The Suicide Squad: Let's Talk R-Rated Superhero Movies for a Second

As you might expect from the film's initial red band teaser trailer, The Suicide Squad carries a hard R rating. Those who've already seen the movie tout the film's blood and guts as a major shock factor, and ComicBook.com's Brandon Davis says it's "violent as hell, raunchy, and unforgiving" and allows James Gunn to be "fully unleashed." He even describes it as overwhelming at times.

In the teaser, we see King Shark (Sly Stallone) rip someone in half — hot dog style, not the PG-13 "hamburger style" route — and there are obscenities galore. The MPAA has given the film an R rating for "strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use, and brief graphic nudity."

Yet, for the most part, the series is largely based on classic comic book characters that were developed for a mass-market audience. Harley Quinn first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, a cartoon that, albeit dark, was still a show produced for children. Peacemaker was first introduced by Charlton at the height of the Golden Age of Comics, far from the version of the character we're seeing John Cena play in The Suicide Squad.

That means the question begs to be asked — what's with the infatuation of R-rated superheroes? Within the past few years, we've seen Joker and a pair of Deadpool movies find tremendous success at the box office. Oftentimes, the blood and guts are enough of a shock value to propel a movie to greater heights in the realm of discourse and, in turn, increase box office receipts.

But even outside of commercial success, Gunn himself may have put it best — an R-rated movie does help keep superhero cinema fresh and new.

“We know about the way cowboy films went, and the way war films went,” Gunn explained to The Irish Times earlier this month. “I don’t know, I think you don’t have to be a genius to put two and two together and see that there’s a cycle to those sorts of films, you know and that the only hope for the future of the comic book and superhero films is to change them up. They’re really dumb. And they’re mostly boring for me right now.

“I loved them at the beginning. I was really excited when they first started making those movies. It was about the visual effects when I saw Superman as a kid. I still love that movie,” he continued. “Okay, I know, that’s a guy on wires and bluescreen with this sort of crappy visual effects. And then when Iron Man came out, I was in. You’re able to make a guy fly around who looks like a guy flying around. And that was a beautiful thing to be able to do. But if the movies don’t change, it’s gonna get really, really boring.”

Changing them up is exactly what Gunn is doing. With that hard R rating, The Suicide Squad has become the talk of social media as early reviewers analyze the chaos and brutality of what unfolded. Is an R rating necessary for a film to be successful? Absolutely not, you only need a quick glance at the Marvel Cinematic Universe to see that — but it could help.

The Suicide Squad debuts in theaters and on HBO Max beginning Thursday, August 5th.

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