As a movie critic, I’ve seen countless films all of varying classifications – some very much warranted and some not.
Fermanagh and Omagh council have recently taken the decision, spurred on from a similar ruling involving Movie House owner Michael McAdam and Belfast City Council, to award Matt Reeve’s The Batman a 15A rating instead of the imposed 15 which the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) saw fit. Both councils, and the Movie House, argue that the 15A rating the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) deemed necessary means that any under 15 who wishes to see the film can just go across the border and enjoy it, thus taking profits from the Movie House.
Having seen The Batman, and enjoyed it immensely, I feel I can safely say that this ruling is a bad idea and let me outline why.
Firstly, a little history. When Batman first came on the scene in 1939, creator Bob Kane envisioned him as less a gadget-laden superhero and more of a hard-nosed detective straight out of the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel, defeating foes with his smarts rather than a bat-a-rang.
Throughout the character’s on-screen history, the 60s brought the technicolour, campy Batman of Adam West, followed up with Tim Burton’s broody hero in an art-deco Gotham. Joel Schumacher harkened back to the West era (almost sounding the character’s death knell), until Christopher Nolan gave Bats a more ‘grounded in reality’ shot in the arm and, well, the less said about Zac Snyder the better.
All these versions were made for entertainment, with the obvious intention of marketing it to the masses. The latest iteration of Batman is also for the masses, just not the younger masses.
The BBFC gave The Batman a 15 for ‘strong threat, violence’ while the parents’ guide on IMDB lists six counts of sex and nudity, 12 for violence and gore, five for frightening and intense scenes and two for profanity.
I accept that, for a 40-something like myself and most older teenagers, this might not amount to much, but the fact is that the rating is there for a reason.
What might not seem horrifying to some might be to others, and admittedly while The Batman is light on bloodletting (more claret would surely have pushed it to an 18), it is quite creepy with scenes of violence including people being blown up, electrocuted and mutilated.
No doubt parents will say ‘sure it’s a superhero film, I let them watch worse at home’ (which brings up an interesting conversation in itself). If that’s the case, then let the kids stay at home.
With illegal streaming it’s only a matter of time before The Batman is on a torrent site for under 15s to watch in the comfort of their own bedroom.
Another reason I have reservations is boredom. I personally wasn’t bored but at a bum-numbing 176 minutes The Batman is a LONG sit.
Anyone seeking the action-heavy Nolan days or the Burton-esque flamboyant villains are sure to be disappointed because this is DARK. Darkly lit and grittier than a dirt road, The Batman is a neo-noir with labyrinthine plotting, a lot of brooding and a lot of talking.
Those of us who enjoy a good mystery will lap it up, but with
the smartphone generation’s attention spans withering by the
day, boredom can and does set in easily. At the screening I attended (where the 15A rating applied), children well younger than 15 were in attendance were flitting in and out of their seats every so often, talking to parents and each other.
At one stage, one patron told a group of teenagers, clearly unhappy that Batman hadn’t punched anyone in a while, to ‘shut the bleep up!’
The Batman is a brilliant detective story, masterfully told by an expert filmmaker.
It is also however, a grown-up film for a grown-up audience and should be treated as such.
‘I accept that, for
like myself and most older teenagers, this might not amount
to much, but the fact
is that the rating is there for a reason’
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