Why James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad Had To Be Rated R

Polka Dot Man in The Suicide Squad

We have seen the comic book genre evolve and mature over the years -- to the point where an R-rated comic book adaptation isn’t as rare of a concept as it once might have been. Typically, superhero blockbusters are meant to appeal to all audiences, young and old. But when the material calls for a grittier, dirtier approach, then movies like Logan, Deadpool, Joker and more fight to get that R rating, and often succeed. This also is the case with James Gunn’s upcoming The Suicide Squad, a standalone movie that is neither a sequel to the 2017 version directed by David Ayer, nor a reboot of that story. It’s merely a standalone film that Gunn conceived and pitched to DC and Warner Bros., and we learned on the set that from Day One, Gunn meant this is be R rated.

CinemaBlend traveled to the set of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad to learn how the Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker would approach a DC project. And it was during a conversation with the movie’s producer, Peter Safran, that he told us Gunn’s pitch for the material is 100% the reason that the upcoming movie embraced its R rating. Safran said to us:

James Gunn. His vision for it. Those movies that it's somewhat based on, those 1970s war movies, those are hardcore movies. So I think it's a lot of fun for James to be able to flex some of those muscles that (he) can't do on a PG-13 Guardians movie. He's pretty hardcore with it.

The Dirty Dozen got thrown around a lot on set by James Gunn’s cast as a reference point for The Suicide Squad. And though it’s more recent, the opening scene of Gunn’s movie is said to call to mind Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Yeah, it sounds like we may lose a few team members before the audience even gets too comfortable in their seats.

Gunn was swamped with filming on the say we visited set, but he did stop long enough to tell us:

It really is a war [film]. It is just a more grounded story. It's a sad story. And one of the most fun things I think at the end of the day, even though we do kill in Guardians of the Galaxy, we do kill some of them, but in this movie, it really is about you don't know who's going to get killed. And I think with the Guardians, you start out knowing these are, you know, guys that may have different problems, but at the end of the day, they're all really good people. And that isn't the case with this. This is a much more complicated story. Some of these characters may end up being good, some of them are definitely not good, and some of them – most of them — are somewhere in between different shades of grey.

There’s a reason why there are SO MANY characters on the roster of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Some characters may exist to just be cannon fodder when the explosions go off. Chances are Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn lives to fight another day. The studio won’t let James Gunn kill off a moneymaker like Quinn. But as for the R rating, The Suicide Squad producer Charles Roven confirmed:

There's no way that you could have made this movie in the vision that James had without it being an R. And from the time that he came to the project, he made everybody know that his vision was R rated, and it was to be intrinsically integrated into the movie. And so you wouldn't be able to release it any other way. And it was something that Warner Brothers had to digest. But when he explained how he was going to do it, and how he was going to handle it, everybody agreed that it was worth the challenge. And we still feel the same way with the movie.

Now we can’t wait to see what audiences think of the movie. We’ll find out soon, as The Suicide Squad will land in theaters and be able to stream on HBO Max beginning on August 6.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.