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Who Cut The Hunger Games?

Friday 13 April 2012, 12:42

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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A few weeks ago I posted that The Hunger Games had been cut to get a 12A certificate in the UK.

This started a debate about who was really responsible and whether it was censorship or marketing...

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    Comment number 1.

    I don't consider "The Hunger Games" censored at all. Lionsgate wanted a 12A so they decided to allow extremely mild cuts to be made of 7 seconds which probably from I what gather wouldn't really change the tone or story of the film. Anyone who claims they haven't seen a film because it was cut by 7 seconds is utterly insane. I'm not saying seconds can't change a film just look at Philip Ridley's "The Reflecting Skin" the last 3 seconds almost ruin that film but 7 seconds of a big-budget action/sci-fi film probably didn't do any real damage to the intent of the film.

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    Comment number 2.

    Brüno was released in two versions a few years ago. First the uncut 18 and about a month later there was a cut 15. The version for home entertaiment is the 18 though.

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    Comment number 3.

    Yes, it was a commercial decision, which makes it "acceptable censorship". Rather that than cuts dictated to us by suits, even the BBFC who come across as rather noble and decent suits.

    What interested me was the quote from the BBFC representative on the radio show some weeks ago, when he suggested that the Irish version was not cut for the same certificate. Just shows that even across a small patch of water, different cultures have different expectations.

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    Comment number 4.

    I enjoyed The Hunger Games immensely, but will admit it felt slightly toothless and squeamish at times when it came to the actual deaths, considering the dark, grim reality the rest of the film conjured. Having an uncut version available when it comes time to release it on Blu-ray/DVD would be a good idea. Even the shortest additional shot may make the whole film feel slightly less compromised.

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    Comment number 5.

    I still maintain that the difference between absolute censorship (cut this or the film will not be released at all) and effective censorship (cut this or the film won't be able to reach its intended audience and/or be profitable) is a pretty small one.

    It's a shame that this discussion comes from The Hunger Games (where the cuts are minimal and don't in my opinion compromise the film). Perhaps a better example is Made In Dagenham, where I believe there was also a choice between two ratings, and it was 'compromise the integrity of the film and get a lower rating (and more profits)' and 'leave it as it is for a higher rating (and make less money)'.

    I don't blame the BBFC here, I think they make good calls. But just offering the studios the choice of making cuts or not doesn't absolve the ratings body of the responsibility of making good judgements. It's still censorship, and so the responsibility of making measured judgements from both sides is still there. To imply that offering the film-makers a choice means that all the blame for bad decisions lies with the film-maker and not the ratings board is a bad precedent to set.

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    Comment number 6.

    Ridley Scott recently has commented on his role as not just a film-maker, but a businessman, in having to achieve the biggest numbers feasible for Prometheus, something on which his hand was somewhat forced by Fox if they were to release the budget in 2010.

    With respect to the 'thin end of the wedge' argument, it does appear we are drifting into an area of pre-censorship (or perhaps just old fashioned 'selling out'), be it for marketing purposes or otherwise, and I can't help feeling that I am going to miss out on the best possible version of a film, such as Prometheus (without wanting to prejudge it), because of the conflict between commercial responsibility and artistic integrity. Alien was a brave film, not least because it sought to ratchet up the tension and to shock. I can't help fearing that it's younger sibling (or parent), is going to have lost some of that DNA for reasons other than artistic choice.

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    Comment number 7.

    Dr K,

    I completely agree with your final point that the BBFC is on the side on the viewer and against censorship - all they do is protect children form seeing things whihc will upset them and yet will almost always allow adults to view whatever they wish to; this can only be a good thing. It is the distributors that are the real censors nowadays unfortunately.

    Early last year I read a very good report in a magazine from the US [which for the life of me a cannot remember the title! Aargh!] which was arguing that the problem is the ditributors are often part owned or influenced at least by people that have strong connections to the two main political parties in the US, teh Repulicans and teh Democrats. It argued that they were always afraid of having a backlash agianst anything which will harm thier reputaions mainly brought about by ultra conservative Christian groups. As we know these types of people are not what you would call reasonable and often jump on any little thing that would dare to offend them. One group i remmebr even complained that the Passion of the Christ apparently made it look like Jesus suffered too much - this from a Christian group!

    All this I think shows one of the possible reasons why Warner won't release the whole version of The Devils. Now that is censorship pure and simple.

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    Comment number 8.

    Excellent V-Blog today. I get quite sick of the cry of 'censorship' being made at tiny cosmetic things to get a lower certificate - which, without wishing insult to anybody whatsoever (please don't take offense), tends to strike me more as the cry of a rather over-indulged diet of cinema than balanced evaluation... I totally agree with all your points regarding this, Mark.

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    Comment number 9.

    The BBFC's first duty is to us the consumer to give age appropriate ratings. If distributors are happy to accept their first decision then anything short of sexual violence will be allowed through uncut. Unfortunately the economics of movie making dictate that the bigger the budget the lower the rating.

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    Comment number 10.

    Dr. K,
    I feel I should expand my point: being an adult, if I saw an edited version of The Hunger Games, I would be pretty upset too. While I think it was appropriate to make cuts for a theatrical release where loads of kids would see the movie, it still kind of stinks for the movie-goers who are of age.

    I think the best solution is to release an unedited cut for the DVD. It’s only censorship if the unedited version is never allowed to see the light of day.

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    Comment number 11.

    Far as I'm concerned, this isn't that big of a deal. Lionsgate wanted a film that would reach a 12A audience, they submitted a film that was as near as dammit a 12A rating and tweaked it a bit to make sure they got the certificate they wanted. The BBFC did not insist on any cuts, they offered to release the film uncut at 15. It's a decision taken by the distributor. Marketing, plain and simple.

    And to be perfectly honest, I'd rather have that - an intelligent conversation between producers and BBFC to get the result everyone wants - than something like the case of Made in Dagenham. It strikes me that if Stephen 'Angry' Wooley really wanted this film to be seen by a wide audience he'd have toned the swearing down at script level, rather than childishly digging his heels in and bemoaning the BBFC as the reason his film didn't make any money. I've no sympathy for his predicament whatsoever; at best his argument is woefully naive, at worst it's just downright stupid.

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    Comment number 12.

    I saw Hunger Games last week and didn't think it was too violent. Mind you, this may be because I have "seen enough films" to have become anaesthetised to the violence, at least to some extent.

    In terms of the violence, I couldn't help some kind of comparison with Kubrick's Clockwork Orange.

    Someone mentioned the editing of Brüno earlier. I heard rumour that part of the reasoning of one particular edit (I think it was the Janet Jackson element) was to shew a level of respect to the passing of Michael Jackson.

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    Comment number 13.

    Without prejudice; Mark, I have not really heard you say anything bad about the BBFC... I remember when "BBFC" stood for something else (cannot possibly put in in this comment).

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    Comment number 14.

    I can't help but feel all those defending censorship are spectacularly missing the point. The film is available in the US UNCUT as a PG-13. Here it's CUT, as a 12.

    The fact that the studio made the cuts is totally irrelevant, the bottom line is that a UK 12/13 cert demands censorship, while an American 12/13 does not. There's simply less censorship in the US, at least where violence is concerned.

    The BBFC are totally out of line here, and need to bring their views into line with the rest of the modern world. The fact that they censored the return of British studio Hammer into the mainstream with the Woman in Black is even more disgraceful. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

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    Comment number 15.

    I like the idea of multi-certificate films, but hollywood can barely work out how to shoot for their target market as it is, which shows in The Hunger Games. The film sits on the blurry edge of censorship and I see it as a sign that the ratings system needs changing.

    This isn't a reactionary idea, ratings change all the time. Batman was released in cinema and on video with different certificates and many films undergo reclassification over the course of their life, especially if they become classics.

    I reckon, yes reckon, we've clearly reached a point where 12a and 15 distinctions are ultimately pointless. I would prefer to see a PG13 system in this country, which entirely does away with this nebulous 3-year gab.

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    Comment number 16.

    "The BBFC are more of an ally than a foe in the war on censorship"

    I'd agree with that. It's not as fiercely fought as the early 70's: The Devils, Music Lovers, Savage Messiah, Soldier Blue, Straw Dogs, Clockwork Orange etc.

    Arguments over classification categories, as opposed to outright censorship (suppression), are very different things.

    I've expressed an opinion before that 12A should mean no-one under 12 should be admitted – even with an adult. Otherwise the entire category system up to 15 is meaningless.

    I have sympathy with the ideal that adults should be able to decide what they are capable of viewing; clearly it will vary according to cultures.

    But, I also draw lines in the sand; principally over child abuse and child pornography, violence against women (or men) etc. and how it is depicted.

    Nowadays, it would probably be more controversial if someone seeking revenge in a movie decided to hand the villain over to the courts (and a lawyers etc) than a perform a cathartic killing at the end of the movie.

    There are few movies that explore the effects that violence (either as perpetrator or victim, or both) have on a person. e.g. Afghan & Iraq vets - and citizens.

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    Comment number 17.

    Since you addressed why "The Devils" has not been released in its extended cut, could you also please explain why it has not been released in Blu-Ray as well as DVD, as it is the custom nowadays?

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    Comment number 18.

    Could the question also be: editing, cutting etc: censorship or (maximising) commercialism? Or something like this?

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    Comment number 19.

    I would like to add that I saw the Hunger Games in America as the good doctor did, but i dont recall seeing anything that could have gained a 15 certificate here. I am usually in agreement with the BBFC on their decisions and most of the issues I have had with decisions have been with the content being too strong for the certificate it recieved. This leaves me bewildered as to why cuts were made at all.

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    Comment number 20.

    I'll be curious to see how The Woman in Black and The Hunger Games turn out on DVD/Blu Ray. Studios can make a lot of money from double-dipping, i.e. releasing an "uncut" version several months later with a higher certificate.

 

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