In an unsurprising, yet what for many will still be a disappointing turn of events, the MPAA has officially bestowed a PG-13 rating on the Sylvester Stallone produced action threequel, The Expendables 3.
It was about a month ago when we first learned that Expendables 3 would be PG-13. From a marketing and profitability standpoint, it's easy to understand why Stallone would go this route. The list of recent successful (make that $uccessful) R rated action blockbusters can be counted on one hand, while PG-13 action franchises like Fast and Furious and Transformers consistently make billion dollar worldwide profits. Making Expendables 3 PG-13 instantly opens up the film to a much wider paying audience, and makes it much more likely that Lionsgate will earn serious bank off the sequel.
Here is the previous comment made by Stallone, regarding the decision to go PG-13 on the third Expendables:
“We want to reach as many people as possible. It’s very close to an R, believe me, it’s right there. But I think we owe it to the next generation. We thought we’d join that club for a while.”
On the other hand, a PG-13 rating has real potential to limit Expendables 3 from a creative standpoint. Stallone famously designed The Expendables to be a throwback to the testosterone-laced shoot-em-up action flicks of the '1980s, and one would be hard pressed to name many examples from that era that carried anything less than an R rating; no one is likely to be more aware of this fact than Stallone, who cemented much of his legend playing John Rambo. Unfortunately, it would seem that Stallone's most recent cost-benefit analysis of The Expendables series has determined that economic realities trump his original goal.
That said, while both Expendables films had their share of violence and adult language, neither effort was exactly a "hard-R" blood fest. The level of graphic violence and dropped f-bombs in '80s films like Predator and Robocop easily trumps The Expendables on all marks, and in fact makes the latter series seem almost quaint at points. While moving to the PG-13 realm will surely limit what can be included in Expendables 3, it's unlikely to be extreme enough of a change that the film becomes unrecognizable as an entry in the franchise.
The real question here is whether Stallone's gamble will pay off. For every new fan The Expendables 3's PG-13 rating draws in, an existing fan of the series may very well find themselves turned off by the lack of R rated content. While PG-13 action films are the in thing currently, switching ratings in the middle of an established franchise isn't exactly the same thing as designing a property to appeal to teens from the ground up.
The Expendables 3 arrives in theaters on Friday, August 15, 2014.