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Run Times and Ratings – Are the BBFC and Hollywood losing the plot?

Hopefully you’ll have read about how great ‘Atomic Blonde’ is. How incoherent and rushed ‘The Dark Tower‘ is. And also how uneasy you’ll likely be, sat, biting your nails during ‘Annabelle: Creation‘.

So I won’t spend any time going over that. Instead I’ll try and explain two themes I noticed while watching all three on the same day. (Don’t judge me, I was on “catch up mode” post-Holidays). I’m pleased there is some semblance of a link too, as I’ll admit the triple-bill looked “eclectic” at best. It was far more about trying to get all three in before they vanish.

Overall I’m glad I did. Even ‘The Dark Tower‘ – although, The Shining aside, it did nothing to join up a Stephen King extended universe like the one I had conjured in my head.

Annabelle: Creation‘ jumped the shark a bit in the last ten for me – and it self imploded in the final minute. But other than that, it did its job.

The biggest surprise of the day? ‘Atomic Blonde‘. Get me an extended universe now, where John Wick can team up with Charlize again – after I was never given ‘The Devil’s Advocate‘ sequel I craved. She’d kick his ass, too…and be the only person immune to Keanu’s beautiful facial hair. I truly loved it.

But it has a major draw back for me. And this is where the Grandad Klaxon rings loud and true…

It’s 2017. Know how we can tell? I’ll tell you. In a ’15’ rated film, we can now have a full on lesbian sex scene (I’m not complaining). We can have the heroine appear naked in her first scene (again, I’m not complaining… but feminists, tell me… how does this sit?) and we can  have the people stabbed in the face with keys. Yes, keys. Plus a knife fight that had me wincing more than anything in ‘Annabelle: Creation‘. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a staggeringly well shot scene – but Jesus, it’s brutal. My biggest gripe, though? A ‘C-Bomb’. In a ’15’. In the opening bloody scene.

Theme 1: Have the BBFC lost it – and don’t have a clue how to certificate films anymore?

Atomic Blonde‘ is hardly the first to truly make my jaw drop at what can “pass” nowadays, but I sat there thinking this must be a first. A ‘C-Bomb’ in a ’15’ rated film.

Deep in the annals of Live For Films are many reviews of Marvel films from me, specifically the X-Men films, where I bemoan the ‘F-Bomb’ in them. They’re ’12A’s, and I think fundamentally, an ‘F-Bomb’ categorizes a film as a ’15’. Not that we’d want 15 year olds using that word, but on the basis that we certainly wouldn’t want a 12 year old using it.

Would we? Is it me? Or have the BBFC lost it?

I should stress I’m no stranger to the word. The BBFC warning even implies the language will be strong, so I knew it was likely coming. But in the opening scene? It seemed so unnecessary. It’s not even uttered by James McAvoy – which is a wasted opportunity for him with the word being a theme in ‘Atonement‘ and also the ridiculously great Filth. James is probably busy breaking the fourth wall, to be fair. Something that’s done brilliantly here – including blood splashes on the camera.

Throw in the sex scene, the endless violence, and the continued swearing (20+ F-Bombs), and you have yourself an ’18’ rated thriller. Surely?

So what is the theme between these films?

Well 95 minutes or not, ‘The Dark Tower’ is a ’15’ for me. You can see the film wants to be effective in its horror scenes (it’s not), but has been trimmed to a ’12A’, for no major reason other than to get bums on seats. My 9 year old is keen to see, and he’s seen far worse. As it is, I found it all a bit crap, and wished I’d waited 2 months (bet you), for it to drop on to US iTunes.

To complete the theme, ‘Annabelle: Creation‘ is an 18. Pure and simple. Stacked up against something like ‘The Shining‘, or ‘The Exorcist‘ even, something needs to give. Either older certificates are revisited, or new ones match the old ones pound for pound. There’s no better recent example than ‘Alien‘ remaining an ’18’, and ‘Alien: Covenant‘ being a ’15’. How? HOW?

When I used to visit Blockbusters (told you I was a Grandad), ’18’ rated films carried the certificate almost like a badge of honour. I knew what I could and couldn’t likely see – and that was that. If I follow the BBFC’s guidelines (I won’t), my Son sees the Alien films out of sync and that’s just plain wrong.

So is it me – or have the BBFC lost it?

Theme 2: Is Hollywood losing the plot with film run times?

We’ve brought this on ourselves, in many respects. It’s too long. It’s boring. Super hero films have become more bloated. Now? Based on this triple-bill, Hollywood seems as confused as its audience. What’s a good run time?

Atomic Blonde’, spot on. How rare is that? I wouldn’t trim a thing and the end pay off? Great – and far from the Tolkien ending upon ending Hollywood is guilty of, it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. It’s use of flashbacks, and flash forwards doesn’t take its audience as idiots, either. Throw in some ‘To Live And Die In L.A’ inspired opening credits and I was hooked. I even liked the graffiti place settings. It whizzed by.

The Dark Tower’? Wow. Now I can see where the ‘Suicide Squad‘ haters were coming from. As someone that’s never, and won’t ever, read the books, it jumps all over the place. I found some middle ground where I started to enjoy it – but seriously, how is this film 95 minutes long? Who thought cutting and cutting was the answer?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of asking an audience to fill in some details – but thank god I had steak night with two massive fans of the books that filled me in a bit. There’s a genuine chance a lot may not have joined up at all, if not.

Why would it be cut to this length? It has to be bums on seats again, doesn’t it? What other recent major blockbuster has been that brief?

As it is, the brevity meant I could walk from film to film to film, and not miss any, and skip the adverts. Trust me, this is the holy grail of a triple-bill!

Finally, ‘Annabelle: Creation‘, and that final ten. Why outstay your welcome? Trim that down by ten minutes and you’ve got gold. As the film had to get bigger and more grisly (or at least felt like it needed too), it jumped the shark. Nuked the fridge. Lost me.

But Hollywood seems to carry on making the same mistakes. Too long. Too short. It’s truly rare for me at least, for a film to be spot on. Each to their own, I guess. You’ll all have bum ache during ‘Justice League’ and Scorcese/Tarantino’s next – and I’ll wish they were both 5 hours long.

My overriding thoughts of the day should have been about how well ‘The Dark Tower‘ promoted ‘IT‘. Or how the last 20 of ‘The Dark Tower‘ were a post-Craig 007 audition, Idris gets the job.

Instead I’ll probably have nightmares about that damn Nun. And champagne to celebrate how great Theron is (I’ve always loved her), and what a great year McAvoy is having. Roll on ‘Glass‘!

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