If I hate one thing in this world it’s my neighbor’s dog. (Seriously, dude, I know it’s you shitting in my yard. And, even if you say differently, I can hear you barking at five in the morning. LAY OFF MY NUTS, MAN!!! Don’t make me fight you.) If I hate two things in this world, the first is my neighbor’s dog, the second is the invention of PG-13 films.
I’m not even one of those DudeBros that will only be satisfied watching an R film. So, slam your trap shut if you think that’s where this is going. G and PG have never offended me. Hell, some of my favorite films are PG and G. The Toy Story franchise has built a sturdy home on parental guidance. And Back to The Future is, hyperbole aside, the greatest film ever created in any known universe.
For some reason the MMPA (If I had a third thing that I hated, it would be the MMPA, if you’re keeping track.) needed a new rating that straddled the line between the super rad sex and violence of R and the candy colored happy fun times of PG. Thus, BOOM, PG-13 was created in 1984 to suit a film called Red Dawn. And that rating has been making bland movies even blander up until today, when PG-13, took a role in fucking up the remake of Red Dawn.
The new Red Dawn highlights everything that’s wrong with the entire ratings system. The plot follows the same plot of the original: America is overrun by enemy soldiers and a group of teens form a bad ass militia and start killing enemy soldiers. In the first film it was Russians because the Cold War was still raging. In the new film, America is overrun by Chinese soldiers with badly CGI-ed North Korean flags stickered to their uniforms. Because, apparently we can’t afford to anger China anymore for fear they might actually attack us. Thus, a North Korean enemy was created for the film despite the fact that North Korea would never have the manpower to feasibly attack us. From there the film devolves into two hours of bloodless, boring fights.
But let’s get one thing clear: I didn’t want this film to be a violent blood bath. It, conversely, REALLY wanted to be dark and edgy without the actual cost it takes to be dark and edgy. Believe me, I know dark and edgy, dark and edgy gets me laid on the nightly and it requires a certain amount of work to pull off.
This film wants real stakes, life and death shit. And, the death toll is high, major characters take bullets to the head often. Enemy soldiers get shot down in hails of gunfire. And skateboards strapped with explosives blow up a lot of tanks. The director does a great job of creating a sense of dread but failed to follow through.
The first time soldiers get shot in this film there is no blood. They get a least seven bullets to the stomach and fall over dead. Now, again, I don’t care if they don’t want blood in their film. The Dark Knight didn’t have a drop of blood but the camera was used effectively enough to create REAL dread. Red Dawn shows you everything, without blood, and it’s confusing. I actually didn’t even know the soldiers had died, or that they even got shot. I just assumed they dropped to the ground out of fear. But then it kept happening. Someone will be shot and just drop dead without any physical damage.
That’s why PG-13 sucks. It wants to be an adult R but is too queasy to deal with adult themes. Red Dawn is all about kids pretending to be adults, facing hard choices, and it’s very fitting that, as a PG-13 movie, it can’t quite live up to them.