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R-rated version of Batman v Superman set for Blu-ray, DVD
Justin Long, left, and Bruce Willis star in "Live Free or Die Hard," the only PG-13 entry in the franchise and the series' biggest box-office hit. - photo by Chris Hicks
Last week's issue of Entertainment Weekly reported that the superhero-standoff franchise-builder Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" which opens next week will be rated PG-13.

But when the Blu-ray/DVD is issued a few months later, it will include an extended R-rated version of the film.

The Motion Picture Association of Americas movie-ratings website ( confirms that late last year, the Warner Bros. theatrical film was awarded a PG-13, and that in the past couple of weeks, another version was rated R for Warner Home Video.

According to the MPAA site, the PG-13 is for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality, while the R rating is for sequences of violence.

This lines up with Entertainment Weeklys story, which explains that the R-rated Ultimate Edition home-video release will include even more brutal fight scenes.

Somewhere out there, parents are shaking their heads, anticipating battles with their young children who are Superman- or Batman-crazy and who will attempt to nag them into submission when theyre invited to a sleepover to watch it.

But theres another contingent the action-movie/comic-book/superhero fan base, which has a very loud presence on the Internet that is shouting for joy.

They actually believe the R-rated video version will be better than the theatrical PG-13 version for no other reason than that its harsh enough to be rated R.

I stumbled onto these folks in the weeks leading up to the 2007 release of Live Free or Die Hard, the only entry in the five-film Bruce Willis-as-John McClane franchise that was rated PG-13 instead of R.

Believe it or not, there was quite an outcry from fans that thought this meant the fourth Die Hard would be watered down and therefore not as much fun. And a lot of them continued to complain after the film opened.

So heres my question: How does an R rating or more to the point, an excess of violence or language or sex make a movie better?

Of course, the toning down of the fourth films violence and language for a PG-13 rating was no doubt conceived as a cynical ploy by the studio to expand the audience for the Die Hard films. And it worked.

True, 20th Century Fox made big money from the first three R-rated films in the series: Die Hard (1988), Die Hard 2 (1990) and Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995), each of which earned more than the one before.

But the PG-13 Live Free or Die Hard was a bigger box-office hit domestically and worldwide than any of them and was also by far the best-reviewed of the sequels.

The fifth film, A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), returned to the R rating and was the only real flop in the series, both in terms of box-office earnings and critical assessment.

Obviously, this is not a definitive example. How good a film is, whether measured by its critical reception or the publics purchasing of tickets, is purely subjective.

But the notion that a movie any movie is better when its harsh enough to earn an R rating than when its softened a bit for a PG-13 is ludicrous by any measure.

With regard to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I think Warner Bros., DC Comics and the filmmakers are also revealing their cynical side by filming and releasing this R-rated version on video.

There is absolutely no reason to have made the expanded version of the film so much more brutal that it earns an R rating, especially since the videos real selling points lie elsewhere.

The big draw, as entrenched fans no doubt already know, will be the sequences of the film that introduce characters from the DC Comics universe in an effort to compete with Marvel Comics cinematic dominance of the superhero genre.

That will begin with the theatrical movie. In addition to putting Batman and Superman together for the first time, the film will also feature the big-screen debuts of Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg as it sets up a planned 10-film franchise, some parts of which will bring characters together as the Justice League (DC Comics version of Marvels Avengers). Hence the subtitle Dawn of Justice.

But the expanded film on video will include even more new characters, including a secret one played by Jena Malone that was intended for the theatrical film but wound up on the cutting room floor.

As a result, the expanded video is guaranteed to sell plenty of copies to fans anxious to see these characters brought to life. Will an R rating increase sales? Of course not.

In fact, it could end up putting off some potential buyers.
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