Monday, September 14, 2009
Ever since I first saw The Dark Knight back in July 2008, there has been one question I've had about the film that has stuck in my mind: Would it have been a different film if it was rated R?
It is obviously a blockbuster film, and I'm sure Warner Bros. wanted a PG-13 film all the way. However, that being said, Nolan had to have had some restrictions while writing and shooting this film to keep it at a PG-13 level. A lot of people have said this is a film that should have warranted an R rating, and it does come very close, but I am not asking whether or not the film warranted the correct rating. I'm wondering whether it would've been a different film if Nolan wrote this thing thinking it was going to be an R-rated movie.
The Dark Knight is a film that has been praised for transcending the superhero genre. It is arguably, along with Watchmen I would say, the darkest, grittiest superhero movie ever made, and for Chris Nolan to create such a memorable atmosphere with PG-13 limitations makes his work even more admirable.
Another thing that has been on virtually everyone's list of things that were great in the film is the performance of Heath Ledger. As Richard Roeper puts it, "The late Heath Ledger plays [The Joker] like the demented offspring of Alex from 'A Clockwork Orange'". That is really saying something about how disturbing of a character Ledger created. We all know that Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange is one of the most controversial films ever made, and for Ledger's work to be compared to McDowell's legendary performance shows how much they stretched that PG-13 rating. But, how much more disturbing could The Joker have been with an R-rating? Think about how much more they could've possibly done. One of the things about Ledger's villain is that the audience actually liked seeing him on screen because the performance was so entertaining. With an R-rating, Ledger and Nolan could've gone even further and created an incredibly repulsive villain. Would that have been better or worse?
Another thing I thought about was the visual appearance of Harvey Dent after he transforms into Two-Face. It was a disturbing sight, but anyone who has seen Let the Right One In knows how much more disturbing a deformed face could possibly look.
These are some of my thoughts, and I think it's an intriguing topic to consider. Would the movie have gotten more Academy Awards consideration if it were an R-rated film, and not a summer blockbuster? Possibly. Would Ledger have created an even more memorable character if there were less boundaries? Possibly. And I'm sure there had to have been ideas that Nolan left out because he had to keep it PG-13 appropriate.
What do you readers think? Would an R-rated The Dark Knight have been better or worse? Or would it not have mattered? Please weigh in with your thoughts below.