Another victory for our sterile, whitewashed culture: Terminator: Genisys will be rated PG-13. The series, which started with a gritty, low budget 80s film that may be one of the greatest Sci-fi action movies of all time, has graduated over four movies to become just another bloated series designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
The 70s and 80s were a golden age for adult movies. The cultural revolution of the 1960s finally paid dividends in the form of unapologetic action, science fiction, thriller and horror flicks. Mainstream film emerged out of an era defined by (relatively) clean entertainment and began to invoke darker themes. Some of my favorite movies were made in these two decades. Even movies that aren’t necessarily my thing seem to hold more emotional weight than what we get today.
The Terminator is a masterpiece. It has excitement and tension. It raises interesting science fiction and horror themes. It sets the era perfectly. There are stakes. The movie feels both 80s and timeless simultaneously. It never shies away from portraying violence, language and nudity as needed. Unless you’re a young child with virgin senses, the adult-ness of the movie never distracts from the conflicts the main characters face.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day, like its predecessor, also had an R rating. Despite this, it became the most successful box office of 1991. A peculiarity of that time saw children’s toys being sold for several R movies, including T-2. Both Terminator films were favorites of mine when I was young. One year (most likely when i was five), I even went as a terminator for Halloween. I wasn’t any more inclined towards violence or swearing as result of these movies, or the Alien franchise or any other child inappropriate media I may have watched. It was entertainment and I understood it as such.
Some time between the tail end of that time and now, we’ve experienced a systemic trend towards curbing movies at PG-13. There are two culprits. The first is overbearing helicopter parents looking to shelter their children from all of life’s horrors. These are usually superliberals and hyperconservatives united in their quest for the most boring world imaginable. The second is greedy studio heads who want to maximize their audiences at the expense of artistic integrity. They’ve decided that every year we need to see another box office record fall instead of producing top quality films. But they get as many hits as they do misses. These are the numbskulls who thought The Lone Ranger movie was a sure thing.
Let’s take a look at RoboCop (2014). Or what would’ve been more aptly named “Robot Police Officer Movie.” The original RoboCop was a dark satire about a dystopian American future. The movie was originally given an X rating for its extreme violence and was trimmed to get it down to R. The gratuitous elements served to drive its points home. Flash forward 27 years and we have another generic action movie, rated PG-13, devoid of any of the traits that made the original successful. I don’t think the people who made that movie even understand why the original was good. It’s about trading on the brand name with a half-assed script and dazzling special effects.
Thankfully, there are still some directors who create the movies they want and the hell with suits and censors. Quentin Tarantino’s movies, for example, use violence and language to great effect. But too many modern filmmakers seem so eager to work that they don’t have their own visions. Those at the top decree and they kowtow. The result is a culture of boring reboots, remakes and unnecessary sequels that shame their predecessor’s legacies.
The world can be happy. It can be hopeful. Experiences can be uplifting and positive. That doesn’t mean the journey can’t still be harsh and brutal. There will always be a place for very good G, PG and PG-13 movies (though I will argue that the PG of Indiana Jones is a lot grittier than that of today), but when a movie needs an R rating, let it breathe. Fuck general audiences, fuck families and fuck kids. Let them either grow up or continue to watch crap like Pudsey the Dog: The Movie. Give us back our quality adult entertainment.