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Quote of the Day | Greg Rucka on a PG-13 ‘Man of Steel’

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“Words like ‘realism’ and ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’ get bandied about Hollywood as if the only merit a story can have is in its verisimilitude, but that’s a lie. Emotional honesty transcends reality; it’s what allows disbelief to be suspended, and yet what makes a story stay true. When Superman: The Movie was released, Richard Donner promised us we’d believe a man could fly. We did, but it wasn’t the wire-work alone.”

– comics writer and novelist Greg Rucka, voicing his misgivings about the PG-13 rating for director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel

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31 Comments

Yeah!

Because that PG-13 rating sure kept the kids away from The Avengers!

Its a beautiful sentiment for what it actually says and not what people interpret it to mean. He’s saying, quite simply that all the special effects and darkening for the sake of ‘realism’ and story tropes mean nothing, its as much the actors work. Which the Avengers showed marvelously. Joss Whedon is a master of creating loveable characters and making ensemble casts gel really well.

So here’s hoping Man of Steel is like Avengers in that respect, more about character and not just making Superman more like Batman.

And from Superman Returns. And all three Nolan Batman movies.
Plus, Superman the movie was released before PG-13 existed

Really? Still on the Donner Superman movie? Kevin Costner’s one line in the trailer (“I am your father”) held more emotional weight than all the lines in all the Superman movies past, combined.

Rucka’s coming off more and more bitter lately about DC because of the way they treated him. Just move on and do the things you care about. Why do people constantly feel the need to bash stuff.

You know what? I think the new Fast and the Furious movie’s going to be terrible, but I don’t waste my time bashing it just so I can be heard.

Well said, I hate the way people deceive themselves that dark and gritty means real. If that were true, we’d be in such an unhappy world.

I agree with him 100%. To try and force every superhero into the mold of “dark and gritty” (just because of Nolan’s Batman movies) is to miss out on the wonderfully varied individual personalities that all these heroes and their worlds have.

Kevin, respectfully this should be the quote:
“I just know that if you make a Superman movie you can’t take kids to, you’ve done something wrong.”

Wich I agree 100%,
I grow up watching Superman movies, but now it seems that this movie is not apropiate for my kids?

this is very true and I’m glad someone with credibility can say this.

I also agree with Mr. Rucka, though I date the “make super heroes dark and gritty” movement back to Frank Miller’s Batman more than Nolan’s. In my opinion, “Avengers” worked largely because it wasn’t dark and gritty. It was bright and fun, which is what Superman should be, and why I still enjoy the Cristopher Reeve Superman films. I thought the best line in the article was this one, which kind of sums up my feelings on super hero movies, period:

“I just know that if you make a Superman movie you can’t take kids to, you’ve done something wrong.”

Greg Rucka is a fantastic writer and I respect his opinion but the original Donner Superman movie was cheesy, cornball and just all-around overrated by any standard. It wasn’t a good movie. I agree with Rucka’s premise but find the Richard Donner Superman movie to be a bad example: it’s true that not every film needs to be “gritty” or “dark” or even completely true-to-life but every movie should aspire to emotional resonance and universal personal truth. I think there’s every chance Man Of Steel will achieve that BETTER than the first Superman series, in which case nobody will care what it’s rated, it’ll just be a great film.

“Really? Still on the Donner Superman movie? Kevin Costner’s one line in the trailer (“I am your father”) held more emotional weight than all the lines in all the Superman movies past, combined.”
– Ulysses

I second this.

And to anyone who thinks you can’t take your kids to see this movie: I think this will be alright for responsible kids of most any age but not toddlers. I’m holding out hope that it will also mean something to the grownups in the audience and won’t insult their intelligence, which really wasn’t true for the original Superman films.

Bob, how did you feel about “Superman Returns”?

Is a PG-13 rating a big deal? Not American so I don’t get the hubub. Surely it just means kids under a certain have to attend with an adult…not going to stop anyone seeing it or limit its audience in any serious way.

I didn’t happen to like Superman Returns at all. From Bryan Singer’s interviews, he was completely in love with the Donner films and this makes sense when you watch it, too, because he’s trying to match the tone, energy and vibe of that original series. Some of the acting and scripting choices (like the campy, scenery-chewing version of Lex Luthor and the absurd scheme to acquire real estate) seem to have been Donner-influenced, as well. But he took that old formula and tried to give it an update to make it more knowable for a modern audience but that was a misstep, too, because the particular choices he made in terms of what to tweak damaged the character. Clark as a deadbeat dad? Terrible decision. All in all, I found it baffling.

More on Rucka’s quote: I really do think the quality of the movie matters more than rating, not only to my opinion of the film but also in terms of age-appropriateness. I think a truly great PG-13 movie is BETTER for a kid than a lousy G or PG rated movie, although the kinds of people who think movie ratings are some sort of bible when you’re picking movies for your kids would disagree. I’ll look at Lord Of The Rings as an example. Those movies have a lot of battle-related violence and possibly disturbing images, hence the PG-13. But they communicate to the audience themes of bravery, friendship, loyalty, choosing goodness, kindness, the power of strength and determination… I think EVERY kid should see them. Lord Of The Rings is also a good example of what Rucka was talking about when he talked about verisimilitude… they are firmly in a fantasy world, no apologies, no attempt to make them more “true to life” or have real-world resonance but they DO have real-world resonance because you care about the characters and see some of your own struggles in theirs.

So should anyone care that Man Of Steel is PG-13? I don’t really think so, it could still be great (the trailers are excellent, much better than Superman movies of the past) and they could especially be great for kids.

Anxious Penman

April 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Can anyone explain to me the big deal about this being rated PG-13? That rating quite literally means that anyone 13 and up can see it without an adult … and anyone under 13 needs an adult present. Why in the hell would kids under 13 be going to the movies without an adult anyway?

With the amount of action, fighting, etc, that this movie should contain … would we want little kids watching that without an adult?

Christ, I wouldn’t let anyone under 13 read Superman *comics* (I imagine very young kids would find some of his rouges downright frightening) so I don’t understand why we’re supposed to have G or PG Superman movies.

I just don’t get this idea that the movie should be 100% child friendly, without the need for adult supervision, just because it’s Superman. That’s bonkers to me.

If more adults wanted to accompany their children to such rated films, like they are supposed to do, they wouldn’t have that problem. kids can see pg-13, if they are under 13. they just legally have to have an adult there with them while viewing.

comics aren’t for children. they are for adults. Therefore the films made of comic characters should also be for adults. kids have nick toons, cartoon network, and various entertainment outlets like sports. the adults regularly buy comic merchandise…not children. this is proven at comic cons, as well as comic shops across the nation. adults, not children, do cosplay of comic characters. adults, not children buy the comic book related video games, t-shirts/hats, and online mmorpg’s. the original little mermaid was for ADULTS not children, until disney ruined all the classic fairy tales. -children have their niche & its not comics. which are for adults.

Greg Rucka is a great writer. He has credibility when discussing writing. When determining what is wrong about a movie he hasn’t seen, nor read the script of, he doesn’t have much credibility.

From what I’ve seen of the trailers, I don’t see Superman as gritty…but the world around him. He says the symbol on his chest means hope. He submits to being taken in by the government, because he trusts that he’ll be treated fairly. The dark world around him seems to serve to make his light shine brighter.

But that’s just my opinion from the trailer. I could be wrong. Which would be why I’m withholding actual judgment until I know enough to judge it.

Rucka, it’s time to move on, dude.

Phineas Potter

April 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm

There’s some confusion here about the rating system. Anyone of any age can go to see a PG-13 movie. You don’t need to be accompanied by an adult if you’re under 13. That’s why it’s the ideal rating for blockbusters — it has enough “edgy” content to satisfy teenagers and adults, but isn’t restricted to anyone the way R is.

Penman: you really don’t think kids under 13 should see a movie without a parent?? You never saw a movie on your own (or with friends) until you were a teenager? I think most PG-13 (and even some R rated films) are tame compared to what most 10-12 year-olds have been exposed to.

PG vs. PG-13 aren’t about whether a child can attend without an adult. Some theaters may have policy to that effect, but that’s not what the ratings *mean*.

The official definition of PG includes “Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.” You can have violence, mild profanity, even brief nudity in a PG movie. (This is from the MPAA itself.) The point is that some children can handle it and some can’t, and ideally the parents have a sense of which category their children fall into.

PG-13 is basically a half-way point between PG and R where all those things that individual kids may or may not be able to handle can be dialed up in intensity.

100% child-friendly is G, not PG. And even then, child-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean child-oriented. Gone With The Wind, according to IMDB, anyway, was given a G rating when it was re-released. Just because modern films tend to shoot for the highest rating they can get doesn’t mean they have to.

http://www.mpaa.org/ratings/what-each-rating-means

The Amusing SpiDorman

April 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm

This movie is going to resonate w/ our current times, tackling issues of immigration & terrorism in ways that only a comicbook medium could get away with on screen. I believe this is the main reason for the no-big-deal rating. I attended movies w/out parental supervision from 8 onwards @ the summer Saturday matinees for school students (35-cents!)–it was here that I viewed a great many sci-fi & horror & fantasy films from the ’50s & early ’60s (making them only a couple years old in ’63/’64. I still went to new releases from time-to-time w/ the parents if I was interested in the film for a couple years afterwards, but I was left to decide & choose what ones I wished to see. I was turned away for MIDNIGHT COWBOY & EASY RIDER upon release & that makes perfect sense. An underage child can go see the new Superman film w/ ANYONE 13 or older; I can’t see that being a problem or embarassment when attending w/ cousins, siblings &/or neighborhood kids in that bracket. Dark & gritty & more realistic is fine; I would love to see a movie based during the depression era w/ the character myself, but slim if it’ll be made within my dwindling lifetime. Enjoy the movie & don’t pick it & everything attached to it apart–you’ll thank yourselves for that on some not-so-far-off day. Now, pipe down & pass the popcorn….

Anxious Penman

April 30, 2013 at 7:05 pm

@Phineas: It’s not so much that I think no one under 13 should see a movie without their parents … but I definitely think if you’re the type of parent that freaks out over a PG-13 movie, you probably shouldn’t be letting them see it without you, when the rating specifically is telling you to use your own judgement.

As for me, when I was a kid, I only ever went to the movies with my brother and my cousins, and they were all 4-10 years older than me.

(That said, as an adult, I *HATE* when parents drop their pre-teen kids off at the movies and take off … because 9 times out of 10, those kids are AWFUL and ruin the experience for everyone.)

defiance
April 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm

“…comics aren’t for children. they are for adults”

It pains me to be reminded that this is the world we’re living in right now.

The world has not yet seen a bleaker, emotionally driven, PG-13 take on Superman and that is what the filmmakers and studio decided to do with Man of Steel. They chose to blend him in with the colour palette of today. If you want to see Superman and Lois fly by the world trade centre on their date night, you can watch the Donner films. If you’re curious to see how Superman and Lois stack up against a modern world that inhabits domestic terrorist attacks, children getting shot in the face, economic collapse, and newspaper giants going out of print, you’ll probably want to watch the 2013 film.

Rucka just hit the parental generation gap moment.

Where as a parent, you think you need to protect your child from the same things you thought were awesome as a kid and due to your good parents, knew how to handle/process it.

It was good enough for you, but somehow, its not good enough for your kid.

Rucka, get over yourself. You haven’t seen the movie and likely haven’t read the script yet. I’m sure this new Supes movie — which is looking more and more like the Superman movie I’ve waited my entire life to see — will be just as appropriate for family viewing as The Avengers was.

Besides, all PG-13 means is that a parent or other adult needs to accompany kids under 13. Is that so terrible? Parental guidance is not a bad thing for younger kids. It, hopefully, means the kids are more likely to behave at the theatre.

Also, let’s get off this “dark” and “gritty” bullsh*t that people keep discussing when talking about MoS. It’s not looking nearly as dark as the Bat-movies, and the scene about the “S” standing for “Hope” in Krypton tells that it’s NOT going to be that dark.

There’s nothing wrong with updating Superman for today. In fact, it’s about time that Supes was brought into the 21st century on the movie screen. Blind adoration for the original Donner movie, which simply doesn’t hold up all that well anymore (apart from Chris Reeve’s wonderful performance) is just silly. Look what happened when Bryan Singer decided to pay homage to it.

Let’s move on, and let’s give audiences both young and old a Superman for today. Not a Superman that worked pretty well in 1978 but seems pretty hokey today. Let’s start having epic, maybe even cosmic adventures for movie Superman that we’ve never seen on the big screen. It’s time. He can still be selfless, altrusitic and pure of heart. Let’s just have a Superman for today’s world.

One more thing… Funny how I don’t hear much complaining about Iron Man getting darker, with Tony Stark’s PTSD, some pretty gruesome violence, some implied sexual content, or Tony calling a child a “pussy” in IM3.

Not that Iron Man didn’t always have a little darkness to begin with, given Tony’s serial womanizing before dating Pepper, or his drunkenness in IM2, but the new movie is definitely darker, and perhaps even more violent, than the first two.

I didn’t have a problem with any of that (well, the “pussy” line was a bit much), but kids love Iron Man and there’s all kinds of toys out there so the movie is being marketed to kids. Why should Superman be any different?

kaniole said: “Wich I agree 100%, I grow up watching Superman movies, but now it seems that this movie is not apropiate for my kids?”

How did you come up with that thought? I didn’t see anything in the trailers that had Superman disembowling people or having explicit sex. Come to think of it, I didn’t see any sex at all (not that I’d mind, because Amy Adams… Yum!).

So this Superman movie is going to be a bit more “real world” (for a comic book movie) than the previous ones. So it’ll be a bit more introspective and deal with some bigger issues about how our world would handle the knowledge that there’s life elsewhere and it’s now living among us. How would a “god” living among us handle it? These are worthy issues for a Superman movie to explore.

Nothing we’ve seen thus far suggests this movie won’t be appropriate for kids. Younger kids might get a little impatient with Clark’s saga pre-costume, but I think there’s going to be plenty of action and fun in this movie too. I also don’t think any of that action is going to be any more inappropriate for kids than any of the other comic book movies out there. If anything, this weekend’s Iron Man 3 seems a bit more inappropriate for younger kids than the earlier ones.

Shaun – You make an interesting point about Iron Man vs. Superman. The whole “light versus dark” dichotomy is useless to me because the only dynamic that matters is “compelling versus not compelling”. Iron Man is, I suppose, more “dark” but he’s just flat-out more interesting and that’s what makes a difference. I think it’s baffling that die-hard DC fans (in this case, Greg Rucka) never want Superman to become more complicated or nuanced for fear that he might become more “dark” but then what winds up happening is decades go by without a single interesting Superman comic… he’s so bland and hard to write for because as soon as you allow for any gray area or complexity, people come out of the woodwork saying you’ve made their precious Christ figure “too dark”. Marvel characters, who were conceived with feet of clay to begin with, have more leeway and that’s why they’re consistently more captivating. You simply CAN’T make a character worth reading or writing unless it’s OK for him to struggle, face internal conflict and sometimes fail but then the Darkness Police swoop in and tell you that that’s not right for Superman. Well, that’s where interesting characters come from.

I think the real issue is the fact that people see filmmakers attempting to make these stories and characters “darker” or ” grittier” without any real care as to how the way they shoot there film pertains to the character they’re telling a story about….. There’s nothing wrong with updating a character, but the idea is to update the character in context with who the character actually is. These are characters of fantasy, that’s what they are, trying to introduce too much “real world” to a character who can take a bullet to the eye is going to be just a bit detrimental, making the world around that character a bit more realistic and modern isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion, but only to a point because a world these characters could exist in would be quite a bit different than the world as it is today. Struggle, consequences, and an introspective look at the character can be a very good thing for Superman, the issues dealt with in the comics have always been considerably heavier than anything previously shown on screen(tv or film), but no matter how dark things around that character get, the character of Superman should always be a brightly burning light.

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