You want to know how to make an action junkie mad? Mention a PG-13 action movie and watch them devolve into insanity just at the mere mention of that phrase. It’s a trigger word that should not be taken lightly.
However, in all seriousness, PG-13 action movies is a big taboo within this genre and it is easy to see why. When you think action, you think massive amounts of hardcore violence with brutal gunfights, violent fight scenes, and copious amounts of swearing, drinking, smoking, and nudity. It’s a given when it comes to this genre sort of like expecting laughs from a comedy or scares in a horror movie. PG-13 action movies never really took form until the 2000s when superhero films were the main draw and teenagers became the focus group for movie studios. Clearly, teenagers can’t see R rated movies on their own unless they sneak in of course so why not make movies that tone down the rating in order for them to flood the theaters on opening weekend. It makes a lot of sense from a business standpoint, but what from an action fan’s standpoint? Essentially, PG-13 action movies are destroying the genre is what the main consensus might say about them. I think that they have their place in the genre and films within this rating have delivered some quality material over the years. It’s just that most movies that acquire the PG-13 rating are so low in the common denominator bar and go for the immature and silly rather than the gritty and impactful. Movies like the Transformer films and Abduction are what we mostly see when we think PG-13 action movies. Dumb, loud, obnoxious, young leading men that should be in a romantic comedy, and an overuse of CGI. For the most part, that assumption is right as most movies of these ratings tend to go that route, but not always.
I will refrain from using films from the past like the original Indiana Jones trilogy and similar films because the rating system and attitudes were immensely different back then and wouldn’t be a fair comparison. So the concentration will be on modern day PG-13 films. I view the PG-13 rating in a positive manner in the way that it can increase the amount of action a movie can contain. There is less focus on the squibs and the blood that movies like say The Transporter films can concentrate on just violent acts rather than gore and therefore delivering more on the aspect. It seems like PG-13 action movies have the most fight scenes when compared to R Rated action movies. More hand to hand and little gun action since it’s obviously avoiding as much violent acts as possible. In a way, PG-13 is keeping the art of hand to hand fighting relevant which can be appreciated.
There are also many examples of great PG-13 action films. I know superhero films are a mixed bag especially on this site, but it can’t be denied what some have offered especially the Nolan Batman trilogy. Films like Taken, The Bourne Movies, Minority Report, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible franchise, and Battle: Los Angeles have certainly delivered quality action films within the parameters of the rating. Lots of blow em up goodness thrown in your face and some can get away with some truly violent things nowadays.
I guess it is up to the fan themselves. Either you hate them or love them. They can certainly be a curse and a blessing at times, but it is the age we live in. Adapt and overcome. Maybe PG-13 can eventually adapt some R rated elements in terms of story and characters and infuse the PG-13 sensibility towards action to create some tense and energetic films. We shall see whether that becomes a reality though.