How Far Can ‘Suicide Squad’ Push Its PG-13 Rating?

We’ve been hearing for a while that Suicide Squad is a bit edgier than superhero movies usually get. That seems pretty credible, because the cast is packed with supervillains and anti-heroes with a homicidal streak, complete with Jared Leto getting very Method as the Joker and David Ayer — best known for hard-hitting crime films like End of Watch and the unsparing WWII drama Fury — behind the camera. But now that we know it’s rated PG-13, how far can they push it?

Entertainment Weekly broke the news of the rating, although Ayer had made it clear before they were filming for a PG-13. But you can already imagine the complaints: Some will worry the movie won’t be hardcore enough, others that yet again, the boundaries of the PG-13 rating will be pushed. But in reality, there’s a lot the Squad can do within the limits imposed by the MPAA.

Take, for example, another superhero movie, X-Men: Apocalypse. It’s PG-13, but it’s got a lot of injury and death. In the opening alone, a soldier gets twisted into a pretzel, complete with bones cracking in Dolby Digital Surround; multiple people are squished by rocks; and somebody gets their head popped off like a Pez dispenser. Later on, Wolverine kills basically the entire security staff of a secret government facility, complete with blood splashed on walls. Heck, Apocalypse himself is impaled repeatedly before having his skin burned off layer by layer in the finale. Fun for the whole family!

It seems unlikely Suicide Squad will be any less violent. We’ve already seen the Joker lead two gunfights and promise to hurt his therapist “real bad,” Deadshot mowing down wave after wave of possessed humans, Killer Croc trying to eat one of his guards, Harley beating the crap out of people, and that’s just the trailer. It’s unlikely those are the only action bits in the movie.

Some will point to Deadpool as an example of what an R-rated film can do that a PG-13 can’t. But while that’s a decidedly a gory movie, it was just as likely that its profanity and Ryan Reynold’s CGI junk earned it an R rating. The MPAA’s ratings board is notoriously inconsistent about which movie gets what rating, but while studios can get away with CGI murder, pop out a nipple or get raunchy in the language, and you’re getting an R.

So, unless DC was planning to show us all Captain Boomerang’s didgeridoo or have Harley get overly foul-mouthed, they might even have had to work overtime to get an R in the first place. But, of course, there’s always the sequel, which Ayer has already said may aim for an R. We’ll see how far he has to go to get one in August.