As far as comic book characters are concerned, Venom is an obvious candidate for an R rating. And for a while an R rating appeared to very much in play for Sony’s solo film for the Spider-Man villain starring Tom Hardy. Ultimately, Venom was PG-13, not rated R, but that doesn’t mean its sequel can’t explore an R rating. In an exclusive interview with CinemaBlend, Venom producer Matt Tolmach said that the sequel will consider an R-rated version due to Joker’s box office success, saying:
I mean, I think you always have to think about [it], now that that works. Having said that, our movie worked really well. Our franchise exists as it is, and I don't think anybody is looking to just say, ‘Hey, they [did it]!’ We have a place in the world. So it isn't like suddenly everybody's considering what to do with the rating. … I think what Joker does is it tells you that you can succeed. For a very long time, that was the narrative. And Deadpool sort of wrestled that to the turf, and then Logan, but for a long time, that was considered totally forbidden. … So you know, I think it's the greatest thing in the world that R-rated movies are being embraced by massive audiences. And it just means that there are more opportunities for that kind of storytelling.
While projects like Blade, Watchmen and Kick-Ass laid the groundwork, it was really Deadpool and Logan that began to change the narrative about how an R-rated comic book movie could succeed. Then Joker came along and completely blew all of the beliefs about the limitations of such a thing out of the water. That kind of unprecedented success can’t be ignored and as a producer, Matt Tolmach has to take it into account for Venom 2.
It would be foolish to not consider all the options and the producer admits as much, saying that an R-rated Venom 2 is something to think about after Joker showed how well it can work. Yet, just because it is something they will think about, doesn’t mean that you should expect director Andy Serkis’ Venom 2 to be R-rated. That’s because Venom already found a winning formula in the first film with the limits of a PG-13 rating.
As the producer notes, the first film from director Ruben Fleischer worked really well. While there will be some debate about that creatively, there is no doubt that Venom was a success financially, making $856 million worldwide. It’s not quite Joker’s $1 billion, but it is more than Logan or either Deadpool film made. The Venom franchise has succeeded and been established as PG-13 so Matt Tolmach believes in a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach.
What Joker did, is put an R rating on the table as a viable option for comic book fare, particularly those featuring villains. If he didn’t know before, Matt Tolmach now knows for sure than an R-rated version is an option, but it’s not a card that Venom 2 needs to play. The producer does seem to be thrilled that Joker has done what it has and changed the narrative on R-rated comic book movies. Because it proves there is an appetite for that kind of thing and opens up opportunities for more storytelling in that realm.
So it sounds like Venom 2 probably won't be rated R, but we’ll have to wait and see. Maybe during production Andy Serkis really feels strongly about certain borderline material that he would like to include and things could change. Or maybe there will be an unrated cut for the eventual home video release.
Even if Venom 2 isn't R-rated, other films certainly will follow in Joker’s footsteps, including some at DC. You can also understand why Venom would strive to stay PG-13. Although the character might warrant an R-rating, Sony’s Venom doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Joker had the luxury of being a standalone film, where neither the rating nor the content had any bearing on what came before or after.
Sony is building out its Spider-Verse, a cinematic universe that may one day integrate Tom Holland’s Spider-Man from the MCU. So any mixing of tones and ratings could complicate matters.