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Batman. We Rate Him.

The story behind the 12A rating for the blockbuster.

Date 01/05/2005

The Batman franchise was given a boost in 2006 with a prequel directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia). As with all would-be blockbusters, the classification awarded it by the BBFC plays a significant part in the film’s success at the Box Office in the UK. The film was submitted with a 12A request which came as no surprise given the likely appeal of the film to younger audiences. It had also recently been awarded a PG-13, (a near 12A equivalent), by the American ratings organisation, the MPAA.

It is now quite common for some films, especially big budget productions, to come to the BBFC in an unfinished form for an ‘Advice Screening’. When distributors are hoping for a particular rating for their film, they show it to the BBFC in an unfinished state so that any issues or images which might result in a higher rating can be identified and, if necessary, removed before the final film is submitted. This was the case with Spider-Man 2 where a head butt was removed after the advice screening so that the film could receive a PG when it came in for its 'official' classification. All advice screenings are followed by the official BBFC viewing where distributors submit the final, finished work for classification.

The examiners at the Advice Screening for Batman Begins highlighted the work’s central classification issues of violence and horror which, they suggested, would probably result in the film receiving a 12A classification. These issues were picked up by the second team at the screening of the finished film who awarded the film a 12A after some deliberation.

With regard to the violence, examiners noted that it was similar to that seen in other 12A films such as The Bourne Identity and Spider-Man - the BBFC 12A Guidelines state that 'Violence must not dwell on detail...there should be no emphasis on injuries or blood…’. However, the examiners felt that the sheer volume of violence placed the film at the high end of 12A and when the film came in for its 'official' viewing, the horror elements were considered to be close to the 15 borderline, along the lines of current movies such as Constantine. Such observations had to be balanced with existing 12A precedents such as The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Spider-Man and Van Helsing in which horror plays a crucial part in the films’ storyline and action and forms a huge part of their strong appeal to younger audiences. After much discussion, it was decided that the obvious fantasy context of Batman Begins allowed containment of the horror episodes at the requested 12A but the proviso was that the film carried with it clear Consumer Advice - now known as BBFCinsight - (Contains strong, fantasy horror and moderate violence).

Other issues of infrequent mild language and drug references were noted and thought to be easily accommodated at 12A.

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