Anghus Houvouras on why a Batman v Superman ‘R’ rated cut is a good thing…
The ‘R’ rating has been a big topic of conversation ever since Deadpool body-slammed box office records and enthralled audiences around the globe. Suddenly the concept of violence and language in a comic book movie impacting the potential audience and box office didn’t seem so daunting. For years we’ve been under the working conclusion that comic book movies have to be PG-13 because of the potential for alienating younger viewers.
The impact of Deadpool cannot be quantified. Not yet. It’s one movie that at this point is a singular phenomenon. But don’t expect studios to act rationally or exhibit patience. The ‘R’ rating is back on the table for comic book adaptations. The stigma is gone or at least severely diminished.
When Warner Bros. announced last month that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would have an ‘R’ rated cut, fans were immediately polarized by the decision. Some were excited about a more mature cut of the much-anticipated movie. Others thought it felt wrong for the characters and was simply the product of bandwagon jumping: If Deadpool had so much success with an ‘R’ rating, perhaps an ‘R’ rated version would help generate interest.
The main complaint from fans is that ‘R’ rated violence and language is ‘Not right for the characters’
Seriously? Have you read comic books since the mid 80’s? Ever since the end of the silver age, comic book characters have been evolved into more mature characters featuring more mature storytelling. Batman in particular has been on a dark downward spiral into a more brutal and psychologically damaged protagonist ever since Frank Miller introduced us to his bleak take on the character with The Dark Knight Returns. Batman frequently fights maniacs, serial killers, and ultra-violent antagonists with marked regularity. The Joker shot Barbara Gordon and turned her into a paraplegic right around the same time he beat Robin to death with a crowbar.
And you can’t even tell a good Batman story without referencing the brutal double murder of his parents. Something that is always adapted to screen in a bloodless, surreal series of shots. If any character could benefit from an ‘R’ rating, it’s Batman. A character who swims through the bloody chum bucket of Gotham dealing with a carnivorous cavalcade of crazies. It’s a miracle how well The Joker was brought to the screen in The Dark Knight without the benefit of some bloody violence. How much more interesting could the stories be if Batman weren’t shackled by the limits of PG-13?
I think the real reason for the ‘R’ rating is so that we can finally hear the character say ‘I’m the God-Damned Batman’.
Oh. You meant ‘wrong for Superman’. Right. Is that the Superman who murdered three Kryptonians for destroying an alternate version of Earth? Or the Superman who gets in giant, city destroying, knock-down drag-out battles with Doomsday, Darkseid, or whatever world conquering villain is stepping up this month?
First of all, fans need to get away from the idea of what’s ‘right’ for a character. Comic books frequently try different takes on our favorite icons. Second, superheroes are constantly engaged in violence. The battle for good vs. evil sometimes gets ugly. Is there anything wrong with realistically portraying the kind of violence portrayed in our favorite comics?
Much of the criticism Man of Steel received was for Superman’s decision to snap Zod’s neck like a stale bread stick at a bargain basement Italian restaurant. People became enraged at the idea that Superman would commit such a heinous act because it was ‘wrong for the character’. These kind of criticisms are typical in world where fans have an unhealthy level of entitlement and ownership of their favorite fictional characters.
I’m excited about an ‘R’ rated cut of Batman v Superman for a few reasons. First, because it gives fans an option. If you prefer a less violent version of the movie, it’s there for you to enjoy. For those of us who wouldn’t mind seeing a little more brutality to the pugilism and who aren’t offended by harsh language, we have an option as well. I’m not expecting Superman to be throwing around the ‘F’ word or a full frontal shot of Bruce Wayne as he changes into the Batsuit, but I am looking forward to a cut of the movie that can embrace the violence and destruction that happens when these two icons go toe to toe.
What do you think?
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker and the co-host of Across the Pondcast. Follow him on Twitter.