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If I’m R-rated then will you still call me Superman?

By Staff | Apr 27, 2016

So everybody liked “Deadpool,” but do we really need an R-rated Superman?

I haven’t seen “Deadpool.” Yet. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but if I’m giving up 90-plus minutes to watch something I don’t expect to like, I’m definitely not paying more than Redbox price to do so.

If violence is being played for laughs, it’s got to be at a “Hot Shots Part Deux” level of absurdity before I’m going to be able to find the humor. And if characters are going to be spewing vulgarity, it needs to be accompanied by “Big Lebowski” levels of actual humor or otherwise brilliant cinema not to torpedo the movie for me. I understand some argue this fits Deadpool’s character. I counter that the comics that made the character what he is were basically PG-13.

Now Fox is apparently considering an R rating for the upcoming Wolverine movie, which makes sense in some cases but is not a requirement.

If the point is “Wolverine’s the best there is at what he does and what he does isn’t very nice,” it could work. I’m not opposed to graphic violence on film if it serves a purpose; in fact, I prefer it to the ridiculous body counts racked up in movies like the “GI Joe” films that kill hosts of nameless bad guys in bloodless fashion to keep their PG-13 rating.

If the point is “Look at what we can do to Wolverine and he still gets up; now look at all the ways he mutilates bad guys and they don’t,” no thanks.

I’m halfway through season two of “Daredevil” on Netflix, and it is ugly. If it’s glorifying violence though, I’m missing it. I see a man who risks his life to do what’s right and questions whether it’s actually right. I see the best version of the Punisher put on film, a guy whose methods I despise but whose pain I can feel.

But all those characters tend to inhabit dark settings and stories. Superman is different.

And yet, Warner Bros. recently announced it will release an extended, R-rated cut of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

We’ve seen countless dark Superman comics, often without actually using Superman. Marvel had the Sentry and Hyperion, Image had Supreme, and the most disturbing (and compelling) is the Plutonian from BOOM! Studios’ “Irredeemable” by the amazing Mark Waid.

DC’s had stories like “Speeding Bullets” and “Red Son” (that I keep meaning to read) where Kal-El is raised by someone other than Jonathan and Martha Kent. One could argue Zak Snyder’s films are among them, given the Kents’ lasses-faire attitude about truth, justice and all that.

But taking away those ideals makes your character a guy with Superman’s powers. Not Superman.

Superman battles the darkness and wins (see “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” or Grant Morrison’s “JLA: World War III”). So while asking about the realistic effects of Kryptonians duking it out in a major city is a fair question, not showing Superman trying to save civilians and feeling kind of bad about it in the following movie doesn’t really measure up.

Snyder has said “Deadpool” didn’t influence the decision to release the R cut of the film. But that still doesn’t make an R-rated Superman movie a good idea, any more than rebooting the character with a darker tone and color palette akin to the Christopher Nolan Bat-trilogy.

It may be hard, but if they want Superman to soar, filmmakers need to find what works for him, not what works for Batman and Deadpool.

Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”