When you try to think back over the decades and the films that came out during those years, you think about the kind of films that were released and how different they are to the films of today. Back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s the cinema had a huge choice of films for adults and children, but as the millennium hit there are less and less adult based movies hitting the big screen and more films intended as family entertainment have arrived, which has made 18 or R rated movies from major Hollywood studios a rarity. So what happened?
During the 70’s we had classic adult themed movies like “A Clockwork Orange (1971)”, “The Godfather (1972)”, “The Exorcist (1973)”, “Alien (1979)”, “Saturday Night Fever (1977)” and “Taxi Driver (1976)”. All are 18 rated and are considered all time classics that are still talked about and loved today. The 80’s gave us “The Terminator (1984)”, “Aliens (1986)”, “RoboCop (1987)”, “The Thing (1982)”, “Predator (1987)”, “The Shining (1980)” and “Die Hard (1988)” amongst others that were again 18 rated films at the time and are again considered classics and are still enjoyed by many today. The 90’s gave us such 18 rated films such as “Goodfellas (1990)”, “Casino (1994)”, “Reservoir Dogs (1992)”, “Pulp Fiction (1994)”, “Silence of the Lambs (1991)”, “Se7en (1995)”, “The Usual Suspects (1995)”, and “Leon (The Professional in the USA) (1994)” and again considered classics and there are more than those films alone. When you get to the 2000’s the list gets smaller especially when trying to consider what you would call a classic. The ones I can think of right now are “The Departed (2006)”, “Sin City (2005)” and “Inglourious Basterds (2009)” and that’s all as the market gets saturated with 12A or PG13 movies. 2010 on wards, “Wolf of Wall Street (2013)” and “Django Unchained (2012)” are the only ones that are rated 18 that can achieve classic status as of writing this.
So now we have a market of Hollywood movies that have been made purely to make money and nothing else. 1999 saw the beginning of the Comic Books Movies when “X-Men (1999)” arrived and suddenly Marvel, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and eventually Disney after acquiring Marvel Pictures start to flood the market with movie after movie after movie based on Comic Books or Graphic Novels. True you can say “The Dark Knight (2008)” became one of the greatest films ever made but it pushed the limits of the 12A rating and had a strong story making it a classic, others are good but not classics by any stretch of the imagination. At first I enjoyed these films but I’m getting less and less enthusiastic about them. The 12A first came in so under 12’s could see the film with an adult after hundreds of under 12’s could not see “Spider-Man (2002)” when it came out as it was just a 12 rating, so PG (Parental Guidance) became rather redundant as a rating as you must be over 12 to see a PG rated in the cinema without an adult, but it also came into effect after “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)” came with the warning “May not be suitable for Under 8’s” after just getting the PG rating, so the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) introduced the 12A law so this could not happen again. So 12A is the UK’s version of the US’ PG13 where anyone under that age must have a parent with them to view this film. What does this do? It creates an opportunity for movie producers to make a quick buck and to create family rated entertainment. That is not necessarily a bad thing but when it’s the only option out there when you go to your local multiplex it gets frustrating for adults to find the film that they want to see and not what a child wants to see. It gets even more frustrating when the adult films you loved get re-made as PG13 films, like “RoboCop (2014)” got a PG13 unlike the 80’s original that got a 12A. “Total Recall (2012)” got the 12A remake even though it’s original fan base was the adults the originals was made for, so why do this? Simple, money, it’s all about making money fast. But how do you class what a film should be by modern standards? The BBFC have relaxed their policies in recent years, “The Terminator” being a good example, in the 80’s and 90’s the film was rated 18 by the BBFC, then in 2001 a re-mastered version of the film was released on VHS and on the new DVD format and the rating was lowered to a 15. Some could argue “The Dark Knight” released in 2008 was a darker film than Tim Burton’s “Batman” in the 80’s yet Burton’s got a 15 rating and “The Dark Knight” got a 12A, if it had come out in the 90’s many believe it would have at least got a 15 rating but as I mentioned before standards have dropped slightly and polices in film classification have changed. Movies that were banned in the 70’s are now getting a commercial release all because the bar for gore and shock value has changed dramatically over the past few decades.
Speaking of 15 ratings, that seems to be the limit that Hollywood studios seem comfortable with when producing a big budget movie. The most adult movies I have seen recently that have not been torture porn or gore feasts have been “John Wick (2015)” and “The Equaliser (2014)” which were both rated 15 and both were commercial success’ meaning sequels are on the way. Had they got an R or 18 rating they may have made less money and no sequel would have been commissioned, a good modern example of that is the 2012 film “Dredd (2012)” which was an adult comic book movie adaptation appealing to adults and got a 18 rating in the UK and an R rating in the US and it failed to reach its financial target. As such all sequels for “Dredd” have been put on ice despite it being a good film and despite fan appeals online. Fox have entered the same risk by doing “Deadpool (2016)” as an R rated film next year and time will tell to see if that gamble pays off but less adults are now seeking the cinema for their dose of adult themed entertainment as the cinema is now seen as the family outing 12A rated entertainment as the market is flooded with those films. I remember being a small child and my parents went to films on their own while I was left with a child minder as it was their outing, I went to the cinema more often as a teen and I can count only three occasions before I was 10 when my family took me to the cinema.
So where do adults turn to now to watch what they want and get their dose of adult entertainment? I give you the rise of the TV box sets. With the advent of DVD and Blu-Ray you can now purchase a complete TV series in a smaller easier to handle box set, unlike the giant VHS’ you used to get. Now adults will spend hours and hours watching their favourite TV shows in one sitting. Now with services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu in the USA Internet streaming of these shows has taken effect. Some could argue “South Park” started this adult TV show rise in 1997 and the show is still going strong today, they even released an R rated movie that their own producers tried to get them to do as a PG13, thankfully they declined. “Family Guy” went from being very similar to “The Simpsons” but after major sales of their box sets by young adults they turned to edgier content appealing more to the older generation. HBO has had a huge rise in adult entertainment with shows like “The Sopranos”, “True Detective”, “The Wire”, and recently “Game of Thrones” which all have or had movie based budgets per episode. Netflix is now producing their own shows for adults in mind after the success of acquiring the rights to “Breaking Bad” which took the adult world by storm when it arrived. It became the biggest show for adults since “The Wire” on HBO, recommended by everyone and the one show no one would shut up about. Netflix are now producing Marvel comics as adult shows with “Jessica Jones” getting a dark TV show starting within the next few weeks and “Daredevil” getting rave reviews compared to its rather poor movie. So why are TV companies paying movie based budgets for their TV shows now? Because adults are paying huge sums of money to watch them on DVD or Blu-Ray, they are paying Netflix close to £10 a month to stream these shows as they are fed up with the cinema which is no longer for adults, it’s no longer a place where a husband and wife can escape from the kids, the kids now go with them. They have turned to TV to fulfil their desires for adult based programming. More and more TV shows are entering the mix and the momentum shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. More shows based on the adult movies of the 90’s are getting a TV show now with “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Fargo” getting the TV treatment. Adults will pay to watch these while children can’t and there is the difference in the market. An adult will spend more on himself for home video entertainment than his child as children’s TV shows are rarely released as big expensive box sets as it’s not the kids with the money, it’s the adults. Kids get the £10 DVD movie while the Dad gets the £40 complete TV box set of “Breaking Bad”, kids have the movies now.
So how can cinema win back the adults and will they? When I go to the cinema the only adult 18 rated films are poorly made horror films that all look the same and I’d rather see a film similar to “Die Hard” which has fallen to the PG13 era, the fourth film had a harder edged cut only released on DVD as the cinema had a watered-down version to make more money but the history of those films is an adult audience. “AVP: Alien Vs Predator (2004)” was released as a PG13 in the USA and the backlash was huge as the audience of the originals of the films it was based on was and is adults, they were R and 18 rated films so why was the film designed to be a PG13? I can think of only two directors who can make an R or 18 rated film and the producers will back them as they have a proven track record, they are Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Scorsese has made only one family movie and that was “Hugo (2011)”, other than that his films have been made for an adult audience. Tarantino has never and never will make a family film as that’s not his style. Maybe Hollywood should give more young directors a shot at making stronger edgier films as the next Tarantino or Scorsese is being turned away in favour of a Michael Bay film. Let’s face it, “Transformers (2007)” was a bit of mindless fun, but in twenty years people will forget that film and it won’t have a lasting legacy, 22 years after “Pulp Fiction” we are still talking about it and buying it on DVD and Blu-Ray. Scorsese is one of the most respected and admired directors and next year it will be 40 years since “Taxi Driver” and we are still talking about it today, yes De Niro I am talking about you, and it’s still a massive hit. In forty years time no one will care about “Transformers” and Michael Bay will probably be remembered as this eras Ed Wood, and a lot of the 12A and PG13’s we have been hit with will be forgotten in 40 years time and no one will care. There will be no legacy for a lot of them. Some will be, “Star Wars (1977)” is still being talked about today and will be forever more as it was mind blowing, had a strong story and was actually entertaining for everyone. All films don’t have to be for adults but producers should not be afraid to take a risk on an R rated film every now and then as some can be financial successes. Why not make two cuts of a film, a 12A cut for families and a 15/18 cut for adults to be shown later in the day? It could have been done for “Die Hard 4.0 (2007)”; the harder cut on DVD was a better film in my eyes. Ridley Scott cut two versions of “Prometheus (2012)”, an R and a PG13 cut, the producers thankfully saw sense and went for the R rated version but some films can have two cuts so if producers want to make more money on a film why not just do two cuts? Some films just can’t have this but some can, but thinking about it more it probably isn’t practical and that’s the problem. As long as we stupidly pay to see these films they are going to keep making them and the legacy of this decade of films is going to suffer for it.
People are seeing this as the golden age of TV shows, and it truly is as we get deeper stories and better character development. 20 to 40 years time we may still be talking about “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad”, just like 50 years later we are still talking about “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek” which celebrates 50 years next year. We will remember these great awesome TV shows that we watched while sat on a sofa drinking wine and watching episode after episode after episode. Will we remember half the CGI messes of crap we have been force fed by the Hollywood PG13 machine? Will we remember half the comic books movies being made today? I doubt it as many are trying to forget them even now.