Joker is a massive hit that managed to get to the billion-dollar club quite quickly while also picking up a couple of academy awards on its way to the list of Hollywood classics. It is undeniable that the movie is a part of the modern culture and has been in the middle of the pop-culture world due to many reasons including the tense economic situation in the world. Joker and Parasite winning multiple Oscars says that people are interested in stories about the division between poor and rich.
However, besides telling a compelling story with interesting themes, Joker also has many dark moments, swearing, and gun violence. It is a grim reality that has put constant societal pressure on its hero. Birds of Prey released right after is also a R-rated movie that enjoyed some success at the box office albeit a short-lived one. It will make back its money and earn something on the ancillary market.
Recently, multiple R-rated movies managed to become huge box office hits despite limiting their audience. At some point, Hollywood execs believed that a comic book audience is comprised of teenagers, kids, and their parents who go to the cinema only to spend quality time with family. However, the success of Deadpool and Logan made it clear that the market for adult comic books movies exists and it is full of cash.
The MCU is definitely the king of the PG-13 area and keeps kids occupied with flashy action and family-friendly jokes. Their movies are bright, colorful, and optimistic (mostly) that rarely touch upon really heavy themes. MCU movies are about friendship, courage, self-doubt, and many other interesting topics that would interest a teenager or a kid while also saying something of value to older moviegoers.
R-Rated is better?
Visually, the R rating allows the creative team behind the camera to create an interesting experience that will depict violence a little bit more accurately and focus the attention of the viewer on the consequences of said violence. Seeing the aftermath of a rage-induced meat-grinding carnage performed by Logan is a terrifying yet strangely appealing experience that allows understanding why he is so feared by enemies and friends alike.
While Marvel definitely has a lot of adult stories told by the comic book writers, the works of Frank Miller for DC are outstanding examples of excellent writing with very mature themes. His stories about the Dark Knight are amongst the best. They managed to forever change the way we see Gotham’s night vigilante. Many DC stories are perfect for an R-rated movie.
On top of that, it is quite important to keep your fans happy and develop a strong identity that will set apart MCU movies from what DC has to offer. Their recent attempts at creating fun summer blockbusters for families were a mix-match: Aquaman was a huge hit but Shazam underperformed slightly. If DC wants to be different from MCU and still tell great stories in an interconnected universe, they should move deeper into the R-rated territory.
Many comic book TV shows are very dark
Preacher, The Boys, Watchmen, and several other comic book TV series have strong language, graphic violence, and sex scenes. These stories are grim and usually revolve around troubled individuals with mysterious backgrounds full of suffering and pain. However, these are stories that have their place in the pop-culture landscape. The audience for such stories is here and it is willing to spend money as shown by multiple successful R-rated comic book movies.
The selection of comics that can be successfully translated to the big screen with blood and mature themes is very expansive. DC has many heroes that would be excellent choices for a mature drama with action: The Sandman, The Spectre, and other heroes have really twisted personalities and interesting stories to tell.