‘Doctor Strange 2’ PG-13 Rating Highlights MPAA Consistencies
I’ve never been one to strictly follow rating advice, and neither have my parents: the first two cinematic experiences of my life were “Halloween 5: Michael Myers’ Revenge” (1989) and “Terminator 2 : The Last Judgment” (1991), at the tender age of four and six. During “Halloween,” I ran out of the theater once a rake was shoved into a sheriff’s forehead, so I didn’t find out how the movie ended for another decade.
But despite my early indoctrination in horror, when friends asked, “Can I bring my kids to see ‘Doctor Strange’ this weekend?” I said, “I don’t think I would.”
The Motion Picture Association’s Movie Ratings Committee has been around since 1968, but the system created to help parents decide which movies are right for kids continues to make sometimes inexplicable choices that can leave parents as confused as ever.
Take Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” described by Marvel director Kevin Feige, as the franchise’s first horror film, which received a PG-13 rating despite “intense sequences of violence and action, scary images and a bit of language”.
A frequent criticism is that independent distributors are held to more rigid standards than major studios. Sensing that parents are more concerned with exposure to sexual subject matter than bloodshed, the ratings committee has generally made a deliberate choice to overlook the blatant brutality and violence depicted in major studio films.
With the country intensely polarized, Americans have found no common ground on hot topics such as abortion rights and racism. In Hollywood and in the movies, it’s no different. When the Florida Legislature passed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, conservatives argued their children’s innocence was at risk due to unproven influences from educators surrounding sexuality and identity. of gender.
I remember one of the Academy Museum’s inaugural exhibits when it opened last year, “Inventing Worlds and Characters,” which examined questionable imagery and tropes in animation. Some parents do not hesitate to have their children adopt racist characters like Jim “Dandy Crow” in “Dumbo” (1941) or the lascivious aggressive Pepé Le Pew, the “Looney Tunes” skunk who continually imposes himself on another female character. However, for others, broader discussions of pronouns are off limits.
It’s debatable whether “Doctor Strange” is strictly a horror movie or a superhero movie with horror elements, but with brutal scenes of people being cut in half, shocking jump scares, and a sequence that is a terrifying (albeit terrific) ode to Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” we can safely classify this entry as the most “adult” MCU outing yet.
The “Doctor Strange” storyline, by Michael Waldron, encompasses the quintessential elements that make an MCU movie recognizable to the average fan. Marvel’s 28th outing attempts to up the ante and push the boundaries of what these movies can be for moviegoers. There’s quite a bit of violence, and Raimi doesn’t shy away from the brutality of a world in which a wizard, a witch, and a few other fantasy multiverses collide.
The studios have done their best to avoid R-ratings for tent poles, as limiting entry to children and teenagers results in lower ticket sales. Although the R-rated “Deadpool” (2016) grossed over $700 million at the box office, few other directors were persuaded to bring darker, bolder visions to their final cuts.
The scoring system has been unequivocally inconsistent for years. For example, Warner Bros. “Dunkirk” (2017) directed by Christopher Nolan, a war film that shows a soldier killed by a grenade, and several men drowning and being burned to death, received a PG-13 because the blood n wasn’t as prominent.
Meanwhile, the classic comedy “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987) starring Steve Martin and John Candy, received an R rating due to a scene where Martin’s Neal Page character unleashes a tirade of ” F” bombs after his rental car is stolen. “Foul language” is often invoked to justify a more severe grading.
Take a thriller like “The Good Son” (1993), which starred Macaulay Culkin as a 12-year-old boy who shows his evil tendencies by drowning his baby brother (offscreen) and throwing his sister on a thin layer of ice. Joseph Ruben’s thriller features no nudity, little to no blood – despite a climax where Culkin is dropped off a cliff, lands on a rock (which the audience does not see), and his shattered body is seen from above. an unfathomable distance – and the actor dropped his first-ever “don’t fuck me” on film. This film received an R rating for “for acts of violence and terror involving a disturbed child”. This doesn’t seem to fit the process of young adult franchise “The Hunger Games,” which features children killing each other with knives and arrows, and being eaten by carnivorous animals. The film and its sequels received PG-13 ratings for “intense violent thematic material and disturbing imagery”.
The grading committee acts as that systemic buffer for the art to reach the minds of children, whether the MPA wants to admit it or not. Even though the rating system is voluntary, most theaters refuse to show unrated or NC-17 features. Indeed, the rating system is often the key to financial success and determines which stories are lit by studios.
MPA ratings also can’t take into account that movies affect everyone differently. “Arachnophobia” (1990) received a PG-13, but for someone like me with a deathly fear of spiders, it might as well have earned a hard X.
Other horror classics have avoided an R but have aged gracefully, including the desert monster comedy “Tremors” (1990), the paranormal film “What Lies Beneath” (2000), the ghostly American remake “The Grudge” (2004), the Statue of Liberty launches “Cloverfield” (2008), and the child-killing monsters who don’t like rockets “A Quiet Place” (2018). Even one of Raimi’s most inventive films, “Drag Me to Hell” (2009), shockingly avoided the scarlet R rating while mixing in body horror and actively funny sequences.
“Doctor Strange” is another example that with films that target the widest possible audience, the MPA seems too preoccupied with profanity but allows “intense violence” to pass with a PG-13.
While my parents would surely have brought me to see the MCU sequel without batting an eyelid, and as the father of an 11-year-old I would do the same, not all parenting styles are created equal. The GPA should reflect this more consistently.