As the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Leaves is set to debut in November 2023, fans have revisited the previous entries in the Leaves franchise only to see a much darker iteration of a hero than modern Marvel audiences are used to. With Disney having little to no desire to exceed a PG-13 rating, the question of whether Bassam Tariq’s Leaves will stay within Marvel’s current guidelines is still up in the air. However, with recent developments regarding Disney’s treatment of violence, an answer may reveal Blade’s fate.
Stephen Norrington’s Leaves was released in 1998 and was fitted with guns, gore, and witty one-liners that were just so cheesy that they worked. Leaves proved to be a massive hit for Marvel, saving the company from bankruptcy and earning over twice its budget. With Wesley Snipes’ portrayal of the character Blade becoming a pop-culture icon for vampire hunters, it was inevitable that a sequel would be on the horizon. In the sequel, the violent staples of the series came back, but this time in full force. Audiences could see the bullets shred through flesh, knives slit major arteries, and stakes going even deeper through the heart.
As with every piece of media, looking through the current day lens, one is bound to find things that once were commonplace are now taboo. For example, when Paramount distributed Marvel films, the two companies and Kevin Feige decided to have violence still but have it toned down to open the door to a wider audience. This trend continued as Marvel film rights were sold to Disney and followed in subsequent films after the 2009 acquisition. Additionally, films such as Leaves were then considered dated with their graphic violence by studios, leading to the Leaves franchise being put on ice.
Rumors have since appeared on the internet, citing that Disney calls for no impaling, beheading, and smoking to be shown in its films. While no official document has been released to the public, this may not be far from the truth. Wolverine has been shown drinking and smoking in the X-Men films, but these fell under Fox’s distribution before Disney’s acquisition. In addition, the MCU has never shown any of its main characters smoking. However, Avengers: Endgame has certainly put a wrench in the violence theories, as Thanos is beheaded and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness saw the eye of one of its creatures impaled. Yet Marvel films might escape the Disney violence rule with a simple fact: Those rules apply to Walt Disney Pictures, not Marvel Studios.
While Marvel Studios might be free from this set of rules, it can be assumed that loose rules are still applied to the hero’s film. In Moon Knight, the main character goes through domestic violence and scenes where he is covered in the blood of an enemy. It would seem as if Moon Knight is allowed to have more violence than other heroes, such as Spider-Man, whose most violent scene had a beloved character die via bombing in No Way Home. This is due to the target audience that Marvel seeks to reach. Heroes such as Spider-Man are aimed at a general audience and conform to a minimal amount of violence so as not to overwhelm younger viewers. On the other hand, Moon Knight targets adult audiences, who are familiar with death and mental health struggles, rather than younger audiences.
Leaves‘s audience would appear to be more adult-oriented based on his backstory and depictions, thus would be allowed more violence. However, it is worth noting that violence in American films is not the cinema standard everywhere. Other countries restrict the use of gore and violence in their films, resulting in Disney losing out on a large margin of profits. Leaves, while potentially a violent masterpiece, may have to be cut short of various scenes to be distributed in other countries. Action scenes could be cut entirely if Disney decides it would also like to appeal to a younger audience.
With every franchise, there is a give or take when it comes to its modern-day adaptations. Some franchises continue to stay true to their roots, which would bring in old and new adult fans to enjoy the series. Others may decide to put a damper on its heavier content to allow younger audiences to enjoy it with their parents. Regardless of Leaves‘s fate, what matters most is that a new audience will enjoy it; sometimes, that alone is enough to smile at.