Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson promised for years that his DC debut as Black Adam would be one of the most violent superhero movies ever with his antihero being one of the most powerful characters ever put on screen. And upon the DC movie's debut in October 2022, those two promises were certainly fulfilled as Teth-Adam unleashed his fury upon the world once he was released from his tomb in Kahndaq.
With Black Adam's promise of being so violent, many were wondering what rating it would receive upon its theatrical release, especially with WB having already released R-rated movies in recent years like James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. Reports even indicated that the movie did actually get an R-rating in Summer 2022, with the filmmakers doing everything in their power to get the movie as close to that rating as possible without fully crossing the threshold.
Now, a new report has gone into more detail about what specifically had to be changed in order to settle into that PG-13 rating.
WB Censored R-Rated Black Adam Scene
Speaking with befores & afters, Digital Domain visual effects supervisor Nikos Kalaitzidis and digital effects supervisor Greg Teegarden discussed a scene from Black Adam that had to be cut in order to avoid an R-rating for the movie.
Teegarden looked back to a moment when a mercenary's arm is torn off, noting how it was a prosthetic arm that "always looked like a dummy arm" every time it was dropped. This led the team to decide to "add some 'tasteful' gore to it" in the post-production process so that it looked more real:
"They had a prosthetic arm on set. They must have dropped it 20 or 30 times, and it just always looked like a dummy arm. And so we decided, ‘You know what, we can fix this.’ We already had the merc asset. It wasn’t a big deal to just tear an arm off and just line it up where he was connected to the shoulder and add some ‘tasteful’ gore to it. Then that way when it dropped on the ground, we had complete control over it and it didn’t look like a piece of rubber hitting the ground."
Kalaitzidis clarified what was happening in the scene, saying that Black Adam "throws this mercenary at the three" other mercs shooting at him, hitting one of them before realizing that he'd ripped an arm off and dropping it on the ground:
"Just to put it in context, Black Adam is killing all these mercenaries. He grabs one of these mercenaries, he grabs them by the arms, he sees three mercenaries shooting at him, he throws this mercenary at the three, hits one of them and he realizes that the arm came off and he’s still holding onto it. And then he grabs that arm and he drops it like a mic and it drops down onto the floor. That is the prosthetic that we had to replace."
At one point, Teegarden suggested an idea for the arm to have "a little bit of a last little twitch in his finger" before finally becoming motionless, animating it and showing it to director Jaume Collet-Serra. But once the MPAA saw that, the movie earned a full R-rating, forcing Warner Bros. to remove "a few frames" to keep the PG-13 rating:
Teegarden: "So, we’re sitting in dailies one day and I said to Nikos, ‘It’d be really funny if, when it hit the ground, it felt like he had a little bit of a last little twitch in his finger.’ Arda, our anim sup, he’s like, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ So he does that and we’re all like, ‘That looks great.’ So we showed it to Bill Westenhofer, who showed it to Jaume, everybody loved it. It was in the movie and then it got MPAA’ed."
befores & afters: "Oh no!"
Teegarden: "You can’t have a disembodied hand laying on the ground and the finger just all of a sudden twitching. The thing is, it was great because comedically."
Kalaitzidis: "In the end, they just cut it short. They took out a few frames."
Kalaitzidis closed the interview by praising the production team on Black Adam, calling this "one of the smoothest landings that [they've] done" before the movie hit the big screen:
"I just wanted to end with this note. I’ve worked on many movies throughout my career, on shows as big as this with 500 shots. We put together a great crew, great team. The production team with Bill, Karen and their team were awesome. I’ve got to say, out of all the movies I’ve worked on, this is one of the smoothest landings that we’ve done and we’ve contributed a lot creatively to get to the finish line and to see it all on the big screen. I want to really thank the team and everyone who really contributed their creativity, craft and hard work on Black Adam. It’s pretty awesome."
A Few Frames From R-Rated Black Adam
This interview just about confirms that Black Adam came as close as it possibly could to becoming an R-rated movie without actually earning that distinction upon its release.
Being the most adult-oriented rating the MPAA can offer, R-ratings can vary across the board throughout different projects. While the Deadpool movies and The Suicide Squad went all-out with the violence and language, Black Adam appeared to only have this one moment pushing it over that boundary.
With this being the only moment that had to be adjusted for Warner Bros. to achieve a PG-13 rating, it will certainly lead fans to wonder what the violent potential of Black Adam could look like. Whether future movies will explore that violence is a mystery, especially with the antihero's upcoming grudge match with Henry Cavill's Superman, but The Rock will surely advocate for material like that to make it to the big screen.
Black Adam is now playing in theaters, and it will be available for viewing digitally on January 3, 2023.