Venom‘s director and executive producers have revealed that the film was always intended to get a PG-13 rating, and there is no R-rated cut. Ever since Sony first announced Venom, there’s been intense debate as to what rating the film would get.
Due to the character’s violent nature and comic book background, it was believed that the film would receive an R rating. Many fans of the comics have even argued that the best big screen iteration of the tongue-slavering symbiote would be R-rated, but Sony ultimately went for a hard PG-13, something that hasn’t gone over well with all fans (and would-be viewers).
In an interview with ComicBook, Venom director Ruben Fleischer and executive producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach have revealed that Sony always aimed to produce a PG-13 film. Arad, who’s previously noted that kids love Venom too much for an R-rating, presented the strongest argument.
“To me, R is not a consideration. Can you get away with not R so that other people can see? So that younger people can see? I made an animated show. There was a lot of Venom in there. It was in ’94. There’s no reason to put in violence. To define what Venom is as violence. He’s not. He’s the lethal protector, which is a very different thing. We want to be really true to the comics. Today, in CGI and stuff, we can make Venom bite your head. But we don’t have to show the head going side to side like, ‘that actually tastes good.’ It’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is that you finally understood, is that a bad guy? Yeah.”
Fleischer pointed to the fact that PG-13 isn’t quite so restrictive as is commonly believed. He cited the example of The Dark Knight as proof of the fact; “They put a pen through a guy’s forehead so I figure if you can do that in a PG-13 movie you can bite some heads off.” In truth, there’s actually precious little comic book precedent for an R-rated Venom. The character was introduced in 1988, and has starred in a number of ongoing series and some much-loved miniseries. Over the last 30 years, only a handful of Venom books have been aimed at mature audiences.
There have been reports that Sony want a PG-13 rating in the hopes they can crossover with the MCU’s Spider-Man films. While none of the Sony team addressed that idea, there’s probably some truth in it. It would be far harder to integrate an R-rated Venom into the wider MCU than a PG-13 version. But there are other reasons; it’s important to remember that Sony intend Venom to be the first film in a new Spider-villain franchise. If they pivot towards an R-rating for Venom, they’ll effectively be locking all future movies in for the same level of darkness and violence. While that would potentially work for the likes of Morbius, it wouldn’t fit for other projects believed to be in the works, such as Silk or Jackpot.
When news first broke that Venom would be PG-13, there were initial suggestions that Sony could release an R-rated directors’ cut. The idea has precedent in the superhero genre, with DC Films releasing the Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition. But Tolmach insisted that this, too, isn’t true. “There isn’t some phantom version of the movie. Everyone is asking us that. Is there an R-rated cut sitting there? There isn’t.” Still, that doesn’t mean the director can’t still release an unrated version on home video, which is an idea that he’s already floated.