to theatres to see the Merc with a Mouth grace movie screens across North America, it is difficult to ignore how successful the marketing campaign was leading up to the film’s theatrical release.

A major factor contributing to the success of the campaigning was that the film’s marketing crew stayed true to the character of the film’s anti-hero. No one tried to change Deadpool to be heroic like Spiderman — instead, his image challenges the “friendly neighborhood” hero by owning his lack of heroic qualities and foul mouth.

As senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian claims, “‘Deadpool 2’ proves once again that when properly applied, the freedom that an R rating offers can be both creatively and financially fulfilling.”

It is not the first time movie lovers have seen teaser trailers in which the principal character came out of their universe and engaged with viewers in a trailer. The “Thor: Ragnarok” trailers used a similar marketing tool — to campaign for the film, marketing staff presented Thor dealing with menial, human affairs such as paying rent at the beginning of the month.

Just as in the “Thor: Ragnarok” trailers, the “Deadpool 2” teasers and trailers were memorable for placing Deadpool in real-life situations — crude humor and all.

The One Where the Old Man Gets Mugged

The marketing campaign started with the teaser trailer and short film “No Good Deed,” released March 14, 2017, in which Wade Wilson “Deadpool” witnesses a man held at a gunpoint and goes to the telephone booth to get changed before facing him. In a typical Deadpool-esque way, the anti-hero takes a ridiculously long time to get changed in the booth, coming out well-after the older gentleman was shot and killed.

After apologizing to the older man for not coming to his aid at an appropriate time, he lays his head over the man’s body — Hans Zimmer’s “You’re So Cool” track from “True Romance” playing in the background. The Zimmer score music in the background adds to Deadpool’s sarcastic naivete.

Right away, this teaser establishes the idea that Deadpool is not the hero society needs, but he’s the one society will need to put up with. As the teaser’s title goes, Deadpool is not one for good deeds, but rather spends much of his time thinking about how he doesn’t fit the superhero mold.

The One with Deadpool’s Paintings

The “Deadpool’s ‘Wet on Wet’” teaser, a parody of Bob Ross’s “The Joy of Painting,” came out last Nov. 15. The teaser trailer opens with a mock version of Ross, inserting lewd jokes about cocaine and masturbation. The trailer is particularly entertaining because Ryan Reynolds portrays Deadpool who portrays Ross.

In other words, Ryan Reynolds plays Deadpool as if he is an actor portraying a real person. After cutting into a short clip of major action shots in the film, the teaser leads to a Thanksgiving dinner from the Deadpool family. The teaser trailer came out during a good time, Thanksgiving holiday, which helped further cement the film’s goal of being a “film about family.”

The One with the Pink Suit

While most of the “Deadpool 2” teasers and trailers take up in jest subjects such as low film budgets, Reynolds’ failed career stints and endless innuendos, the “Deadpool 2 – F#ck Cancer” teaser, released April 4, tackles an issue as Deadpool claims is “very close” to him: Cancer.

Through giving away “Deadpool memorabilia,” Deadpool wants to give away his pink suit — as a scarecrow “to scare away birds, children and the elderly,” among other things — in order to raise funds for the F*ck Cancer charity. In this way, the “Deadpool 2” marketing campaign goes beyond mere fun and games at this point; there is real potential to draw awareness to a worthy cause such as early detection of cancer.

Paying tribute to cancer patients and survivors was just as important in the first “Deadpool” movie when Reynolds paid a tribute to cancer patient Connor McGrath who died of cancer. The marketing campaign for “Deadpool 2” only continues the support for the real experiences of people diagnosed with cancer, those who have died from the disease and those who survived it.

The One with the Ashes

On May 3, Deadpool did a mashup with legendary Québécoise Céline Dion, to release the motion picture soundtrack “Ashes.” High heels and all, the anti-hero performs an interpretive dance alongside Dion to channel his emotions. No, Reynolds did not have 8 bones surgically removed from his body to move as gracefully as a swan for the dance.

Instead, Yanis Marshall, “Britain’s Got Talent” 2014 finalist, danced the role of Deadpool in “Ashes,” being a dancer known for his high heel choreography. At the end of the song, Deadpool demands a redo from Dion saying that the performance was “too good” and that “this is Deadpool 2, not Titanic.”

Baffled and insulted by his demand for low-quality, Dion says triumphantly that “This thing only goes to 11, so beat it Spiderman.” The official music video continues with the running joke from “Deadpool” that the film production studio has a tight budget, thereby not being able to afford high-quality special effects or cameos from other leading actors such as Hugh Jackman. Once again, the video keeps in line with jokes of a similar nature from “Deadpool.”

The One with Canada, the Sleeping Moose

While many viewers may have associated the “Wade Loves Canada” trailer, released May 8, with Reynolds being a Canadian actor, film producer and screenwriter, Deadpool, as in the comics, has claimed that he also is a Canadian.

Referring to the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal, Deadpool attacks Europe — on behalf of Canadians — saying “and yet we’ve been snubbed by that European singsong competition thing you guys lose your sh*t over.”

Even Australia made it into the competition and “they’re barely on the planet” says Deadpool. As per usual, the Deadpool jokes stay in line with the first film’s comedy, but the trailer goes on to play with Canadian stereotypes as well as Deadpool and Reynolds’ Canadianness.

The One Where Deadpool Apologizes to David Beckham

In the “With Apologies to David Beckham” teaser, released May 10, viewers are greeted with soccer player David Beckham watching something Deadpool says to Blind Al: “Have you ever heard David Beckham speak? It’s like he mouth-sexed to a can of helium.” Immediately following Beckham’s viewing of this scene, Deadpool attempts several times to apologize to the football player — eventually winning him over with two tickets to the 2018 FIFA cup.

This time the jokes jab at Reynolds’ career when Beckham assumes Deadpool is apologizing for “Green Lantern,” “R.I.P.D.,” “Self/less,” “Blade: Trinity” and “Boltneck.” This type of humor channels the Deadpool from the comics who was aware that he was a fictitious, comic book superhero.

The marketing campaign for “Deadpool 2” carried the same humor from the first installment, bridging the gap between the two films quite nicely. It stayed honest to the first film’s intent, which was to present an anti-hero in all his foul glory.

At the end of the day, the marketing campaign for “Deadpool 2” successfully avoided the pitfall of cleaning up the Merc with a Mouth’s act and presented him, once again, unabashedly naked and unafraid.

Writer Profile

Elizabeth Lucy Ivanecky

McMaster University
English & Cultural Studies, History, and French Studies

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