It appears as though the MPAA has given Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice an R rating for it's "Ultimate Edition" release, the content coming from Warner Home Entertainment.
This means that the film's release on Blu-Ray will come in what is expected to be an extended Zack Snyder cut with "sequences of violence" that surpass the limits of the PG-13 rating. For many, including myself, that's great news!
Because of my love for BvS's predecessor, Man of Steel, as well as my excitement for what is to come in Batman v Superman, I always knew that I would definitely be getting whatever collectors or 'ultimate edition' of Batman v Superman becomes available. Now that we know this release will feature enough additional content to gain an R-rating, I'm even more convinced. But what exactly can be expect from the additional material? Well, let's take a look at what I believe will appear in the film to constitute an R rating — and why it could be even better for its lack of censorship.
1. The Batman versus Superman fight itself
"Tell me. Do you bleed?" an armored and war-ready Bat of Gotham asks the Last Son of Krypton in one of the film's many TV spots. Let's think about how much Superman could bleed to warrant an R-rating from the MPAA. First, however, we need to think about what separates PG-13 violence from R violence. For example, in PG-13 you can have Batman punch Superman in the face, with a moderate amount of blood flying from his mouth — as is apparent in one of the previews for the film.
Yet, when you show Superman reach into his mouth and graphically pull out a bloody molar, or grimace with a blood-dripping grill, then you start treading into R-rated waters. The difference separating PG-13 violence and R violence is how long the filmmakers choose to hold focus on that violence. In other words, will they show the consequences of that violence or not? You can show an act of violence with moderate amounts of blood, but the minute you decide to show the gaping wounds in detail, or how the violence affects those emotionally involved with it (i.e., people crying out in pain/horror) you are no longer necessarily presenting images deemed appropriate to individuals under the age of 17, at least according to their parents or guardians.
Will we see Batman use some highly effective kryptonite weaponry to gruesome effect? Will Batman nearly fry Superman's eyes from his sockets a la The Dark Knight Returns? We'll have to wait and see — but this could make the fight even grittier and allow us to believe in each character's struggle even further.
2. Frank Miller's Dark Knight
Another possibility is that we could be getting the most violent, brutal, and merciless Batman on the big screen yet. We owe all of this to Zack Snyder's loose adaptation of Franks Miller's Batman from The Dark Knight Returns, who regularly delves into borderline sadism, something hinted at in Batman v Superman.
As you can see below, this Batman is definitely the case in Frank Miller's TDKR.
So, will Batman be wrecking thugs with ferocious enthusiasm? It appears so, based on the most recent BvS trailer.
I'm all for a half-crazed Batman, blatantly breaking bones left and right like a mad man in an R-rated cut of some fight scenes involving the great big Bat. The world Superman and Batman now inhabit is much darker than the one we have seen in, for example, the MCU — so it may be necessary to see Batman's true ferocity in R-rated form.
3. The Doomsday/Superman Scenario
Many know of the Death of Superman story arc in the comic books, where Doomsday is unleashed on the world and destroys the Justice League, one member after another, before being confronted by Superman. The two leave a massive path of destruction across the United States, eventually ending in a blood-soaked draw between the two aliens, Superman succumbing to his injuries, Doomsday to his.
So, will Snyder go all in on the Death of Superman arc in Batman v Superman? I don't think he will. My reason for this is that Snyder has already discussed that the origins of Doomsday will be explored in Justice League: Part I.
"While speaking to The Daily Beast about the next upcoming installment in the growing DC cinematic universe, Snyder referenced his recent comments that when the Justice League eventually comes together, they may have an even “bigger enemy” to fight than what Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can expect in Batman v Superman."
“Well, you have Doomsday, right? He doesn’t just crawl out of the ground. He has his own mythology, right? So that has to be explored,” Snyder said.
Therefore, my speculation is that indeed, there will be a bloody battle to be fought in BvS between Doomsday and Superman, Superman possibly sustaining some substantial injuries given Doomsday's superiority in power and strength compared to General Zod's physicality in Man of Steel. However, given Snyder's comments, which seem to imply that Doomsday will also be present in Justice League, my guess is that there will be a certain round two between the monster and the Kryptonian, wherein imminent death awaits. Whether that violence, which is certainly palpable in such a clash of titans, is explored graphically in the R-rated cut of Batman v Superman or not, will have to be gauged once the film hits store shelves.
A couple out-of-the-box speculations to be made that don't directly concern Batman and Superman directly also come into play here.
4. The Jason Todd/Joker Relationship
In canon with Batman lies the tragic occurrence of Jason Todd, Batman's second Robin, who was bound and crowbarred to death by the Joker.
…before ultimately being blown up and found dead by Batman.
Given Snyder's near panel-by-panel 2009 adaptation, Watchmen, I could see Zack having a field day with these frames, in having Ben Affleck's Batman recount a tragic past to either Superman, Wonder Woman, or Alfred in the R-rated cut of Batman v Superman. This could concern Superman or Wonder Woman especially, given the idea of forming new partnerships. If Jason Todd's death is shown in this movie, it makes sense (when adapting frame-for-frame) for the R-rated cut to show more than what we see in theaters.
5. Wonder Woman And Her Sword
Might we see Wonder Woman cut through the competition, so to speak, in an R-rated cut of BvS? Given that we are seeing these characters presented in the rawest, most visceral sense in a grounded universe, Wonder Woman is a warrior, not a boxer. So, her sword and shield play integral parts in her fighting style, no matter the consequences of such barbaric weaponry. When it comes to Doomsday and Diana putting away the fashionable alter-ego attire in exchange for the armor, sword and shield, you'd better believe she's gonna drop the blade on some Doomsday anatomy. Whether or not the blood will be spilled in gruesome fashion from the monster, or limbs beings lopped off to graphic extent in the R-rated cut, it is a solid point of speculation as something for extra content being included in the "Ultimate Edition."
For what it's worth, I love the fact that WB is releasing such a version of the film. Does it make me feel slightly cheated that I'm seeing a vision of the film in theaters that forgoes all of this original creativity from the director and writer, when it is made known that a possibly version truer to the director's vision lies in wait several months from now? Sure, I won't lie, it really does. However, it doesn't decrease my excitement for the film one bit. I just know that after being treated to such a pairing of icons on the big screen, edited scenes there may be, I can enjoy a more thorough, thoughtful look at the original vision in the comfort of my own home later down the line.
Furthermore, it's important to remember that this news is from some eagle-eyed folks who spotted the bulletin released by the MPAA, not Warner Brothers Pictures or Zack Snyder, who at the time of writing this article are remaining tight-lipped on the matter of an R-rated Batman v Superman.
Politics-wise, I'd urge anyone reading this to not believe for one second that the decision to release an R-rated director's cut of BvS to be a response to the success of Deadpool's R-rated comic book movie debut. Many media sources are running with this idea, but check the link for the MPAA bulletin again. It was edited in September of 2015, when the filmmakers and audience alike were still awaiting whether or not Deadpool would bring in business given its R-rating. Deadpool wrapped in May 2015, whereas BvS had officially wrapped in December 2014. The fact is, Zack Snyder likes to stick with source material, oftentimes mirroring the final compositions to the comic book panels.
Despite the fresh and numerous debates sparked by this news of the Batman v Superman R-rated Blu-Ray cut, what should be considered is that we are getting a more enriched and thoughtful cut where we as fans of the source material can enjoy. At the same time, general audiences can appreciate and enjoy in the theaters, rather than worrying and venting disdain about Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman being in an R-rated movie.