Thursday, September 20, 2018

Venom (2018) - Does the PG-13 Rating Matter?


Recently, the MPAA rating for Venom (2018) was announced. To a lot of people’s shock and annoyance, it turns out that the studio went for a PG-13 rating.

Venom is an incredibly violent character in the Marvel comic book universe. A lot of fans reference that when talking about how pissed off they are at the idea of a PG-13 rating. It’s not easy for a hardcore fan to think about the idea that their favorite character might be curbed. It’s understandable. I mean, look at the difference between mouth-sewn-shut Deadpool and our latest incarnation. Curbing a character can be absolutely disastrous.

The thing that people aren’t acknowledging is that a PG-13 rating doesn’t necessarily mean that the character is going to become a pussycat. It doesn’t even mean that the character is going to be toned down.

I’m not saying Venom will automatically be a hit, I’m saying we need to watch the film in order to tell. A PG-13 rating means nothing.

PG-13 movies have been getting progressively more violent. Almost every year now, a movie comes out with a PG-13 rating that people agree should be an R. And, if you ask me, that goes all the way back to when the rating was first developed on July 1, 1984.

Red Dawn (1984)was the first film to hit theaters with a PG-13 rating, although another film was the first to have the rating awarded to it. Let’s put that into perspective.

As a film, Red Dawn is more divisive than I think it should be. It sports a 46% critic rating and 65% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. For me, it’s one of my favorite films – but I digress.

What is the movie about?

Red Dawn follows a group of teens that escape a military invasion and decide to fight back in order to save their home. There is a HUGE amount of violence in it. The opening scene shows students and high school employees gunned down. There are disturbing scenes of the teens participating in guerilla violence – even killing one of their own when they learn of his betrayal. There are themes of rape – including one scene where a female in the group is injured and so terrified of being captured that she begs for her friends to kill her.

One can argue, however, that the rating wasn’t even in practice for an entire year before Red Dawn was released, so they were likely still fleshing it out. Still, that’s a lot of darkness for a 13-year-old to handle.

There are good films out there with PG-13 ratings (or PG if it was before 1984), that clearly pushed the line on the violence aspect. They pushed the line so much that it’s hard to remember that they weren’t rated R to begin with.

Below are the top 8 movies with PG-13 (or PG) ratings that have enough violence that they should have been in the R-rating category. They’re all are, at the very least, above a 6 out of 10 in IMDb ratings.

8 – Drag Me to Hell (2009) – 6.6

A lot of people would be quick to say that a supernatural thriller/horror like Drag Me to Hell couldn’t possibly do what it needs to with a PG-13 rating, yet here we are.

It’s worth noting that the film itself was campy. Right up Sam Raimi’s (Army of Darkness, Oz the Great and Powerful, A Simple Plan) alley. But that didn’t really tone down the scares. After all, The Evil Dead (1981) was campy, too.

Generally, in a PG-13 movie, you get a lot of the same violence, but none of the bodily fluids. That’s how films like The Hunger Games (2012) got away with the rating. Drag Me to Hell didn’t get that memo.

There’s one scene where a dead body vomits embalming fluid onto the main character’s face and into her mouth. In another scene, a woman bites at the main character and vomits up worms onto her. In yet another scene, there’s an eyeball in a piece of cake that the main character stabs with her fork.

There’s plenty of other horror scenes that could easily be seen as too hardcore for a younger crowd. That includes one scene where a man regurgitates a murdered kitten’s corpse.

Yet, the argument remains that most of the violent scenes in Drag Me to Hell don’t really count because they turn out to be products of the main character’s imagination. I feel differently, but we’ll move on anyway.

7 – World War Z (2013) – 7.0

World War Z is a zombie movie. A full-on, eating people’s faces, zombie film. It doesn’t shy away from showing a lot of the deaths-by-zombie, either. Nearly any zombie flick is going to have more violence than the majority of other horror films. Hell, even Zombieland (2009) was rated R – and that leaned heavily on the comedy aspects.

There are plenty of scenes of zombies eating people, relentlessly attacking cars to get to the people inside, people shooting themselves to prevent the possibility of becoming a zombie, etc. There’s even a moment when the main character needs to amputate a woman’s arm in order to prevent the virus from turning her. The zombies aren’t the only terrifying things in the film, either. In the beginning, the wife of the main character is nearly raped while trying to get provisions from the grocery store for her family.

Although there is a lot of violence, enough that could have definitely landed this film into R-rated territory, most of it is gore-less, which is why it was able to make the PG-13 cut.

6 – The Ring (2002) – 7.1

Everyone knows the basic story of The Ring by now. Cursed video tape. People die within a week of watching it. If you don’t know what the film is about, you’ve likely been under a rock.

For the most part, The Ring is framed as a basic mystery. It’s more about the main character finding out what’s going on than the actual horror – but that doesn’t mean the horror is non-existent.

Some of the violence in The Ring comes in the form of a suicide scene, child abuse, and an animal dying in the water – followed by blood spreading on the surface. 

As it goes, The Ring is terrifying, but one of the milder films on this list. If you ask me, it’s proof that we need an MPAA rating between PG-13 and R. Something for older teens able to handle the kind of shocking horror portrayed in this movie.

5 – Live Free or Die Hard (2007) – 7.2

Live Free or Die Hard is… well… it’s a fucking Die Hard (1988) movie. The MPAA was eating some very special brownies when they decided it should have a PG-13 rating instead of R. All the other films in this serious are rated R, after all.

As the Die Hard franchise goes, Live Free or Die Hard is no less violent than the rest of them, but it got saddled with a PG-13 rating anyway. You can expect pretty much the same kind of shooting and explosions from this film as you can in all the others. 

If you ask me, there’s no difference to point out.

4 – Poltergeist (1982) – 7.4

I can’t speak for the remake of Poltergeist, I haven’t seen it, but I KNOW the original should not have been rated PG. (Remember this was before PG-13 existed, so I won’t be discussing the difference between PG and PG-13).

Not only is the concept of Poltergeist inherently creepy, there are some incredibly gory scenes in the film. I’ll concentrate on one in particular.

Sure, you have a tree attacking a child and a clown attack – but where gore is concerned, one scene takes the cake. It’s the scene where a man literally rips his own face off. 

The effects aren’t as terrifying as they could be today, but it’s still sickening to watch. Most PG-13 films can’t really go down that route if they intend to be graphic – which Poltergeist is. At the very least, one has to admit that it’s not a film that’s easy for a 13-year-old to watch.

3 – Taken (2008) – 7.8

Taken is on the same level as the Die Hard film I mentioned. There isn’t a huge amount of gore, but the violence level is through the roof.

Everyone knows the scene with Liam Neeson giving his speech about having a “specific set of skills” and threatening the lives of anyone who touches his kidnapped daughter. Every promise he makes in that speech is a promise he follows up on. There’s plenty of fighting-based violence, but there’s also a torture scene.

This is another film that likely snuck past the R-rating by hiding the majority of the bodily fluids that would have been produced by it. Still, the subject matter alone should have told the MPAA that young teens shouldn’t be watching it.

Neeson’s daughter in the film is kidnapped by sex traffickers. Taken doesn’t actually show any of the sex violence, but enough of it is alluded to that it should have been considered toward the rating.

2 – Jaws (1975) – 8.0

Again, this was before the PG-13 rating existed, still Jaws was rated PG for some strange reason.

This one I understand less than the majority of the other films listed here. There’s a ton of blood, people being eaten alive… and that’s all with the shark looing about as realistic as it could have for the time. Yes, it looks less realistic by today’s standards… but this was top-of-the-top back in the 70s. There’s a reason it’s a classic.

One of the scenes that sticks out the most is Quint’s death. 

In the aforementioned scene, you see the shark get ahold of the man and shake him back and forth until you can see blood bubbling out of his mouth and you hear a sickening crunch while the shark drags his meal back under the waves. If you’re watching closely, you can see the blood in the waves as the creature disappears.

I imagine that the older MPAA decided to rate it PG because the violence doesn’t really come from other humans. The people in the film are only really violent to the shark after they are put in a position to protect themselves.

Still, I 100% think they were nuts.

1 – The Dark Knight (2008) – 9.0

I’m going to end off with the highest rated PG-13 film that should have been rated R. By pure coincidence, it happens to be a comic book flick.

Most comic book movies are still PG-13 and, back when this movie came out, pretty much all of them were. At least from the two titan comic book companies (DC and Marvel). I feel like The Dark Knight seemed to skate by simply on the reputation Batman has as a character.

There’s the hospital explosion, Rachel’s untimely death, the basic violence that follows Batman everywhere, and – of course – Harvey Dent’s evolution into Two-Face. 

The scene where Dent’s fact gets burned is extremely graphic. You get to watch his face light on fire as he frantically rolls to try and put himself out – just after hearing the explosion that kills Rachel on the phone. The entire thing is incredibly morbid and terrifying to watch.

The Dark Knight proves that comic book movies have a way of putting in all the violence they need for their stories without forcing the MPAA to rate them too strongly. Mostly, it’s the actually sight of blood, sex, or foul language that will force the MPAA’s hand.

What does that mean for Venom? That means he can’t curse so much and needs to keep his penis secured. The violence level, if done correctly, should still be way up there. If they get it wrong, then complain all you want – but give it a chance to prove itself first.

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