Did you know that, while movie ratings were introduced in 1968, the PG-13 rating wasn’t added until 1984? All of the movies released into the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far have been rated PG-13, but some moviegoers are saying that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is pushing that rating to its absolute limit, which writer Michael Waldron defended this week in a new interview with io9.
The Motion Picture Association reviews submitted films and rates them based on content, but these ratings are set by subjective people using evolving rules. Two people might rate a movie on the edge PG-13 and R, and two PG-13 films from two different eras might land very differently for a single viewer. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes our mystical hero and a new friend, America Chavez, on a multiverse-hopping journey that has them meeting other Doctors Strange and visiting other versions of Earth, some quite different from ours.
During their adventure, the characters witness a swarm of angry souls attacking a character missing half their face. One hero is literally shredded to ribbons, ending with a genuinely shocking pop, and another is chopped in half, though the other half admittedly happens off-screen. Waldron pointed to both the film’s director and past examples of PG-rated films as reasons why that PG-13 rating fits.
“I knew I was writing for Sam Raimi,” Waldron said. “So I tried to go there and Sam was happy to go there if it felt motivated by story and character.”
Sam Raimi is best known for directing the first Spider-Man trilogy that helped lay the groundwork for the modern cinematic superhero landscape, but his core work has always been horror, starting with Evil Dead in 1981 up through 2009’s Drag Me To Hell. Heavy cursing is often cited as one of the clearest objective reasons why a film might get an R rating, while movies that depict kids killing each other–The Hunger Games, as Variety notes–pass through without any controversy. Christopher Nolan’s 2008 Batman film The Dark Knight is cited as another film to have pushed the PG-13 rating, due to things like its depiction of Two-Face and the guy with the phone sewn into his stomach.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my favorite movies and that is rated–Raiders is rated PG, right?” Waldron asks. Raiders, released just a few months before Raimi’s first film in 1981, was indeed rated PG. Its 1984 sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, helped to inspire the creation of the PG-13 rating alongside Gremlins. 1984’s Red Dawn was the first film to receive a PG-13 rating. “Peoples heads are melting and exploding [in Raiders.] I think the movies that were the most impactful for me were the movies that felt a bit dangerous to watch as a kid, so it’s kind of fun to feel like we made one of those.”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters right now, and is rated PG-13 for “Intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language.” Make sure to check out our review. The next Marvel Studios film to hit theaters is Thor: Love & Thunder, which premieres on July 8, 2022.