Just to be clear, Fangirly doesn’t shy away from an R rating. Some of our favorite releases this year were deemed unfit for moppets of all ages. Deadpool, Spotlight, Ex Machina, Room. But, to be fair, those are the movie one expects to be hit with an R rating. Made by grown-ups, for grown-ups. And what if the increasing commercial success of R rated movies causes this trend to spill into other genres?
Which brings me to Wolverine 3. We get it. Wolverine is edgy; he smokes and drinks and gets laid and takes bad guys to the cleaners. But thus far, the powers-that-be have been able to tame the characters wild side just enough to squeeze out a PG-13 rating. That was true for 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s The Wolverine. So why now the sudden change in direction? Well, because all the cool kids are doing it.
There is a direct line of causation between the BANANAS success of Deadpool and this new development in the Wolverine franchise. And frankly, if that were the extent of it, I wouldn’t be bothered. But I think we can all agree that superhero movies, from either side of the Marvel-DC partisan line, are getting progressively darker and, much as I hate to use
this word, grittier. To prove my point, let’s look at this summer’s latest cash cow, Captain America: Civil War.
It was amazing right? But can we all agree that with each subsequent film, the Captain America franchise has delved deeper into that dark, self-aware realism that has made the sequels so surprisingly wonderful? As an adult audience member, I’m loving it. But I’m not the only demographic at whom these movies are supposedly aimed.
I’ve got this neighbor. His name is Jack, he’s six, and he has the most extensive collection of superhero costumes I’ve ever seen. Picture a first-grader in full batman armor and you’ve got a good idea of what I see every time I look out my kitchen window. The take-away here is that Jack loves superheroes. Which really sucks for Jack, because there’s only a handful of superhero movies his mom will let him watch.
I can’t say I blame her. Would you let your six year old watch The Dark Knight, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Or, maybe more to the point, should you? These movies are starting to delve into themes and employ levels of violent realism that kids like Jack just aren’t ready for. And yet these movies, and all their must-have merchandise, continue to be marketed to him.
I just worry that one day, there won’t be any good superhero franchises left for younger audiences, who are, arguably, the ones that need these heroes the most. I don’t want to look out my window and not see Jack running around his yard in full spider-man regalia, keeping the neighborhood safe from evil. I want Jack to still have on-screen heroes he can look up to. Easier said than done, when he can’t even watch their movies.