Banter: A Good Day to Rant Hard

And so it comes to this, Die Hard 5 aka A Good Day to Die Hard is getting one of these wretched symbols stuck on it.

I have been sitting on this issue for a Cinema Cocoa post for some time now, and this has finally tipped me over the edge. First of all, I see advantages to having the 12A certificate; it can bring younger audiences a little closer to mature, darker content instead of cuddling them with nothing but derivative, condescending mush constantly. I get that, I like that. But 12A is turning into a monstrosity that is slowly killing most of the mature film market.

A little explanation: what does 12A precisely entail? According to the British Board of Classification website:

“12A means that anyone aged 12 or over can go and see the film unaccompanied. The A stands for ‘accompanied’ and ‘advisory’. Children younger than 12 may see the film if they are accompanied by an adult (eg someone over the age of 18), who must watch the film with them.”

Please note the second sentence, “Children younger than 12 may see the film”.

When I was eleven years old, there was a film I obsessed about, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It was a 15 in cinemas so I couldn’t see it, but I wished I could. Eventually my family let me see it when we had it on good old VHS. I was so excited! Finally I get to see this thing which I had only seen clips of.
Another example is Aliens, even worse; it was an 18!

Fast-forward to 2009 and Terminator Salvation is released, the fourth film in the Terminator series. Say what you like about the film itself, I personally enjoyed it, but what really irked me was its 12A rating. I was working in a cinema when that film released, and nothing pained me more than to see little children going in to see it.

Yeah, because remember “Children younger than 12 may see the film”, a film born from a heritage of movies depicting such things as a man punching through another man’s chest to rip his heart out. You know, for kids!

Now it would appear I am jealous of these little children who get all of the toys immediately rather than having to wait… and yes, that might be partly true. But have you heard the phrase “good things come to those who wait”? I never moaned that I couldn’t see T2 or Aliens, I was hanging onto the day I would finally get to see them with bated breath! It was a thrill.

Putting aside my younger self’s personal discomfort, what offends me most about the 12A fiasco is what happens to our movies. Terminator Salvation was the first time I noticed the problem, but do you remember Taken 2? Same problem. A film driven purely by the motivation in seeing Liam Neeson beat the ever-loving crap out of bad guys reduced to down so “Children younger than 12 may see the film”. Why? Remember the Total Recall of 2012, the remake of Schwarzenegger’s bloody, angry 1990s sci-fi?
Of course you don’t remember it.
These hard, violent films that I grew up with are being de-fanged; their reason for existing (to be fantastic, bloody, intense and thrilling) is being replaced by the need for as many bums-on-seats as possible, by making it as bland and mediorce as necessary.

I ask why, but the answer is fairly obvious isn’t it?

Money…. Cash… Wonga… Dollar signs.

It is plain to see that the British audience (and even the Americans) have tired of old action movies. Schwarzenegger and Stallone’s two films The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head suffered badly upon release, so did they take one look at Bruce Willis’ upcoming Die Hard 5 with anxiety? Did they reconsider their decision for a 15 rating? Of course they did. Slap a 12A certificate on it and suddenly you have twice as many people going to see your film.

I hope you enjoy watching John McClane entertain eight year olds while you sit there trying to imagine it is 1988 again!

Plus the studios get the added bonus of everyone buying the “extended uncut super hardcore 18 rated DVD/Blu-ray” they will release. Hey look, they just doubled your price of admission!

I’m an easy-going person through-and-through… but take my word for it; if I could meet the person (or persons) responsible for these censors/certificates I would punch them. To me there is a pathetically low level of love for cinema behind these decisions.
To go back to Die Hard, the original film was one of the original and most classic violent action movies, it inspired a decade of action movies and more. It was Bruce Willis’ first cinematic role, and when you consider how iconic he has become as an action superhero, that is a massive piece of cinema history.

Oh and did I mention Die Hard was an 18 certificate here in the United Kingdom.

Sure times change, audiences mature and are subjected to a lot more than they had been twenty-five years ago… Watching Die Hard now would probably make it a 15 certificate. But it cannot be understated how massive the downgrade to a 12A certificate actually is!

Will there ever be the same sort of film production again? Will the 18 certificate be only reserved for laughably-bad horror films such as Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D?
Heck, I know some cinema chains have special “18 certificate” showings of 12A films so that adults can enjoy them. That is a great way to get around this awful predicament.

Maybe I am biased, but I find franchises like these should be for adults. So little kiddies can’t see them, fine; let them idolize them, let them develop that little thing called “patience” that is in short supply these days. Let adults sit and enjoy something for themselves for once, and when it can be available on DVD/blu-ray etc let parental discretion come into play.

Does the art of cinema need to be so fueled by money and profits now?

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