Whether you like it or not, we’re in a post-Deadpool world now. Think about it: a movie about a foul-mouthed superhero with a bunch of cuss words and gore has made over half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. (It kind of makes you sigh, doesn’t it? We can do better than that.) Anyway, there’s a lot of blockbuster implications because of the success of Deadpool, so the simple question needs to be asked. Should everything be rated-R now? The answer is obviously no; that would be an incredibly short-sighted and stupid thing to do. But Deadpool has shown that gigantic franchises don’t necessarily need to constantly be in the same repetitive PG-13 mold. R-rated blockbusters aren’t a gamble anymore. Marvel already said they wouldn’t hop on the explicit content bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean another mega franchise needs to follow the same path.
There should be an R-rated Star Wars movie, plain and simple. It wouldn’t have to be a blatantly opportunistic piggyback move just because of Deadpool. Instead, an R-rated Star Wars movie makes sense because the series has progressed to a point where such a thing could be possible, and by design the ever-expanding Star Wars universe almost makes it necessary.
Plus it’d just be fascinating to see what an R-rated Star Wars movie would be. What Star Wars fan — over the age of 18, or course — wouldn’t want to see that?
Revenge of the Sith was the first PG-13 Star Wars movie because, according to the MPAA, it had “sci-fi violence and some intense images.” It wasn’t like there wasn’t sci-fi violence and intense images in the Original Trilogy, but the PG-13 rating didn’t exist when the first three movies were released. Still, the 1997 Special Edition re-release received a PG rating, so we can surmise that there wasn’t enough sci-fi violence or intense imagery to warrant a higher rating.
The harsher rating for Revenge of the Sith was kind of a big deal. Around the release of the movie, CBS News ran a profile titled “Star Wars Goes to Hell,” with George Lucas admitting “It ends in hell.” It acknowledged there was an even bigger sense of inherent brutality at the heart of the Star Wars saga. The first three movies weren’t strolls through the park, they feature the deaths of billions of people after entire planets are destroyed, not to mention the deaths of countless stormtroopers. It was still cased in a bloodless popcorn adventure sheen. In Revenge of the Sith Anakin Skywalker murders countless innocent children, and eventually his skin gets burned off after Obi-Wan chops his limbs off with a lightsaber — definitely PG-13 material.
The Force Awakens was ultimately rated PG-13 too, a detail that arrived without much fanfare other than news about the rating itself. The whole new Sequel Trilogy mantra has been seen to be as much like the Original Trilogy as possible, but the idea of not simply catering to the kids with the kinds of violence and intense imagery is something that weirdly enough ties them to the Prequels.
The first standalone Star Wars movie, Rogue One, hasn’t been rated yet, but chances are it’ll be PG-13 as well. The logical progression is to just make one of the next movies rated-R.
The idea is that Star Wars doesn’t need to be all cutesy Ewok garbage, and god help you if you even mention Jar Jar Binks. There’s enough savage material in the comics and books to make you realize that there’s plenty of Star Wars lore that isn’t exactly for the kids, and there’s definitely room to explore those types of violent themes in the films as well.
There’s also the question of demographics. People who grew up on Star Wars are now older. It’s all going according to Lucasfilm’s plan because they want to capitalize on the multi-generational appeal of the entire saga for even more money, and so far it’s worked. But at some point you’re going to look up and realize you’re a 30-something dude waiting in line at midnight and feel kind of weirded out by the realization you’re doing all that just to watch a movie marketed and developed for 13-year-olds.
Granted, there’s something inherently sad about the obvious arrested development of fans clinging to the nostalgia for a movie about a bunch of people buzzing around the galaxy on spaceships and fighting each other with laser swords. It’s so ingrained in the culture that there’s got to be room for variety, even within the bounds of its less-large universe. The only way to do that is for Lucasfilm to give in to the success of other R-rated blockbusters and make one of their own.