There’s been one consistent pattern among superhero movies; a PG-13 rating. And there’s a reason for that: These are often expensive blockbusters that need to bring in as big an audience as possible. Still, studios need to start doing more with superheroes, and there are some stories that, sooner or later, deserve a shot on film… like these five.
Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt
One of the classic Spider-Man stories, J.M. DeMatteis’ story is famous largely because of the end, where Kraven the Hunter kills himself. But it’s also a piercing look at heroism, not least because of Kraven impersonating Spider-Man and showing that he ultimately doesn’t understand what makes Spider-Man different from his villains. Also, it has Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod’s unforgettable image of Spider-Man clawing his way out of his own grave; it’s a dark story, but a vivid one, and something actually different from the usual round of origins and family infighting.
Superman: What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, And The American Way?
It’s a common argument that the only compelling Superman story is his origin, but that’s not entirely true. When Superman is forced to confront the limits of his morality, like in this story, it often makes for a great tale. True, it’s also always controversial; ever since Man Of Steel came out, we’ve been arguing about the ending. And Joe Casey’s story, with its jokey title, parody of parody antagonists, and gotcha ending, has its flaws. But for the Superman movies to be more than Superman Lifts Things, they’ve got to be willing to take some risks beyond just spending $300 million on CGI.
The Punisher: The MAX Books
One can argue that the Punisher movies have been rated R for the wrong reasons. While the 2004 and 2008 films have their charms, they don’t really use the R-rating for anything other than splat. Instead, they should take their cues from Garth Ennis’ run on the character in the Max books. Ennis dropped his usual over-the-top routine to explore serious social problems ranging from human trafficking to the failures of the War on Terror. Put in the hands of a thoughtful director, you could get action films that mean something.
Batman: The Cult
Batman stories are generally PG-13, even the grimmest and the grittiest. There are no boobs, bullets rarely fly, and the conflict is usually internal. Also there’s enough money on the table that the MPAA looks the other way; how The Dark Knight didn’t get an R is a standing question.
This story, though, is worth telling, because it’s one where Batman loses. Batman flips his lid and becomes a bad guy, and he very nearly goes off the deep end for good. True, a tale of depravity and insanity probably isn’t family-friendly fare, but neither were the last two Batman movies, and kids showed up for those in droves.
Ghost Rider: Just Give Him An R-Rating Already!
One of the most baffling moves in recent superhero movie history was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Sony hired Neveldine/Taylor, the directorial duo behind some of the most frantic, bizarre and ultraviolent R-rated movies in recent memory, and then limited them to a PG-13. It’s pretty clear that, bereft of being able to get gory or ultraviolent, Neveldine/Taylor were at a loss; the movie isn’t popular among even the kind of person who watches Nicolas Cage movies “ironically.”
Ghost Rider, no matter what the story, needs an R-rating. At root, Ghost Rider stories are horror stories, of the old Biblical kind, where there really is a demon, he really is coming, and he’s going to throw you in hell. At the very least, you need to get into just why somebody is so evil they’ve got a biker with a flaming skull on their case.
Any we missed? Any you wish would get an R-rating? Let us know in the comments!