You know the drill now when you head to the cinema – you grab your tickets for the latest ultra-violent Expendables movie, you’ve paid for your drink and popcorn, you take your seat during the myriad of adverts and trailers, drinking down the last gulp of sugary coke as the last trailer ends with an almighty Hans Zimmer-trademarked musical boom. Your heart pounds, your adrenaline starts to rise, as at last, the film that promises more explosions and carnage then the previous film is about to begin! Soon your eyes will be filled with the amazing sights of action heroes caving in heads and exploding peoples guts with a multitude of deadly weaponry that would make even Mahatma Gandhi drool!
And then up it comes – a British Board of Film Classification title card bearing a little red circle and a single sentence that brings all your hopes and dreams crashing downward! This Film has been certified as 12A.
12A, first introduced by the BBFC to UK Cinemas in 2002, was at the time hailed as a great idea. At last, the BBFC, long criticized for being both out of touch with audiences and too harsh and unjust with its practices of film censorship, was putting some degree of control and judgement into the hands of parents. Children under the age of 12 could now go and watch 12A fare such as The Bourne Identity or Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, as long as they were accompanied by a responsible adult. There was much rejoicing!
Fast forward 12 years or so, and 12A is still a massive staple of the cinema experience. 2013 saw for the first time more 12A releases then 15’s, and that trend has continued since. But the 12A rating has become too problematic for its own good!
Case in point – The Hunger Games and The Woman in Black. Both major blockbusters from 2012, each of which were trimmed of major violence and scary scenes by studio execs to obtain that 12A rating (both films had been reviewed and certified as 15). Why? Because the more under-12s they can sell to, the bigger the box office haul! And lo and behold, it worked, with both films making much more money at the box office then estimated.
As a result, it seems like everything is now being geared towards 12A. Taken 2 & 3, both awful films, were made all the more unbearable thanks to poorly rushed last-minute editing. The third installment of The Expendables franchise also met a similar fate, tailored towards a 12A audience despite an already strong adult fanbase, resulting in a rather tame and uninspiring actioner which Sylvester Stallone would later refer to as a major miscalculation on the studio’s part. And make no mistake, Adam Sandler’s terrible films continue to do well at the box office mainly as a result of being made for the 12A rating, allowing young kids unable to watch decent 15-rated adult comedies some form of entertainment (though no doubt, they’d much rather watch Bad Neighbours instead of Blended any day).
Filmmakers are being compromised by meddling studio execs who are quite happy to butcher a film in order to make it that bit more profitable. It’s always been that way, but nowadays it seems a more regular occurrence, and cinema-goers seem to be accepting it as the norm.
Of course, there’s also the problem of parents. In 2013, the BBFC’s annual report stated that at least 27% of people failed to understand what the rating meant. Hence, cinema fans like you and I would have to share Skyfall screenings with noisy four-year olds and ignorant parents who clearly don’t give two shits about whether the film in question is suitable for their sprog, so long as they can watch James Bond shag and violently murder his way through the next two and a bit hours. Kermode and Mayo’s BBC Five Live Film show once received an email from a man who was forced to watch The Hunger Games with a mother of three young children, one of whom was still in a pram! It wasn’t the first such email received on the matter, and it certainly hasn’t been the last.
Of course, I can’t complain too much. If it hadn’t have been for 12A, I myself would have missed out on great films like Pirates of the Caribbean, X2, and Lord of the Rings. It brings a tear to my little fanboy eye to see young kids get excited about watching The Avengers for the umpteenth time, something that would never have happened had the film been a simple, restrictive 12.
But when the 12A rating is used irresponsibly by studios to awkwardly cut already finished films in a bid to make a little bit more cash, its only the adult fans that get short-changed. Much as we love hearing about kids enjoying films like those of Marvel and Middle-Earth, it would be nice to have some major franchises actually tailor to us, and just us. Is it too much to ask for a good film franchise that piles on the violence and gore and swearing to a 15-rated level?!
We expect John Wick 2 to be a 12A. Place your bets people!
What do you guys think? Is 12A now restricting adult’s enjoyment? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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