Back in March of last year, Collider revealed that Sony was working on an R-rated Spider-Man spin-off based on Venom, the beloved alien antihero with a taste for human flesh. While the idea of a Spider-Man-free Spider-Man spin-off struck many of us as comical - perhaps even ill-advised! - there was no debate surrounding that rating: if anyone was gonna make a balls-out Venom movie, they'd almost certainly have to deliver it with an R-rating.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago, when Venom director Ruben Fleischer spoke with ComicBook.com at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. Asked whether or not Venom would still be R-rated (which seemed unavoidable, given the violence implied in the film's trailers and in the footage which was exclusively shown to SDCC's Hall H), Fleischer said;
"That's the plan. It is not the plan, that's the movie. Our movie wants to honor the comics as close as we can tonally. In the comics, he bites people's heads off and eats brains. It would be weird to make a movie with Venom if he wasn't doing that. We tried to honor it as closely as possible. This is definitely a darker, more violent, more vicious Marvel character than I think anyone's ever seen before."
What we're getting at, obviously, is that there's been little doubt as to whether or not Venom would be rated R: the movie was announced as an R-rated title, Fleischer himself thinks anything other than an R-rated Venom would be "weird", and the success of both Logan and the Deadpool films has shown that R-rated superhero movies can make money. Lots of it, in fact, assuming you make a good movie.
Which brings us to today:
"It’s unlikely that Venom will be the first R-rated Sony Marvel movie."
Say what, Variety?
"...some members of Sony’s brain trust believe that the film should push the very limits of PG-13 without crossing over into a higher rating. The feeling is that will give the studio greater leeway for future installments that will feature Spider-Man, something Venom does not do. Any Spider-Man movie will carry a PG-13 rating because the wall-crawler is more family friendly, and if Venom is too dark and gory, it might preclude other film match-ups, not just with Peter Parker’s alter-ego, but also with other members of the extended Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)."
Yes, that's Variety reporting the news that Sony (or, more specifically, "Sony's brain trust") are now walking back Venom's long planned-for R-rating, a most unexpected course correction given that we're less than two months away from Venom's arrival in theaters. One can't help but wonder why none of the above was considered back when the film was in its planning stages (they're only just now realizing that Venom might be too "dark and gory" for future franchise pairings?), or whether or not the, ahem, mixed response Venom's trailers have received has the studio feeling less than confident about its chances for being a big box office hit. One might reasonably look upon this new direction as a sort of damage control.
Anyway, nothing's set in stone yet. For all we know, Venom will end up with an R-rating, despite the wishes of the Sony brain trust. Or, hey, maybe the MPAA will slap it with a PG-13, anyway, and allow all the head-chomping and limb-removal Fleischer wanted the movie to contain just as long as Venom doesn't do too many swears (or fuck anything). Guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Venom arrives in theaters on October 5th.