Rated R or Rated PG-13?

[Editor’s note, part I: this is kind of long, a little rambly, but I promise that it will make some cogent points. Swear to god. Like and share if you enjoy/agree/disagree.]

So the discussion about movies being rated R versus rated PG-13 has been on slow simmer for a few years. Movies from the Star Wars universe are rated PG or PG-13. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a PG-13 wonderland of superhero quirks and quips, fit for the eyes and ears of tweens and almost tweens.

And boy, can we sell toys to those two groups of viewers…

Some people even take little–and I mean LITTLE–kids to these type of movies. I’ve seen kids as young as 3 or 4 years old in a movie theater to watch a superhero movie.

I have a child (now grown), and I never would have thought to take her to a movie theater at that age. Mostly because of attention span and the inability to process what gets put up on the screen at a young age, but more importantly, it’s rude to the other audience members when that small child inevitably gets cranky.

One could also make the argument that exposing a child that small to Dolby 48.1 uber-surround at 90+ decibels is physically harmful to them…

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I saw this article about Batman Vs Superman today. In it, Ben Affleck and Zach Snyder discuss the varying ways they will distribute 2 versions of the film: one PG-13 (for the theaters) and one rated R (for home viewing).

While multiple versions of films often exist, they have usually been released as “Unrated” versions with the DVD or Blu-ray. A version that was never given approval by the MPAA Ratings Board.

A few examples of this are Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (R), The Hangover (R), Lockout (PG-13), Pitch Black (R), King Arthur (R), Chronicles of Riddick (PG-13), Riddick (R), any of the Saw movies…

You get the idea. For the most part, these are movies that are rated R, and the Unrated versions released for home were the result of the archaic and downright cryptically secretive the ratings system in Hollywood is. The few PG-13 movies which release an”Unrated” version are normally those under pressure from a studio to have been PG-13 in the first place, and who had to be cut down to that rating, leaving some bits in the editing room.

The others are movies that were intended to be rated R, which may have gone too far in places for the ratings board, and thus had to cut to maintain that R-rating.

One of the many arguments then, is “which way is right?” Should the filmmaker’s create a film, get it rated, and release it, rating be-damned? Or, should they say, we’re going to make a PG-13 film, but film enough material of a level to put together an R-rated version we can get people to buy it for home consumption?

First, as a quick aside: what a money-grubbing move. Seriously, this is a dick move by filmmakers. Anyone that does this should be slapped the next time they use the words “artistic vision” or “creative process.” No. Now you’re calculating your film’s development not as a means to express some inner turmoil or to reflect some timely exterior circumstance, but to optimize how much money you can make. Period.

And it’s not just the directors’ faults: it’s the studios. The studio wants ticket sales that lead to toy sales that lead to other product sales…

I call bullshit.

But, finally, back to that slow simmer of PG-13 vs R.

Deadpool.

I thank god that Ryan Reynolds and the boys behind Deadpool that they said, we want to make an R-rated Deadpool. And they did.

Parents circulated a petition to get a PG-13 cut of the film, but got no satisfaction from Ryan Reynolds and his band of foul-mouthed (in a good way) merry men.

Good.

If you are the kind of parent that wants your kids to see Deadpool, then you either tell them “no, it’s rated R,” or you let them see it and then do your explaining about what they just watched. Don’t tell writers, directors, and actors how to make their movies. They’re not telling you how to parent, though maybe somebody should.

Look, I am now seriously considering not wasting my money to see what I now know will be an edited version of the battle between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. Why would I? I’d rather see the movie they wanted to make, clearly, when it releases on home video, not some Saturday morning cartoon version of it.

Or worse, just a really long trailer for the actual movie.

Heck, you might figure that Zack Snyder, already blamed by fans for 80% of what’s wrong in film today, would show some backbone and say, “No. You hired me to make Batman vs Superman, and that’s what I’m going to do. And it’s rated R, because not everything is going to be solved by a bro-hug at the end.”

Guess that’s too much to ask.

[Editor’s note, part II: how ironic would it be if the theatrical version of BvS only gets a lukewarm reception, but the R-rated version is a critical darling? As a home release, it wouldn’t be eligible for any awards. Karma. Make the movie you want to make, dammit.]

Yes, every single Marvel Cinematic Universe movie is rated PG-13. But that’s what they wanted from the get go. You don’t see them releasing R-rated versions for home consumption. No. You get a couple of deleted scenes that were cut mostly because the movie was already well over 2 hours.

Look, I’m not commenting on the quality of any particular film, especially Batman Vs Superman, but I am commenting on the process. And that process sucks. It’s disrespectfully to the fans, to the source material, to the writers and directors… hell, it’s disrespectful to movie history. Midnight Cowboy was rated X (later re-rated as R) and won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing.

Anyone clamoring for a PG-13 version of that?

I’ll wait for the home release of BvS so that I can watch the real movie, thanks.

And to those of you that wanted a PG-13 cut of Deadpool? One more time: are you fucking nuts?

[Editors note, part III: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Better yet, I’d love to hear ZS and BA’s thoughts on this point of view. I’d really love to take a call from Ryan Reynolds. Like, Share, and Comment.]

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