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The PG-13 rating is probably the most abused thing in Hollywood, more so than CGI monsters or the Wilhelm Scream or anything else you think you're sick of. Movies that are extremely violent but promoted by a major studio, like The Hunger Games, can slip in with a PG-13, while indie documentaries that contain one too many f-bombs, like Bully, get slapped with an R. The argument about what the MPAA is doing for us with this inconsistent rating is raging on and probably will be forever, but in the meantime directors of movies large and small are finding ways to work with it and work around it-- and if you've been working as Ridley Scott, that means making a movie that would have been one rating 15 years ago, and is another today.
Talking to the UK magazine Empire, Scott wound up talking about the American rating for his new film Prometheus, acknowledging that there's a big financial incentive to make the expensive sci-fi project a PG-13, but that he wanted to push the envelope as close as possible to an R-Rating. Here's the quote in question:
"The question is, do you go for the PG-13, [which] financially makes quite a difference, or do you go for what it should be, which is R? Essentially, it's kinda R. It's not just about the blood, it's about ideas that are very stressful. I'm not an idiot, but I'll do everything I can to get the most aggressive film I can."
By "I'm not an idiot" I assume Scott means "I'm not an idiot, and I'll make this film a PG-13 because there's a ton of money to be made that way." The original two Alien films were both rated R, but both were released before the PG-13 rating existed. Both would probably get an R-rating again as the system stands today, but they probably would be pressured into the PG-13 anyway, as most studios recognize how hard it is to build a franchise on an R-rated film. Prometheus, as much as Scott insists it's not actually an Alien film, is very much a continuation of a franchise. PG-13 seems like a foregone conclusion at this point.
So how hard will he push it? How violent is this film going to get? We don't really know much beyond the glimpses of the film we've seen in the intriguing recent trailers-- none of them promising much in the way of bloodshed or intense violence. As much as Scott seems dedicated to keeping the movie under wraps, we probably won't learn more for a while-- but you can at least count on that PG-13 rating in the end.