Greg Rucka wrote an editorial for Hollywood Reporter yesterday, detailing his concerns about the upcoming Man of Steel's PG-13 rating. Some highlights:
Words like “realism” and “dark” and “gritty” get bandied about Hollywood as if the only merit a story can have is in its verisimilitude, but that’s a lie. Emotional honesty transcends reality; it’s what allows disbelief to be suspended, and yet what makes a story stay true. When Superman: The Movie was released, Richard Donner promised us we’d believe a man could fly. We did, but it wasn’t the wire-work alone.
While Rucka stops short of condemning the movie, he does wonder whether Superman really works in a "grim" and "gritty" setting. After all, hasn't Superman been a universal icon for the last 100 years in a purer form?
Rucka's concerns about the PG-13 rating seem to stem primarily from the way the character was treated in Superman Returns, where he was portrayed as "an absent-father who got prison-yard shanked with a Kryptonite shiv" as well as a fear that Man of Steel will trend more towards the self-loathing and rough justice of Batman than the optimism and decency Superman's been known for.
For what it's worth, I agree that the core ideals of Superman work best in a family friendly setting. The best superhero movie ever made (in my opinion) is The Incredibles, in part because it was a well-crafted story that appealed to everyone. However, I do think that WB is looking to Man of Steel to do Avengers type numbers, which wouldn't happen if they toned down the violence for the MPAA.
I also wonder whether Superman II would have merited a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, as the movie preexisted the rating by two years. Personally, I think it wouldn't, but the MPAA is a baffling agency that doesn't employ logic to its ratings. Keeping that in mind, who knows whether Man of Steel's rating is really a reflection of the movie's ability to promote Superman's ideals of Truth, Justice and the American Way?
My greatest fear in all of this is that millions of children will go and see this movie and then reenact it in Zach Snyder's slo-mo style, frightening parents and teachers everywhere. Children are meant to run around wildly, not stand slowly throwing fake fists at each other. Maybe it's a good thing that Man of Steel got that PG-13 rating after all.