‘The Suicide Squad’: Why Director James Gunn’s Movie Will Be Rated R

The saga of James Gunn’s career has been controversial, to say the least. The director famously lost the opportunity to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 over some unsavory social media posts. But less than a year later, Disney reversed its decision, reinstating Gunn to the project.

Ironically, in the interim, Gunn lined up another comic book project. So before he returns to Marvel, Gunn will write and direct The Suicide Squad, DC’s sequel/reboot of 2016’s Suicide Squad. Since the filmmaker has already tackled a motley group of morally questionable heroes, fans determined he would be a great fit for the DC supervillain team.

However, one of the biggest questions surrounding the film has been its rating. Of course, The Suicide Squad isn’t due for release until Aug. 6, 2021. So it has received no official rating yet. But the word is Gunn and his team are aiming for an R rating. Here’s why that is pretty much inevitable.

James Gunn arriving at Haneda Airport in Tokyo
James Gunn arriving at Haneda Airport in Tokyo | Jun Sato/GC Images

James Gunn’s first two directorial efforts were very much rated R

Anyone familiar with Gunn’s early work knows his default setting is always to go bigger and bolder with each project. Especially having started out working with cult movie empire Troma Entertainment, Gunn leans toward provocative material. And his directorial career prior to joining Marvel Studios is a testament to that.

Before taking on Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn had only directed two features. He made his directorial debut with 2006 horror-comedy Slither starring Elizabeth Banks as well as frequent collaborators Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker. Then in 2010, he directed Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page in the superhero black comedy Super. Both films are blatantly not for kids.

While the Guardians of the Galaxy films tone down the language and violence, Gunn’s sensibility still very much comes through in both films. Yet, the environment DC is cultivating is very different from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So we don’t expect him to have to censor himself whatsoever.

‘The Suicide Squad’ will build on the edgier DC vision of ‘Birds of Prey’

After all, both of the most recent films based on DC Comics have been rated R. Birds of Prey might not have hit the commercial levels of Suicide Squad. Some blame that on its R rating, but the $1 billion gross of Joker offsets that argument. More than likely, Birds of Prey‘s relative disappointment ties back to marketing and brand awareness for the titular superhero team.

The DC Extended Universe — and its unrelated offshoots, such as Joker — are stepping further and further into R-rated territory. And no film currently on the DC slate warrants that treatment more than The Suicide Squad. Like Joker and Birds of Prey, the film focuses on a villainous perspective. Following criticisms that David Ayer’s 2016 film held back, Gunn will not.

Audiences have already met a fully unleashed Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in Birds of Prey. And with Robbie set to reprise the role in The Suicide Squad, the film has an opportunity to take a similarly hard-edged approach with a wide variety of villains ripped straight from the pages of DC Comics.

James Gunn himself has teased an R rating for ‘The Suicide Squad’

Perhaps the best reason we can probably trust The Suicide Squad will be rated R is thanks to Gunn himself. In the past, the director has alluded to how his film will differ from what audiences have seen before. And even as recently as April 2020, he teased fans with the film’s rating.

Until the Motion Picture Association of America officially brands Gunn’s film with an R rating, anything can happen, of course. But it does sound like Gunn is aiming for an R-rated version of The Suicide Squad. As long as Warner Bros. and DC back up his vision, fans should get exactly what they’re hoping for.

The Suicide Squad hits theaters on Aug. 6, 2021.