Now we know that’s a Kryptonian family crest, not an actual S, on Superman’s chest. But for a moment, imagine it’s an R.
Weeks before Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters on March 25, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that the PG-13 film will have an R-rating when its extended “Ultimate Edition” is released this summer on home video.
Some moviegoers are excited at the prospect of a more adult superhero story — and the smartass, blood-soaked Deadpool certainly proved there’s an audience for that. Other Superman and Batman fans are concerned about traditionally family-friendly characters going too dark.
The new Batman himself, Ben Affleck, says he understands both sides. “I’m a parent of young kids, and I feel like I wouldn’t want to have a Batman v Superman that I couldn’t show to my younger kids,” the actor says. “But on the same token, as an adult, I like to see movies that are R-rated. I think nowadays because we have so many means of distribution and ways that we can do different things, it’s the creative solution to a creative challenge.”
He emphasizes that the PG-13 theatrical cut will always be available as an alternative.
“You can have multiple versions and I can show my son and my daughters this movie and feel confident that the stuff isn’t too crazy, and then grownups can see larger version, [which is like] the red-band trailer. They can see the more adult version of that movie.”
The theatrical cut of BvS runs 2 hours and 31 minutes, which is already an epic length. But following the lead of Peter Jackson’s expanded versions of The Lord of the Rings, Snyder said he thought the Blu-ray and digital download editions of BvS could sustain some bonus material. (They aren’t saying yet how much longer the director’s cut will be.)
“We were just like, ‘Okay, look. We’re not making a three-hour movie. I mean, even I didn’t want to make a three-hour movie,” Snyder says. “I drove the cuts probably harder than anyone. The studio, they were willing to let the movie indulge pretty hard. But I felt like it’s at a manageable two-and-a-half hours. Let’s also not forget the credits are super long, the end credits. So the movie’s closer to two hours and 22 minutes.”
One of the things cut from the theatrical release: A mystery character played by Jena Malone. Fans have been speculating about who she plays for months – and they’ll have to wait a few more before they find out.
“I think we should keep it private, but it’s nothing that’s been talked about,” Snyder says. “She’s definitely not Robin or Batgirl. I’m happy to say that.”
Some of what’s being added to the “Ultimate Edition” counts as a spoiler, so we won’t reveal all of the extra material. Suffice to say, some minor characters in the theatrical cut are given expanded storylines. And a few other actors will join Malone in being rescued from the cutting room floor.
“There’s a couple, like, Ahman Green, the running back from the Green Bay Packers, he’s in it. And C.T. Fletcher is like this bodybuilder muscle-guru from Compton, this awesome guy. He’s amazing, and he’s in it,” Snyder says. “And then there’s just a lot of these Easter Eggs in the Director’s Cut that I think are gonna be fun for everyone.”
Some of the additions are aimed at teasing future movies, like 2017’s Justice League film, which Snyder begins shooting in April. “There’s one giant one that I won’t tell you about yet that speaks to what’s gonna go on in the greater Justice League universe,” he says.
The only other question is: what exactly is in the new material that earned the R-rating?
Back in September, the ratings board gave the shorter version of Batman v Superman a PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.” The R-rating came with the even more vague designation: “for sequences of violence.”
BvS producer Charles Roven, who also worked on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, says the “Ultimate Edition” won’t be gratuitous. “There’s not a lot of blood in our movies,” he says. “The ratings board also judges their PG-13 and R ratings by what they consider to be a level of intensity and how much that intensity goes throughout the entire movie. There are some pretty intense scenes in Batman v Superman, and if they went on longer and had that same level of intensity, that might cause the ratings board to shift their rating.”
Although Fox’s adaptation of the trash-talking, hyper-violent Marvel character Deadpool has producers and studio executives wondering whether R-rated superheroes could become a new trend, that’s unlikely to happen in the DC universe – apart from perhaps home video releases.
Sources at Warner Bros. tell EW on background that the studio still seeks the widest possible audience during the theatrical run, and that R – which stands for “Restricted” – does just what it describes.
If you want to make sure high school kids can get into your big, expensive action movie (without having to buy a ticket to a rival’s movie and then sneak in) then don’t put up a roadblock like that.
The R-rated success of Deadpool could be the exception rather than the start of a trend. And although the R-rated extended cut of BvS was in the works long before Deadpool’s release, the box office for that Ryan Reynolds movie reassured Warner Bros. executives that the more intense home video option was a worthwhile experiment.
Roven, who’s also producing this August’s Suicide Squad, another film in the DC movie universe, confirms that that movie – about a team of villains recruited to do the right thing on a deadly mission – won’t go for the R-rating in theaters. “I think right now we’re going for the PG-13. I don’t know that that’s going to materially change,” he said. “We can give that movie the edge that it needs and still maintain a PG-13.”
Affleck, who is considering both directing and starring in a stand-alone Batman film in the DC movie universe, says he’s glad the genre has become so widely embraced that it can sustain different types of superhero films. As long as there are options, he says he’s for it.
“These movies have definitely evolved from being comic books for children aimed at kids. Now they’re the most mainstream movies made, the most successful, the most widely viewed movies these days,” he says. “Clearly there’s a big enough audience. I think it’s cool. Why not have an R-rated version that you release for download or on DVD later? I think that’s smart.”
To continue reading more on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly – or buy the Batman and Superman covers here – and subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW. For more on DC’s movie universe, follow @Breznican. Share your thoughts on the R-rated superhero phenomenon in the comments.