Look, we're not that kid who went around screaming about how movie studio executives are a bunch of shivering wusses afraid of blood and their own erections anymore. We understand that a lot is riding on films, especially big-budget releases, and the difference between an R-rating and a PG-13 may literally be the difference between success and failure at the box office.
Sometimes it even makes perfect sense. No one in their right mind would make an R-rated Superman movie, for instance, and even The Dark Knight somehow made it in at PG-13 (Our guess is the MPAA was threatened by the Joker, an act for which we are willing to forgive him a lot of other things for having done.) However, there are films that you have to wonder what the hell a studio was even thinking when they asked if they could be toned down a bit. Do you really think you could make a PG-13 version of...
Lobo happened when Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen at DC Comics looked at Marvel's Wolverine and the Punisher and said, "These guys aren't nearly violent enough. How can we fix that?" The result was the intergalactic bounty hunter, the main man, the ultimate bastich, Lobo. He's super strong, he rides a motorcycle, he has an implant in his head that constantly plays heavy metal music at all times, and he kills people. In no particular order, his murder list includes Santa Claus, every other member of his race as a science project, himself, all his bastard offspring, his fourth grade teacher and God.
Warner Bros bought the rights to make a Lobo film in 2009. Guy Ritchie was signed on as director, and at first it seemed like everything was on track for the ultimate in badass explosion fests. If you can't trust the director of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels to turn in an R-rated action film, who can you trust?
Instead, Warner insisted on PG-13, possibly blaming the rating for Watchmen's disappointing box office showing rather than the fact that the changed ending basically made as much sense as a Yom Kippur ham sale. We don't know if that insistence is what drove Ritchie away from the project, but since he went on to film the Sherlock Holmes sequel instead of Lobo, we can assume that he's not particularly interested in turning out a watered-down version of the character.
The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has already proved that despite rumors to the contrary, it is perfectly possible to make Lovecraft films that kick the asses of creatures so far beyond the scope of the human mind that they may not even have asses as we understand them. That's just the work of a few guys and no budget. What would happen if Guillermo Del Toro took a stab at it?
The famed director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy wants to, and he wants to real bad. Universal and he reached an agreement to adapt one of Lovecraft's few long works, At the Mountains of Madness. The novella details the explorations of the Antarctic by an archeological team that uncovers a horrific alien settlement. It's a brilliant little book full of eldritch horrors.
The film project started off great, with James Cameron wanting to produce the film and Tom Cruise hungry for the lead. Then Del Toro balked at turning in the film at anything less than an R-rating, and as of March of this year the film has stalled while Del Toro sees if he can find another studio willing to let him do it as an R.
This is the only entry on the list where we kind of agree with the studio. Lovecraft was all about boggling the mind through insane visions of other lifeforms, not shocking through sex or gore. We honestly can't think of a single reason this film would have to be rated R. Hell, the Hobbit is bloodier than At the Mountains of Madness and he's had no problem working on a PG-13 version of that.
Remember Fartman? Howard Stern's flatulence-based superhero? He annoyed Metallica at the 1992 MTV Music Video Awards, he's fought Freddy Krueger and in general he's acted exactly like what you think a superhero birthed by Stern would act like.
Stern's humor is lost on us and always has been. We just don't get it. However, we're perfectly willing to accept that a large segment of the population loves him and that Fartman isn't even in the top 10 worst superhero movies they could make.
Stern has always been serious about getting some cash together to film it, and in 1992 he even got J.F. Lawton, who wrote Pretty Woman and Under Siege, to turn in a screenplay. The story was full of nudity, lesbian sex scenes, bad language and copious amounts of farts. New Line Cinema loved it, and they were perfectly willing to shoot this masterpiece if they could get a PG-13 guarantee.
Again, not a fan of Stern's, but seriously? We're beginning to think that when you pitch a film in Hollywood, it's like talking to an automated help line that isn't really listening to you and is only waiting for you to say key phrases that will unlock the magic money. Stern's had the PG-13 conversation with three different studios at this point, and honestly we're rooting for him to get it done at this point just to prove that someone out there financing and releasing films is actually paying attention when you speak to them.
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BioShock remains a modern classic in the world of video games, and one of our main arguments for the medium deserving a place in the art world at least as much as film. The first two games are convoluted first-person shooters that take place in the ruins of an underwater city based on Randian ideals that collapsed under a civil war. The settings are lush, beautiful art deco buildings and oceanic backdrops, the enemies are psychotic babbling mutants and hulking drill-wielding golems in dive suits. Everything about it is amazing.
Universal Studios (here we go again) picked up the rights to adapt the game to film and brought Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Caribbean fame on board to make it happen. It was literally impossible to mess up this setup unless you were an idiot who never played the game you just paid millions for the rights to and insisted that one of the darkest and most disturbing franchises ever be made as a PG-13.
Guys, the damned trailer for the first BioShock game has a man getting a drill shoved through his hand before using a plasmid that makes hornets erupt from his flesh. How on Earth do you make this PG-13? Apparently, Verbinski feels the same way, and as of this month he's been very vocal about how no studio will risk the film if it's the hard R he's aiming for.