Will Ridley Scott Get His Desired ‘Alien: Covenant’ Rating?

Ridley Scott has made it clear from the beginning that he has one major goal for the Alien: Covenant rating, and he hopes for a hard R. In other words, the director’s intention was to take the film as far as he could without being forced to make a lot of cuts to obtain an R rating. Alien: Covenant is set to be released in less than a month, and it’s still impossible to know whether or not Scott’s gamble paid off. The MPAA hasn’t provided an official rating yet, which likely means that they’ve requested numerous cuts.

R-Rating for Alien: Covenant
SXSW film programmer Jarod Neece, director Ridley Scott, and cast of Alien: Covenant [Image by Jack Plunkett name/AP Images]

Could Alien: Covenant be Denied an R Rating?

The MPAA has a history of demanding cuts from gory films. Filmmakers who refuse to comply can be denied an MPAA rating at all or, alternatively, their movie could be branded with the theater unfriendly NC-17. Many horror moviemakers contended with this issue in the past, including those responsible for the rebooted Evil Dead, The Devil’s Rejects, American Psycho, Saw, Scream and Predator 2.

What the MPAA looks for can be frustratingly specific. For example, the original Scream required a mere seven seconds’ worth of cuts to go from an NC-17 to an R rating. The team behind the first Saw movie was forced to go back to the MPAA six times with new edits before they finally received an R.

This is, understandably, a difficult process for filmmakers because it forces them to remove vital story material from what they deemed to be their final version. Whether it’s a few seconds or an entire scene, this can change the feel and flow of a movie. As a result, releasing the unrated director’s cut on DVD and Blu-ray has become a very popular way to get the original cut in front of audiences.

Will an R Rating Hurt Alien: Covenant?

Unfortunately, if Alien: Covenant suffers from cuts, it will take several months before fans of the series are able to see Ridley Scott’s full vision. In the meantime, a watered-down version would be in theaters, and this could lead to lackluster reviews and diminished ticket sales. On the flipside, if the distribution team decided to release the film without a rating or with an NC-17, few people would get to see it at a theater because so many chains would exclude it from their schedule.

Why is Alien: Covenant Looking for a Hard R Rating?

Many filmmakers and movie studios walk the fine line between a PG-13 and R rating because ticket sales tend to be much larger for PG-13 films. However, when you’re making a film for a specific audience, it’s important to consider what will get them to buy tickets. There is apparently zero chance that Alien: Covenant could land a PG-13 rating, which means that the studio agreed to target an audience of adults who love horror and science fiction.

Early teaser images from Alien: Covenant show what appears to be new chestbursters. There’s also a lot of gore, and this has almost certainly held up the MPAA’s process.

Alien Covenant Rating
"Is there anything you can tell us about the new chestbursters in Alien: Covenant?"

Ridley Scott has clout as a long-term, well-known director, and this might help him during the negotiating process. Regardless of his standing in the industry, though, telling the media for the past year that he wants a hard R may be working against him right now. After all, the MPAA was probably looking for scenes to cut because they knew the film was going to have a lot of gore and violence.

Ridley Scott’s push for a hard R may be a gamble, but it’s one that may pay off by putting the Aliens franchise back on track. The last entry, Prometheus, was made for $130 million but only amassed domestic box office receipts totaling $126.4 million. If Alien: Covenant gets an R rating without being cut to pieces, it should be in a good position to become a summer blockbuster for adults.

[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]