Superhero films no longer safe for families: R-rated 'Batman vs. Superman' set for DVD, following foul-mouthed 'Deadpool'

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Christian Examiner) – With an R-rated version of "Batman vs. Superman" slated for DVD, a leading film reviewer says he is concerned about the trend toward making superhero movies – once a safe genre for families and children – coarser.

The theatrical version is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of violence and action" as well as some sensuality, but Warner Brothers plans on releasing an "ultimate edition" this year that already has been given an "R" by the ratings board, apparently for even more scenes of violence.

An R-rated version of "Batman vs. Superman" will follow the success of "Deadpool," which not only broke ground as an R-rated superhero film at the box office but also as a wildly successful one, at that.

"Deadpool" has grossed more than $750 million worldwide, making it the most successful R-rated film, on a global scale, ever. It includes graphic sexuality and about 75 F-words.

Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family's Plugged In department, told the Christian Examiner that "Batman vs. Superman" is already dark enough as a PG-13 film.

"Personally, I believe all films should serve the purpose of making us better people," Waliszewski said. "Of course, I realize not all films do that. But really, why shouldn't they? I believe a motion picture should encourage, inspire and uplift us, not degrade us, not be a stumbling block. Because of this belief, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Batman vs. Superman -- already a film too dark and joy-zapping -- could become better by adding additional problematic content."

"Deadpool" and "Batman vs. Superman" won't be the only R-rated superhero movies this year. A direct-to-video cartoon, "Batman: The Killing Joke," will be rated R, Warner Brothers announced this week. If families didn't know it already, they do now: The days of gathering as a family and watching a clean superhero – such as George Reeves' "Superman" in the 1950s – are pretty much over.

It isn't known yet exactly what an R-rated version of "Batman vs. Superman" will include, although it is expected to be about 30 minutes longer than the box office version, with more violence. The actor who plays Batman in the film, Ben Affleck, said he supports having the option of an R-rated DVD version.

"I'm a parent of young kids, and I feel like I wouldn't want to have a Batman v Superman that I couldn't show to my younger kids," he told Entertainment Weekly. "But on the same token, as an adult, I like to see movies that are R-rated. I think nowadays because we have so many means of distribution and ways that we can do different things, it's the creative solution to a creative challenge."

Affleck added, "You can have multiple versions and I can show my son and my daughters this movie and feel confident that the stuff isn't too crazy, and then grownups can see larger version, [which is like] the red-band trailer. They can see the more adult version of that movie."

Waliszewski, though, said the movement toward more R-rated superhero films is concerning. He is the author of the book, Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids with Love, Not War.

"Forget, for a moment, the graphic sexuality and violence, and boatloads of profane language of 'Deadpool,' for instance," he told CE. "Ask the question: How can I become a better person by watching this R-rated 'superhero' movie? If I model the actions and behaviors of Wade Wilson [in 'Deadpool'] here, will I in turn move more toward becoming a more positive role model for others? Of course, the answer is, 'Absolutely not!' Then why would we even culturally be accepting of an R-rated anti-hero? I think we should culturally vote with our pocketbooks and say, 'Nope, not for me and my family.'"