Op-Ed: The Dark Knight Rises’ PG-13 “surprise”

The following is an opinion piece written by Matt Smith, a friend of Batman-News.com. Views expressed here are his own.

The Dark Knight Rises being a PG-13 movie should be a surprise to no one who is an aficionado of superhero movies. For those who don’t know, the film is officially rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.”

Intense sequences of violence/action are nothing new to Nolan’s Batman movies or superhero movies in general for that matter.  It is pretty much a given with every superhero film that there will be action scenes and violent moments that, despite the degree of their intensity, is an automatic PG-13.  The PG-13 rating is a wonderful tool for the studio because it advertises, “our movie is for a grown up audience, but please take your kids too.”  It’s more alarming for fans if a superhero film is rated below PG-13.  Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, for example, gained a PG rating for “sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo” in 2007.  It is possible to attribute the lower box office to the rating itself leading movie goers to believe it would be a more of a kid-oriented movie.

It is common for a superhero movie to have violent content, and after two Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies, it is no surprise this third installment will also have “intense action.”  I have heard a lot of comments in the past four years that The Dark Knight should have been rated R because of how intense it felt.  There was no graphic violence and much of it was off-screen, but there was still intensity. Many have hoped to one day see an R-rated Batman film (I’m not one of them), but we now know, three months ahead of time, that Nolan’s swan song won’t go out with a Hard-R bang.


What has the Internet abuzz is the “some sensuality” in the description.  I don’t think it is a big deal that there will be a moment or two of sensuality in a Batman movie.  I think it what makes it a big deal is that Nolan has inserted very little in the way of sexual content into any of his films.  The immediate thought is that Catwoman will bring a sexiness that we haven’t seen before in a Nolan film.  This could actually be Nolan attempting something different for himself because let’s face it; his female characters tend to be very cold.  I personally would not be surprised if we see some sort of post-coital scene between Wayne and Miranda Tate.  I suspect she will be a potential love interest and he is a playboy after all. From what little we can infer of the story, it seems Wayne is in need of respite.   It also occurred to me that there was a rumor Batman- News.com ran about Selina Kyle’s back story as a stripper, and it is likely that is where the sensuality comes in.

PG-13 sensuality is nothing new to Batman movies though (just Nolan’s).  While the rating reasons never mention it, I have always felt Batman Returns and Batman Forever had lots of sensual moments that played into their PG-13 rating (more so than the violence in the case of Forever).  Batman Returns is now officially PG-13 for “dark, brooding violence” and Batman Forever is officially PG-13 for “strong stylized violence.”  Honestly if you were going by violence alone, I think both Joel Schumacher movies could be PG.  Batman & Robin is officially rated PG-13 for “strong stylized action and some innuendo.”

As for the “language,” the only thing really interesting about that to me is that none of the movies have had really strong language, especially Nolan’s.  You could probably count on both hands the amount of profanity in both movies.  But it is not about the amount of profanity as it is what words are being said, so my guess is we will hear one F-word or something else really extreme used once.  The only other superhero series where they have used strong language is the X-men series and those movies (the good ones) feel like science-fiction more than superhero films to me.

Finally I want to touch on how early the rating was released.  As Adam B. Vary of EW points out, this doesn’t mean that the movie is finished, but I think it has to be pretty close, either the final cut or close to it.  Certainly Nolan will not add more to the film after submitting it and getting the rating he wants.  At the time of writing this, The Avengers is less than 4 weeks away and still has no rating.  (What rating do you think it will receive?) Whether the final version was submitted or not, I would not be surprised either way because of how efficiently Nolan makes his films.  Ideally I would love to believe Nolan finished super early is going to take it easy until the film is released.  I am only disappointed that the running time wasn’t revealed; that should get fans really talking.

Ultimately, does it matter what the movie is rated and why?  No.  Everyone knows whether they want to see it and whether they are comfortable taking their children to see it.  The PG-13 language and sensuality may impact a parent’s decision, but if the last film seemed intense for their children’s age, they probably will not take their children to see The Dark Knight Rises anyway.  Besides, it is debatable how arbitrary the MPAA rating system is.  What really matters is the quality of the film itself, and I cannot wait for what is sure to be one hell of a ride!