Monday, May 5, 2008

Terminator 4 to be PG-13?

According to this Variety report, the new Terminator film (Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins) is actively gunning for a PG-13 rating. This isn't terribly surprising, and RL Shafer of DVDFuture correctly predicted this a month or so ago (gee, look who has a Speed Racer review up already... bah, at least I get to see it on Wednesday in IMAX) . It's considered a new trilogy, with none of the principals of any of the other pictures returning. Thus, I suppose, they believe they are starting over in a manner of speaking. The article claims that the rating will not be forced on them, but if a PG-13 is what they're actively attempting, then that's what they're gonna end up with.

The article mentions Live Free Or Die Hard as a sequel that used its lesser rating to increase its box office. I'm not sure how true that is. Adjusted for inflation, I'd guess that Die Hard 4 sold about as many tickets, if not less, than the predecessors (that's a question for Box Office Mojo or someone with a premier pass on the site). Regardless, Live Free Or Die Hard did well last year because it was much better than anyone was expecting. As it was, I was kinda shocked that Die Hard 4 got a PG-13 in the first place, since it was every bit as violent and brutal as the first three, albeit with less blood and less hard profanity.

By that standard, Terminator 4 can be as violent as it pleases and still probably slide under the R-banner. For the record, there are rumors that Terminator 3 actually had gore added to the final cut to get that R back in 2003. And to be fair, I have heard good things about The Sarah Conner Chronicles, and that has to contend with TV-levels of violence and gore (although it must be said that certain shows, like the CSI franchise, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and 24 would have a tough time pulling a PG-13 in theatrical release, be it for violence, gore, or R-rated subject matter).

It's interesting that, in the last two years, two of the standard bearers for hard-R action have apparently been neutered to the point of being acceptable for all audiences. Ironically, in some cases, an R rating can be a benefit. Especially in this post-Columbine and post-Lieberman trade commission age, R-rated mainstream pictures are almost a rarity, so actually going for that R can seem like a badge of honor. Most of the positive reviews for Rambo last January were at least partially based on the relief that the classic action franchise kept its R-rated mantle (with the insanely graphic content to prove it). And I'd wager that much of whatever excitement there is for M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening (June 13th) is directly related to it being M Night's first R-rated film. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Scott Mendelson

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