Remember in 2016 when the R-rated Deadpool became a phenomenon on its way to more than $800 million in worldwide box office receipts? We didn’t quite know it at the time, but that movie sort of broke the seal in establishing the potential success of an adult oriented superhero pic.
While it certainly wasn’t the first R-rated film in the genre (see: Blade or Spawn), it was the first in the comic book boom we currently reside in. And what followed? Well, the next year we got Logan, one of the greatest superhero movies ever made as well as a perfect send off for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
Then it was the inevitable Deadpool 2 which came close to matching its predecessor at the box office. While not as good as the original, it was still entertaining enough to prove that audiences were not getting tired of the character.
Last year was perhaps the apex of R-rated films in the genre though as Joker became the first billion dollar-grossing movie with such a rating. That’s four consecutive years of studios taking a chance on a project they knew would lose out on a bit of profit because of the MPAA, but still making it regardless.
Which brings us to Venom. Seemingly tailor-made to be restricted, the anti-hero was instead consumed by teenagers on its way to a surprising $800 million-plus gross. A follow-up was soon greenlit and according to our sources, the same ones who told us about the Rey/Palpatine twist in Rise of Skywalker months before it released, and that Transformers was being rebooted, Sony intended for Venom 2 to carry an R-rating. But after the disappointing performance of Birds of Prey, they’re now changing the rating of the film from R to PG-13. In fact, many studios are beginning to get cold feet in regards to more racy superhero stories. Including Disney, who we told you last week is now more hesitant to give Deadpool 3 an R-rating. God help us.
Although Birds of Prey didn’t cost nearly as much as the other superhero movies mentioned, therefore reducing its margin for error, it did perform well below expectations. And now, its failure could cost Venom 2 its R-rating. While things can always change before release, we’re told that as of this moment, the film will be aiming for a PG-13 instead, even though an R was what was intended initially.
While certainly disappointing to hear, from a business perspective, this is a no-brainer for Sony to do. They know their primary demographic is teenage boys, after all. But from a creative perspective, the story might sacrifice some of the mature themes for more goofy scenes such as the one in Venom where Tom Hardy jumps into a lobster cage.
In any case, we know that Hollywood’s a copycat industry. Not only does it churn out similar formulas to milk every last dollar, but studios also go the other way and get gun shy when something isn’t working. Birds of Prey did okay, but its lukewarm reception is a concern for the continuation and evolution of the genre and it’s clearly scared a lot of producers from venturing into R-rated territory with their comic book movies.