In November 2005 Peter Jackson’s big budget remake of King Kong was submitted to the BBFC for an advice viewing. An advice viewing is a facility we offer distributors in which works (sometimes unfinished) can be viewed by a senior or experienced examiner who can give the company advice as to the likely category a work will receive. Sometimes companies alter films on the basis of this to make it more likely that they will achieve a desired category.
The film company UIP stated that they were keen to get a 12A classification for the film, which had been classified PG-13 in the US.
After the viewing they were informed that the work was indeed likely to receive a 12A. The issues noted by the examiner included frightening scenes, moderate horror, human characters in grave danger and some moderate but not strongly detailed violence. The clear fantasy setting and elements (such as dinosaurs and the giant ape) were felt to mitigate the intensity of the work, but nevertheless the advice examiner felt a PG would not provide adequate warning to parents and other cinema goers.
Following the advice viewing the film was then submitted formally and viewed by a team of examiners who also felt that, though the film contained some frightening sequences and horror elements, the fantasy mitigation meant it could easily be contained within the BBFC Guidelines at 12A.
The 12A means that the BBFC considers the film suitable for 12 year olds and over, but that if parents wish to take mature younger children, they may do so at their own risk as long as they accompany them throughout the film. However if parents wish to take children under 12 years old to see a 12A rated film, they should consider carefully the BBFCinsight before they do so, and also consider how robust the child is. The Consumer Advice warned very clearly of 'Frightening elements, moderate violence and frequent peril'. The Guidelines at 12A allow for 'sustained threat' and that is what the film was seen to have delivered.
Some scenes noted in the discussion were the chases on the island; the terror of human characters throughout that sequence and back in New York; the violence (such as spear throwing) when the troupe of actors and adventurers meet the island natives and the scene where the slug creature devours the man by sucking his head. It was noted that there was no gory or bloody detail in any of these scenes and much of the strongest violence involved fantasy creatures fighting each other.
The film became a UK and US box office success over the Christmas period.
The level of complaints about the 12A rating was very low and mostly concerned the admission of children under 12 to the film - which suggests that the 12A did not confound public expectations. The couple of letters received stated that parents had taken some very young children (from 3 - 8 years old) who found some of the intense scenes a little distressing - which is not that surprising given the 12A rating.
The film was passed 12 on video as was the tie-in video game.