“Deadpool’s” unique blend of superhero action and comedy remains on track to set all-time records and is on its way to challenging “The Matrix Reloaded” for the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, Variety reported.
While many film critics are wondering what this means for the future of the superhero genre, Inverse writer Sean Hutchinson points out that “Deadpool” can also be viewed as a very successful comedy. Like “Ant-Man” before it, “Deadpool” scored a surprise hit for a minor superhero character by successfully using comedy to pull in audiences who wouldn’t normally watch a comic-book movie.
As this illustrates, mixing genres can be a formula for creative success. Here are a few other stories that have found success by combining multiple genres in creative, entertaining ways that build bridges to new audiences.
The Phantom of the Opera
For many years, “The Phantom of the Opera” was best known as a silent horror movie, thanks to the brilliant costume design of legendary actor Lon Chaney. But in 1986, Andrew Lloyd Webber ingeniously reconceived the story as a musical by highlighting a romantic theme present in the original Gaston Leroux serial novel. The result was a Tony Award-winning Broadway hit that is still running three decades later.
Webber’s interpretation succeeds by transforming the Phantom’s horrible face into an occasion for sympathy, enabling the story to be told as a tragic, doomed romance instead of a simple horror tale. In so doing, Webber broadened the story’s appeal beyond horror fans to enchant general audiences. At the same time, the musical’s powerful score and Michael Crawford’s vocal talent made the story compelling to music lovers.
By combining horror, romance and music, “The Phantom of the Opera” turned what was originally a one-genre story into a mass-market smash hit.
Another franchise that has found success by taking horror in a completely different direction is the “Alien” series, which has spawned seven films, grossing $1.26 billion worldwide, with another sequel confirmed to be in the works. The original 1979 film merged two of the highest-grossing genres of the 1970s, horror and science fiction, by developing a plot that screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and his story collaborator Ronald Shusett pitched as “‘Jaws’ in space.”
Space proved a natural setting for a horror film, putting the spaceship crew in isolation and leaving them at the mercy of their alien stalker. To this mix of horror and sci-fi, the plot added another genre-busting twist by casting the main character as a strong female heroine, played by Sigourney Weaver, in the mold of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character from the previous year’s slasher film success “Halloween.”
By giving female audience members a strong character to identify with, while providing imaginative concepts and special effects for sci-fi fans and seat-gripping terror for horror fans, “Alien” broke genre boundaries and created a legacy that continues today.
With a global box office take of $2.788 billion, “Avatar” retains the all-time record for highest-grossing film, topping director James Cameron’s other genre-busting smash hit “Titanic.” Where “Titanic” had combined the disaster film genre with romance and special effects, “Avatar” blended science fiction and fantasy with a romantic subplot and stunning visual effects.
Cameron scored success by borrowing many of the same elements that made “Titanic” a huge hit, as Filmonic observed. For instance, both stories follow a simple but powerful two-act structure. In the first act, Cameron introduces the audience to a new, visually compelling world through the eyes of two main characters who fall in love.
In the second act, the lovers’ newfound paradise is threatened by a disaster that tests their love. Cameron also recycled a number of other elements, with Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” becoming Leona Lewis’ “I See You,” a song that, like its predecessor, reinforced the central romantic theme of the movie.
By exporting this romantic formula from a luxury passenger liner to another planet, Cameron tapped into the potential for science fiction settings to capture the imagination and enhance the delivery of any type of plot vehicle, proving once more the creative power of crossing genre boundaries.