What Does a PG-13 Rating Mean For The Deadpool Movie?

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Not even twenty-four hours after the Deadpool movie was finally confirmed to be coming in 2016, rumors began circulating that the film would have a PG-13 rating instead of the expected R. Understandably this has raised some concerns from fans who love their favorite Marvel superhero cutting off heads and dropping plenty of f-bombs in the process, but what exactly would a PG-13 designation mean for the merc with a mouth’s first feature-length film?

It’s not hard to see why a film studio ready to pump tens of millions of dollars into a Deadpool movie would want it to be PG-13 instead of R. Just looking at 2013 alone, the top grossing 13 films were rated PG-13 or below, with Heat being the only rated-R film barely in the top 15. Even World War Z, a movie about shooting flesh-eating zombies, managed to stay at PG-13 and grossed over $200m in part because of the broad audience brought in by the lower rating.

Movies, especially those that potentially have a teenage audience, undoubtedly make more money sitting at a PG-13 rating. Take 2012’s Dredd, for example. Despite positive reviews and being a great action movie that did the comic justice, it absolutely tanked and only grossed $13m despite having a $50m budget. Not that Dredd’s total failure at the box office was the only thing influencing 20th Century Fox to put Deadpool at PG-13, but it’s hard to imagine it didn’t weigh heavily on their decision.

Sure, the comic is rated mature, but the jokes, over-the-top violence, and general attitude of the current Deadpool run are very much aimed at mid- to late-teens as well as adults. The same teens that would not be able to see an R-rated Deadpool without having their parents to go with them. Good luck convincing dear old ma’ to come watch Ryan Reynolds (currently rumored to reprise his role as Deadpool) decapitate baddies while slinging curse words in every other sentence.

My first thought, and I’m sure the initial reaction of a lot of others, is that a PG-13 Deadpool means we’ll be stuck with the dumbed down doofus that was Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that’s extremely unlikely. For all intents and purposes that rendition of Deadpool (and the majority of the movie, but that’s another discussion) were awful and even Fox is doing everything they can to pretend it doesn’t exist.

If Origins: Wolverine had any artistic integrity I

If X-Men Origins: Wolverine had any artistic integrity I’d probably say that sewing Deadpool’s mouth shut was a form of protest against the restrictions of having a PG-13 rating but it was more likely just another terrible idea in a movie filled to the brim with terrible ideas.

You can bet executives saw the feedback from that leaked Deadpool Comic Con footage earlier this year and noted the positive reaction to the loudmouth mercenary everyone knows and loves as opposed to sewing his mouth shut and cramming a bunch of random powers into him.

It is also worth noting everything  in that test footage would fly in a PG-13 movie as it falls under the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) guidelines for a PG-13 movie:

A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. […] There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violent. A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating.

So, Ryan Reynolds decapitating the biker and dropping an f-bomb at the end? Perfectly fine for a PG-13 movie. In fact, despite fans clamoring that this leaked footage is “finally the R-rated Deadpool we want” the clip is very much already tuned for a PG-13 movie. You can’t tell me that a 100% true-to-comics Deadpool would just drop in a car just to punch, kick, and headbutt some people. It would be straight to the guns and gory sword deaths. The type of action in the leaked footage is the same type of violence we’ve seen countless times in PG-13 rated Marvel movies.

The real trouble of a PG-13 rating comes in how often scenes like this could happen. In a perfect world, with a perfect Deadpool movie, it would probably come out similar to the financial flop, Dredd. A ton of of over-the-top and glorified violence with very little story elements to break up the constant stream of generic badguy blood. But in a PG-13 movie, filmmakers will be forced to break up these scenes with a lot of seemingly pointless talking and very little harsh swearing – a formula that could mean disaster for a story revolving around the super violent and not-very-intelligent Deadpool.

Wade Wilson is already a clown in the comics books and taking away his signature gruesome violence and forcing him to talk more without swearing could come across as just plain stupid. He is not a character with a fascinating origin story like so many other Marvel characters, and most of his comic book arcs revolving around killing, killing, and more killing. Being that 20th Century Fox owns the movies rights for Deadpool and the X-Men (including Cable) there could be some crossover there, but the great quip-for-quip conversations between Wade and Tony Stark and others aren’t coming to the silver screen any time soon.

Unfortunately Sony owns Spider-man so a movie crossover is not going to happen.

Unfortunately Sony owns Spider-Man so this crossover is not going to happen, either.

The quality of the Deadpool movie is really going to come down to how much the creators are willing to push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. They could push it to the brink and give us a superhero movie with more violence than we’ve seen from the latest Marvel movies, they could use their PG-13 limitations in creative ways for Deadpool’s signature breaking of the fourth wall, or they could play it safe and it’ll be a watered-down story-driven snoozefest with a clownish Deadpool fumbling his way through a convoluted plot between dull action scenes.

Regardless, it’s not worth jumping off a bridge yet and declaring the movie dead just because it may get saddled with a PG-13 rating. It is not going to be the visceral bloodbath that you want, but there’s a decent chance it’ll be another above-average superhero movie in a sea of above-average superhero movies, which is better than no Deadpool movie.

Source: Film Ratings
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