Why DC Plans to Avoid Making R-Rated Superhero Movies

It goes without saying that Deadpool has changed the cinematic superhero game. With R-rated comic book adaptations now clearly viable, people have looked to properties like Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to potentially follow suit. While Batman V Superman will get an R-rated director’s cut, don’t expect to see DC characters spilling buckets of blood on the silver screen anytime soon. R-rated comic book movies undoubtedly work, but the DCEU will remain a PG-13 world.

Speaking with Collider during a recent press junket for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, producer Charles Roven explained that Warner Bros. remains firm in its commitment to keep the DCEU a PG-13 environment. Said the filmmaker,

I think that the DC Justice League characters, particularly because so many of them are so iconographic, have been around for so long and for so many generations that have grown up with them, and that are still growing up with them, I think we want to present them, when we finally present them, to the broadest possible audience that we can. I think that’s why we’ve planned on making these movies PG-13. I’m not seeing any real reason to change. We’ve made some pretty edgy films that are rated PG-13. You never want to say ‘never’ because we all evolve, but right now I think we’re staying that course.

By comic book standards, Deadpool is a relatively young character; he’s only been around since the early 1990s. By contrast, characters like Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League have long histories that extend far back to the early days of WWII. As Charles Roven explains, this makes them distinctively iconic and universal, and somewhat unfit for an outlandishly violent or graphic R-rating. While Deadpool may have proven that an R-rated superhero movie can make an immense profit, it doesn’t change the fact that PG-13 still casts the widest possible net of appeal for potential audiences.

It’s not as though we’re missing out on anything. Plenty of PG-13 superhero films have gotten away with incredibly graphic content over the years. One need only look at Christopher Nolan’s masterful The Dark Knight to understand that a PG-13 rating is certainly flexible enough for a filmmaker to properly adapt a comic book. It ultimately boils down to the quality of the story and the faithfulness to the source material more than some label thrown onto the movie by the MPAA.

All that being said, an R-rating is not permanently off of the table. Charles Roven makes a point in his statement to emphasize that Warner Bros. could very well change their minds on this at some point in the future. However, for now they will opt to keep their films within the realm of PG-13 content.

There’s a long list of DC characters that could benefit from the R-rated treatment, but for the foreseeable future it looks as though we will have to make due with PG-13. Be sure to check out the next installment in the DCEU when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice blasts its way into theaters later this week on March 25th.

Conner Schwerdtfeger

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.