R-rated comic book films are in vogue. Deadpool and Logan have made 20th Century Fox a major player in the blockbuster business and audiences are loving more adult themes accompanying their heroes. The violence is more realistic, the jeopardy is more intense, and the villains are more menacing.
What was once a no-no is now a hot new trend in Hollywood, with more upcoming movies abandoning the PG-13 golden rule. The latest to head down the restricted path? Spawn. The comic book series follows an anti-hero assassin who made a deal with the devil in exchange for the opportunity to see his wife. The catch is that the hero must now operate as a Hellspawn and answer to the bidding of dark forces.
Spawn has already made its attempt at the big screen in the form of a 1997 film, which currently holds a 19 percent rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. Thus, a sequel has been stuck in the dark trenches of development ever since. Until now. At Emerald City Comic-Con this last weekend (via Twitch), Spawn creator Todd McFarlane told audiences that the newly announced reboot will be dark. Really dark. He said:
“Listen, I’m going to paint it for you. The movie is going to be a dark R…If here’s PG-13 and here’s Deadpool and here’s Logan, we’re going to be here. It’s going to be dark. It’s going to be nasty.”
It is interesting to see how quickly Hollywood is willing to abandon tried and true rules in the wake of financial gain. However, it might not necessarily be the rule that is outdated. Perhaps it is the technology. As the movie-going generation progresses into a more financially stable and settled phase of life, younger generations have moved to consuming entertainment via mobile devices and streaming services. Meanwhile, the teenagers that grew up on PG-13 superheroes are now at the age where R-rated content is more satisfactory. And since this demographic presumably still enjoys a good buttery bucket of theater popcorn while watching explosions on a big screen, the R-rating might make more sense in a movie-theater distribution model.
Though, this is not to say PG-13 superhero movies are doing poorly at the box office. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice raked in $873 million worldwide, while Captain America: Civil War brought in $1.15 billion. Both films came in ahead of Deadpool’s $783 million. However, the digital metrics for movies like Deadpool are typically out-shown by box office revenue. According to 20th Century Fox, Deadpool broke digital sales records by selling 1 million units its first week, which is a statistic that may be as valuable as opening weekend stats when looking at changing consumer habits.
Regardless of the reason, R-ratings look like the trend of the future, and it might finally be the perfect climate for the hellish Spawn reboot to thrive.