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Who Cut The Hunger Games?

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Mark Kermode | 11:42 UK time, Friday, 13 April 2012

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Comment number 18.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mark, can you please tell us whether you know if you liked Killer Joe or not yet!? You can't do a post on the film saying you're not sure yet and need time to think about it and then never get back to us. Please can you now give us your opinion on it.

  • Comment number 22.

    “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.” #6.

    People are clearly hoping Promethius will another Alien, and for it to have the same impact as Alien had. That's impossible. Alien's already been done.

    At best we might get suspense and maybe a shock moment or two. But rival Alien ~ it simply can't be done. In the first film having Ripley (a woman) as the last surviving crew member who finally blasts the Alien out of the airlock was quite revolutionary; if – as Empire has put on its cover - Noomi Rapace is the new Ripley then where's the surprise in that? (And since then we've also had Sarah Connor and countless other strong action heroines.)

    What I'm really hoping from Promethius is that Scott will have people anticipating another Alien - then pull the rug away from under the audience and give us something very different in tone, mood and imagination. A darker vision of 2001 would be fine by me, but would upset the Alien fan base that really want an Alien retread. But asking for something original may be asking too much from Promethius.

  • Comment number 23.

    I've been looking for an outlet for this thought for some time. I happen to be quite a squeemish person and have avoided a lot of films for fear of turning my stomach - the likes of Saw, Inglourious Basterds and Sin City for instance. I'm conscious that many films are cut for TV and cut for in-flight movies - arguably not very well.

    Now, a few years ago, Epic released a videogame for Xbox360, 18-rated, with the option to switch off swearing and/or blood. Hurrah! This is it. Why not offer the same options on DVDs, only sanctioned by the director (acknowledging that some would turn their nose up at the idea of an alternate edit, I'm sure)? I would often switch off 'blood/gore', others might switch off swearing or sex.

    Surely there are films you'd love to show your children except for one aspect or another? Amelie without the sex scenes, or Hot Fuzz without the language. Just a thought.

  • Comment number 24.

    Star Trek: The Motion Picture would be good in 3D. They'd have to redo some of the dated compositing, but the Enterprise and Vejur sequences could look stunning if handled with care. It might even add some depth to Shatner's acting :)

  • Comment number 25.

    On releasing simultaneous versions, it's not a film, but the second series of Torchwood was launched on the Wednesday night at 10PM in an 'adult' cut, but the following day at 7PM a 12-rated version went out.

  • Comment number 26.

    This trend worries me. When censorship is a marketing decision rather than an artistic or moral decision, we are on the same path as commercial TV and Radio (bland and safe). How long before advertisers/commercial partners (ie product placement) have their say to ensure the widest audience for THEIR marketing?

    Good art will challenge, and therefore always alienate and anger, a section of the public. If this anger is channelled towards the commercial decision makers/partners, we could compromise film making as a form of art.

  • Comment number 27.

    @SquidgyGoat The BBC have done that on several occasions; the later series of Buffy were shown cut at 6:45, then (mostly) uncut in a very late night repeat, a couple of episodes of Farscape got shunted to a special showing because they were essentially impossible to cut and still have anything left. It's a good approach, and with anything that being shown digitally it should be just as easy to do as it is to have multi-cut branching DVDs.

    I do tend to agree with Mark that the BBFC are in large part the good guys, but with the caveat that that's only true if they're making good decisions. It's unavoidable that a studio will want quite rightly want a 12A cert for something like the Hunger Games, and the collaboration with the BBFC allows them to release the 'strongest' version possible. Without it, the studio would have to produce an even more safe version to be sure of getting the 12A - releasing Hunger Games (only) at 15 would never have been an option.

    I'm not at all sure that they are making good decisions though - is it really more acceptable to make really quite nasty violence appear clean, bloodless and safe than it is to show it as nasty violence? Is it really true that children are at all harmed by hearing swear words, or credible that they don't hear them in real life as a matter of routine? Is it sensible to expect that all children will have the same level of development, or all parents the same ideas of what is acceptable? Does an age based system do anything to help people like Nathan Baseley @23 who are adults but still want to avoid some kinds of material? And if not, shouldn't the BBFC restrict itself to telling us what's in the films, and then leaving it to viewers (or their parents) to decide whether they should watch them or not?

  • Comment number 28.

    PLEASE DONT TOUCH DARK KNIGHT RISES!!! If it makes a 15...then it makes a 15.

  • Comment number 29.

    In my view the film-makers could have cut most of the first hour, left in the bloody bits and not lost any money because they'd have been able to have more screenings per day.

  • Comment number 30.

    There has been, to my knowledge, one film that has had two different rated versions released simultaniouly. "Bruno" was first released inthe cinema in an 18 rated version, then three weeks later a 15 rated re-cut version was released in conjunction with it.

  • Comment number 31.

    These kinds of edits don't especially bother me, as they clearly serve the self-serving purpose of increasing the audience. What does worry me however, is that even today films such as the Human Centipede and A Serbian Film are considered entirely unclassifiable and effectively banned in their original form. I don't care how disgusting the movies are - I have no desire to see either film myself, but the idea that films aren't being released purely on the basis of "shocking" content strikes me as quite absurd.

  • Comment number 32.

    I suppose the hair left worth splitting: you've mentioned that "the studios" were looking to enact cuts for marketing purposes. Whether this is censorship or artistic choice comes down to the question of authorship.

    If the studio is imposing cuts on an unwilling coterie of film makers then that might be viewed as censorship. It would be an oversimplification to take the auteur view that the director is literally the author, and perhaps for the purposes of the censorship discussion the author is whomever or whatever (despite the Supremes in the US granting corporate personhood) has contractoral final cut. Any "artists" who sign away final cut in order to produce as much as their vision as they can get away with can't really cry censorship. Studio producer driven films use the "artists" as guns for hire, and it is fair that they can make the decisions.

    Film is a collaborative art. It's easy to condemn some of the rotten studio fodder as "film making by committee". It's nearly always a committee; the quality of the committee, its make up and intentions, is what we see in the final product.

    You're right to point out that it does no good to get to precious about slight variations. While film making story telling is such an elastic medium that small edits can drastically alter meaning, this isn't always the case. Films have always been edited for territories. You can't say that films that were shot with multiple takes for "continental" versions nor the Laurel and Hardy's that reshot scenes with them parroting foreign tongues are somehow less valid and were obviously made with commercial not censorial motives.

    The real question is why no one edits the stupid out of Michael Bay movies, the self-indulgence out of Noah Baumbach or the navel gazing out of Malick or Van Sant or ....

  • Comment number 33.

    I'd love to see a 12A and 15-rated cut of Ridley Scott's Prometeus. Scott says he's filming both cuts. It would be great to cmpare the two. A 15 cut would be awesome because it would have loads of gore and everything Alienfans would want, but a 12A version would widen the appeal. I want to see both espiecially the 15 cut because Scott's promising a super-gruesome scene to rival John Hurt's gut rupture in the original.

  • Comment number 34.

    While there are some obvious solutions (such as two simultaneous releases with different certificates) surely it's the age old problem of censorship itself. Certification should merely be for guidance only and let people and parents decide. Other forms of art are rarely censored..I have never seen books or paintings censored or given certificates in this age for what makes it relevant to films? Because the masses see it? I think some of this feeds into cultural snpbbery about films although some will argue that it's because films are closer to reality or something.

  • Comment number 35.

    One of my guilty pleasures is SILVER DREAM RACER with David Essex.

    In the original cinematic release, (and subsequent video releases), Essex's character...

    SPOLIER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ...dies at the end of the movie.

    This ending makes sense, its what the whole movie was building up to.

    At the start, Nick Freeman, (Essex), has a brother who has died in a motor cross accident. The wife, (a lovely performance from Diane Keen), is so overwrought with anger at the very thing that dominated her dead husband's life that she begs Nick Freeman to take the Silver Dream Machine Motorcycle.
    (You know that it will eventually also take Nick's life).

    Later we have a scene where Nick's new love is talking about her also now dead ex husband who died motor cycle racing.

    Later still we have a very touching scene where Nick is talking to his Dad about how he used to be a boxer and Nick asks him why he gave up the sport. His dad tells him that you don't mess around with dangerous sports when you have a family but if he had have gone on he would have been the champion.

    Over and over again the film floods us with omens of this impending death of our lead character.

    Then, a DVD version of the film was released. Promoted and advertised with a brand new ending!!!

    In this edited version of the movie, it ends just before Nick's death scene, giving the impression he actually survives!!!!!!!

    Ruined the movie.

    (I don't consider it bad to reveal the 'unfortunate event' as you would have to be 'off your trolly' to know from the very start of the movie that it should happen).

    Bloomin' cuts!

  • Comment number 36.

    #(or rather 'not' know)

  • Comment number 37.

    One thing which is rather curious, in the world of video games an 18 rating is pretty standard. Most big titles are adults only, and yet sell very well.

    Why are films different? Why the need to pander to children? Better still, in the world of books, there is no censorship or rating system at all. Anything goes, for anyone of any age.

    Films seem stuck in a bizarre world of harsh censorship, be it self censorship to appease the BBFC's antiquated standards, or mandated by the censors themselves. (A Serbian Film for example) It has to end, the BBFC are totally out of control and should be completely overhauled or abolished.

  • Comment number 38.

    "The Devils" was not released on Blu-Ray cause WB would allow BFI to release it as a dvd, Criterion had a similar issue with Paramount but they have been allowed to release Blu-Rays of Paramount titles they license now.

  • Comment number 39.

    I was a projectionist when Spider-Man came out in in 2002, back in the good old days when a 12 was for people aged 12 and above.

    I remember when it was released here it grossed no where near its potential, then the BBFC brought in the 12a certificate and the box office picked up significantly.

    At that time Sony made a mistake with the cut of the film and took a hit in this country, but I was left thinking they should have been more responsible with the target audience of the film.

  • Comment number 40.

    This is a comedy, but when Sacha Baron Cohen did 'Bruno', both the 15-rated AND 18-rated were in cinemas simultaneously. Frankly could have done without either! x

  • Comment number 41.

    "One thing which is rather curious, in the world of video games an 18 rating is pretty standard. Most big titles are adults only, and yet sell very well."
    Because parents can buy an 18 game for their kids (as they can a DVD). There is no cinema equivalent for games.

  • Comment number 42.

    At the end of the day, this is a tent pole, mass market, summer blockbuster. the studio's primary driver is box office, not art. Doesn't mean it can't be good or artistically successful (I think it is) but it's existence is based on bums on seats. Commercial decisions come first with this film.
    whether you think that right or wrong, the people blaming the BBFC (although few people are) are firing well wide of the mark. They passed the film as a 15, end of. If the studio chooses to make cuts, it's on them not the BBFC.

  • Comment number 43.

    #37 moroboshi: "Why are films different?"

    Violence, Sex, even bad language are hot buttons. Film is very realistic at simulating these: Censorship of groups vs individuals is necessary arbitrary rating eg of age for public entertainment venues. The other mediums are considered parental responsibility for children at home.

    #42 Steve Tudor: ..."the studio's primary driver is box office, not art."

    Agree^. Is film the best medium for this story? Probably not, but it enables a mass audience to experience the story and is likely quite good.

    It's a really interesting story structure: Rites of passage, difference between adult world and children's. I wonder in the modern age whether schools make kids feel detached from the running of the adult world and such stories as these portray this?

  • Comment number 44.

    Honestly it does not really matter since even with a few extra seconds or minutes it would not rise this overhyped movie (yes even by you Mark) above mediocre. As that's what it is. More interestingly would be to know where did all the production money go especially since Hunger Games looks and feels extremely cheap in terms of locations and visual effects.

  • Comment number 45.

    Saw the Hunger Games on the weekend and came away thinking they needed to cut a damn sight more than 7 seconds.

    Twenty minutes should do it - Mark, if you haven't already,can we have a blog discussion as to why modern Holloywood movies are always so bloody long?????

  • Comment number 46.

    Bruno was originally released with an 18 rating - then, about a week after, released a 15-rated version. I remember this as I was on screen-watching duty at the time, and caught some 15 / 16 year-olds who had snuck into the 18-rated show. I pulled them out, and they didn't realise there was a 15-rated version that had been released the very same day, that they could've gone and seen legally. Unfortunately, I had to kick them out. So, re-cutting sometimes works - and sometimes doesn't!

  • Comment number 47.

    It seems to be more a matter of editing rather than censorship as the changes are decided by the filmmakers themselves. As regards the different US version that it is a question of which certificate is more accurate. There is nothing to say which version is more appropriate.

    Were there not cases in the past of films trying to avoid a U certificate? U certificates were seen as children's films so some films would add swear words or similar to get a higher rating.

  • Comment number 48.

    Very interesting arguments on both sides. A recent film that springs to mind that was screened successfully then recut to allow a younger audience to view it is the US release of The King's Speech.

  • Comment number 49.

    first off there was the woman in black then the hunger games then the cold light of day and now its Elfie Hopkins, its censorship plain and simple. welcome back the 1980s and video nasty ere. i bet james ferman is loving this rest his soul.

  • Comment number 50.

    Why must every film cater to the widest possible audience? Answer: money. Because of its subject matter, why can't this film be an 18? Answer: won't bring in as much dosh. When your kids have become adults, suggest to them that they should see it; no reason why as kids they should be allowed to see it, even if the characters are their age group.

    This is marketing, pure and simple. Cynical? Maybe. Remember THE TERMINATOR? A dystopian, futuristic, uncompromising thriller that was hideously transformed into The Cosby Show. First one was 18; second one 15; third one 12...I have NEVER forgiven them for that cynical rubbish. They are always compromising artistic vision for profit; if I were a director or a writer, I'd be pissed off at all my ideas going on on the cutting-room floor for that little bit of extra profit.

  • Comment number 51.

    There is a world of difference between a 12 year old and a 15 year old and what sort of films they should be allowed to see. It would be better if there was a finer distinction in classification, say 11, 13, 15.


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