Black Adam Had A Prolonged Battle With The MPAA To Avoid An R Rating

Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

While there have been a handful of R-rated superhero movies released over the years, including Deadpool, Logan and The Suicide Squad, this is a genre that primarily delivers PG-13 offerings. As it turns out, Black Adam, the latest of the DC movies, also nearly found itself stamped with an R rating, and it took a prolonged battle with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to prevent this from happening. 

Having been attached to the Black Adam role in one form or another since 2007, Dwayne Johnson finally debuts as the Kahndaqian character later this week. Like his comic book counterpart, Johnson’s Black Adam has no problem killing criminals to impose his version of justice, which is why he’ll come into conflict with the Justice Society of America. Black Adam producer Hiram Garcia told Collider that it was important for him and the other creative minds behind this 2022 movie release to have Black Adam’s brutality on full display, and this resulted in going “four rounds [with the MPAA]” and the movie only scoring its PG-13 rating “maybe four or five weeks ago.” This was only accomplished by cutting down around half of the scenes where Black Adam snuffed out an enemy with extreme violence. As Garcia explained:

We did have to make a lot of edits, actually. There are some personal moments that we really love, but we had to let them go. But we never compromised, we never had to cut a scene. We had some really cool moments, and if you notice, there are some great moments when Black Adam is in the fly bike chase sequence and drops one of the Intergang soldiers. Then there's this great moment where the truck bounces over the body. But those are moments that you need and remember in these movies, you know what I mean? You can't play it safe, and you have to go for it. And I think we have four or five of those. At one point we had about ten, and we were able to find some compromise with the MPAA on that.

Although Black Adam was originally depicted as a straightforward supervillain, for more than two decades now, the character has rested more comfortably in anti-hero territory. He doesn’t want to hurt innocent people, but he also won’t hesitate to kill anyone he deems a threat, particularly if they’re targeting his home country of Kahndaq. That’s the kind of Black Adam Dwayne Johnson is bringing to life, and while it became necessary for certain edits to be made for the MPPAA to shift it from R to PG-13, Hiram Garcia made it clear that this won’t diminish the intensity of the character. As for whether we could someday see the unedited versions of these Black Adam scenes on the home media release, Garcia said:

… There are going to be some features for when we release on home video and streaming. There'll be some cool elements for that too, but that's something we're talking about.

After being imprisoned for nearly 5,000 years, Black Adam’s eponymous protagonist doesn’t waste time getting down to his brand of lethal business, prompting the Justice Society to intervene. This version of the superhero team consists of Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman, Pierce Brosnan’s Doctor Fate, Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone and Noah Centineo’s Atom Smasher. Black Adam’s cast also includes Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz, Marwan Kenzari as Ishmael Gregor and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Behind the scenes, Jaume Collet-Serra directed, and Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani worked on the script.

Black Adam has been met with mixed early reactions so far, but you’ll be able to judge the movie for yourself when it opens in theaters on October 21. In the meantime, find out what other upcoming DC movies are lined up for the years ahead. 

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.