Hunger For Success

Tuesday 27 March 2012, 14:55

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The Hunger Games has just opened with huge box office numbers. In the UK the film was cut to give it a 12A certificate, but why?

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    Comment number 1.

    Saw it in the first possible screening I could on Thursday night and being a huge fan of the books, it did not disappoint. There were a few minor details here and there I thought they could've kept in, but other than that I thought it was a brilliant adaptation. But I do agree with you, Dr K, in that it was a marketing ploy rather than just censorship, it wouldn't have got the $150,000,000 weekend it did it if it were a 15 in the UK, plus the number of under 15s trying to blag their way into a 15 would have increased tenfold!

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    Comment number 2.

    I have not seen THE HUNGER GAMES, but I believe in principle that the re-cutting that has taken place here and in other films are an entirely valid part of the film-making process. In the case of large-scale movie production, it's unnecessary - foolhardy, even - to treat art and commerce as antitheses of each other. Yes, artistic integrity is important, but so is the obligation of the key crew to see that the millions of budget dollars are being used responsibly. In this way, I equate the marketing and classification decisions with any other of the hundreds of choices involved, in that it must be made carefully and with the project's original intent kept in close consideration. Whether this has all be done correctly can only be judged by viewing the film itself.

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    Comment number 3.

    Marketing decisions or not, it's self-censorship pure and simple. It can't be seen as any other way. Whether it's justified or not is another thing, but it's censorship however you look at it. Personally, I'm disappointed that it's been slightly watered down for marketing purposes in the UK, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the film should be condemned or shunned in its censored state.

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    Comment number 4.

    I have just seen it this morning and enjoyed it. A film like this comes with a ready made fan base of 10 to 16 years olds which the film makers have to be concious of. Whilst the film is tense, making a film with 'Wolf Creek' or 'Texas Chainsaw' levels of intensity would be commercial suicide because the target audience would be excluded by the certificate. The fact that 'The Hunger Games' tells such a dark and grisly story, with the inherant aspects of violence and sadism, without it feeling like a cop out is a testament to the film makers.

    On the flip side if 'Promethus' has anything lower than a 15 certificate, i'll boycott the film in disgust, when i go to see an 'Alien' film i don't expect it to be family friendly.

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    Comment number 5.

    I know you are a big fan of the BBFC, Mark (at least you are nowadays) but this recent trend of demanding cuts is a slippery slope to a censorship disaster.

    As far as I am concerned when someone outside the UK (e.g. an American) asks me if I've seen The Hunger Games or The Woman in Black I now have to reply "No," despite having supposedly seen something like them at the cinema.

    Film is a subtle art and the smallest cut (even just shavings of a few frames) can have the greatest impact on the whole piece. Ask any editor. So us Brits have not seen the same movie - the proper movie!

    And you can't blame the studios for this; if the BBFC effectively state "Cut this, this and this out or you won't be making as much money in this territory," of course they are going to comply! It's on the BBFC's head and they should really reconsider their ways as of late.

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    Comment number 6.

    I have a big problem with the 12A certificate as it seems to exist without having any need to exist. The BBFC says that it is for films that people under 12 should not see unless they are taken by someone over 18 who has judged it alright to watch which in theory should force people have to see the film twice, once to see if it is alright for their children, with their children if they think it is ok for them to watch it. I may be missing something here but isn't that what the reason we have the PG rating? Another factor the calls it's existance into question is the fact that the 12 certificate still exists for DVD's. As a result we now have this strange situation where a child whose 10 can legally watch a film at the ciniema but cannot legally purchase the DVD for at least two years after it's released. I say get rid of the 12A certificate and just stick to the PG and 12 certificates.

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    Comment number 7.

    I haven't read the books or seen the film yet, and I'd like to add that I HAVE seen Battle Royale, and here are my thoughts. I'm struggling to see how a film that deals with such visceral, violent, terrifying themes such as the killing of children by other children can be a 12A...? It must be doing something half-bottomed.

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    Comment number 8.

    Woody Harrelson's wig alone deserved a '15'.

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    Comment number 9.

    Disappointed with the marketing strategy, surely you make a film how you feel it should be and not care about pandering to the audience. I realise this is a blockbuster out to earn a profit but like to hope the makers gave it more respect rather than it being just another big budget and formulated film. I don't see why they couldn't release two versions one 15 and one 12A, which goes for Woman in Black too.

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    Comment number 10.

    I've read the books and really quite enjoyed them, in much the same way I enjoyed the first (and only the first!!!) Twilight novel. Having seen the film on Saturday however, I came away disappointed. Though I am a fan of Jennifer Lawrence since seeing 'Winter's Bone', I don't think she fitted the part all that well. For one, Katniss is from a poor district where hunger is widespread etc; Ms Lawrence looks too healthy for the part! Even so, I could live with the casting, and I certainly thought her performance was acceptable. The problem I had with the film is the same I had with Spielberg's adaption of 'War Horse'; violence on the page is far more acceptable than violence on screen. And the sources for both these films contain substantial violence. For me, they failed to create an impact. I emerged from the cinema bemused, and slightly bored, on both occasions wondering how such fast paced books had turned into such tame pieces of cinema.

    Moreover, I personally believe children are these days far more attune to hard-hitting scenes than censors etc given them credit. I'm not demanding endless blood and gore, but I certainly don't think 'The Hunger Games' came across as hard hitting. The row in front of mine, crowded with kids, was the source of actual laughter when I watched the film, especially during the 'climax' involving genetically-modified 'hounds'. And I agree with them. The scenes of action (i.e. er, slaughter) just didn't work. They did look contrived, and pulled the film down. Given some of the material most kids see on screens at home, I honestly think there is a case of 'over-caution' here. They can READ of violence; why can't they SEE it?

    I certainly agree with you concerning the reasons the film was cut. Dollar signs clearly plastered the interior of the distributors' eyeballs. But I argue such cuts weren't necessary in the first place, even for the intended 12A certificate.

    Also (slightly off topic, but I must vent my frustration!!!); where was the soundtrack!!!??? I'm not one to demand pulse-pounding music in everything (I loved 'Le Quattro Volte'), but I will say 'The Hunger Games' needed some stimulation. I don't think I've seen a film with such an underwhelming use of music. I honestly believe I would have found it more exciting and faster-paced had there been a decent soundtrack. For such a high profile 'event' I was hoping for one too!

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    Comment number 11.

    saw this at the weekend,not read the books but have to say found very flat indeed.more edge would have made it much more interesting and brought the tension right up.a good book to film transfer is rare.i think its hard get the feeling you can with a book,i.e through your own imagination.i was prepared for this to be harsher but as i say it fell flat for me.

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    Comment number 12.

    I saw the film on regular opening day - a Friday lunchtime screening very well supported (for that time of day). I wasn't shocked by the violence but I suspect that's mainly because I don't think it's a very good film and it saddens me greatly that it's doing better than JOHN CARTER which is a superior piece of work in every way. (Emphasis: there is no level on which THE HUNGER GAMES is better than JOHN CARTER.)

    The BBFC are certainly not to blame here: if the studio wanted a 12A rating they should have submitted a 12A film. The trouble with comparing our 12A with the American PG13 is that the two classification systems are entirely differently structured and rated by different groups of people to a different set of criteria. We have no problem with mainstream studio movies being rated 18 which is a stronger rating than the dreaded NC17, let alone the R. What goes for their system doesn't automatically go for ours.

    There is a story that the distributors wanted an AA rating for THE DEER HUNTER and asked the BBFC for advice on what they should cut to avoid an X, and the BBFC responded that the film was a magnificent film and the studio had a moral duty not to interfere with it by cutting it.

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    Comment number 13.

    All these cut scenes will just be included on the DVD. It's not like they're trying to bury them ala The Wicker Man or The Devils. Also, Nice cut, Dr. K.

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    Comment number 14.

    I haven't seen the hunger games or read the book. However I was slightly annoyed with The Woman in Black. Not so much that they cut the film (I did enjoy it), but more that they changed the story from the book and stage play; making it suitable for a younger audience but at the same time stripping all of the impact out of the ending.

    However, if they make similar cuts to 'Prometheus' to get a 12A rating I think it will be a huge mistake and may alienate (no pun intended) its long standing fan base.

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    Comment number 15.

    Don't see why they can't just do two cuts - one for afternoon showings (12A) and one for evening showings (15)

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    Comment number 16.

    Firstly, I am not bothered that this film owes a debt to Battle Royale as I love that film. What bothers me is that the writer AND director had never HEARD of Battle Royale?? I did hear you right Mr Kermode did I not? How is that possible?

    Secondly, we don't have to be rocket scientists to realise they edited the film for a young audience as this is now the studio's answer to Harry Potter and Twilight now these franchises have ended. This is their new money maker. We have a few more Hunger Games books to be made into films yet (with the last film I am sure made into parts 1 & 2), and I for one, will not watch ONE of them...

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    Comment number 17.

    Personally I think it's a very bad thing that the BBFC has started to edit films in this way. It's more marketing than classification. Isn't this the sort of thing the PG certificate was originally meant for? Nowadays I can't see any distinguishing features between U and PG films, 12A has crept into meaning 'PG' when REALLY it should allow for things such as splashes of blood.

    Blood is a fact of life. The BBFC cannot have their cake and eat it. If the film is about kids killing each other, then you're having a film about kids killing each other and blood should be involved. The BBFC needs to properly re-evaluate their thoughts on such things. It seems incredibly out of touch with what REAL kids can handle. It's perhaps interesting to note that the Japanese film classification board originally rated Battle Royale as 15 in Japan, rather controversially, but in the end the general consensus from the filmmakers was that it was more responsible for younger teens to see the full extent of the themes than 'protect' them from it.

    As for the Woman in Black, I found it simply hilarious that 'intensity' can define a rating now. It is FAR too vague a criteria to classify a work, it is far too objective. Intensity should have NOTHING to do with film classification when it comes to psychological horror. Frankly, if a scene is 'intense' then the filmmaker has done a very good job. Bambi is intense, Pinocchio is intense and many other children's films are 'intense', none of which have to do with violence but music and images. To lessen intensity is to mar the film as a work. You don't see the colours of works of art in galleries being altered for fear of being 'too intense' for the viewing public, so why should the filmmakers permit a lesser version to be shown for fear of someone having an 'intense' experience. That's what we bloody go to the cinema FOR!

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    Comment number 18.

    I'd like to add:

    What would Doctor Kermode say if a re-release of The Exorcist had the chilling voice of Lucifer 'toned down in the mix', or the chilling light in the film's final scenes 'toned down' to secure a lower rating? Not that these things would matter in getting anything less than an 18 for the Exorcist, mind you, but I hope you see the point. The BBFC showed itself to be great with giving The King's Speech a 12A, but they have ALWAYS had a problem with violence, and I for one feel it is becoming very dated.

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    Comment number 19.

    This is a case self censorship in the fact that the distributer wants to get more audiences to see the film and quite frankly this really annoys me, its the only reason that kept me away from seeing The Woman in Black and waiting for it when it comes out on Blu-Ray.

    However with The Hunger Games this is a different case. I haven't seen the film, but I have read the book and even on the page it was disturbing enough for the young adult crowd to which this is film that is aimed. The fact that its being tipped as the new Twilight is further pushing this particular audience demograph into seeing this film. Although it pains me to say it, I think the distributors were right to shed the very brief scenes of intensity.

    Now after having said that, I really do hope that Fox haven't taken my comments to heart because Ridley Scott's upcoming film Prometheus has to be released uncut with all the intensity LEFT IN UNCUT!!

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    Comment number 20.

    Generally I don't really have a problem with films being slightly edited down to accommodate their intended audience as long as the intentions are true to the creative forces behind the film. By this I mean that I think Hunger Games was made to include the 12 audience so ensuring the film's content matches that is fine by me. Obviously cutting an 18 down to a 12A is not acceptable.

    The two issues that arise for me are:

    1. In some instances I think a few of the action sequences are harder to follow and visually grasp because the cuts, coupled with the style of cinematography make it all seem a little too frenetic.

    2. The real problem is not with the cutting of films but the 12A certificate itself. A rating that allows a much younger audience to see a film as long as they have irresponsible parents can ultimately ruin it for all of us. Get rid of the A and just have PG and 12

 

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