Monday, September 14, 2009

The Dark Knight: MPAA Mystery

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.


Rae Kasey said...

I think it was perfect as is. It still managed to break a lot of barriers as far as summer blockbusters and comic book movies are concerned, even with a PG-13 rating.

One thing it definitely wouldn't have accomplished with an R rating (at least not on the same scale) was that massive box office haul.

Danny King said...

It certainly wouldn't have grossed anything near what it actually did.

That's one of the reasons that I was a little mad that people were calling Watchmen a box-office bust. Sure, it didn't get as much as people thought, but it was an R-rated film that was almost 3 hours long. Synder didn't make that film to gross at the box office, he did it to stay truthful to the graphic novel.

J Michael Antoni said...

seeing the words A Clockwork Orange made my day

Midgard Dragon said...

I think the acting in this movie was overexaggerated just like Pulp Fiction and I don't believe Heath deserved an oscar for this movie. For me, it was a disappointment

Danny King said...

I disagree with your comments about Ledger's performance; I loved it, but that is something I'm guessing I can't convince you on.

But, in terms of the performances being overexaggerated, Ledger's work is the only performance in this movie that was given any serious Awards consideration. I don't see how the ensemble could've been overrated simply because none of the performances other than Ledger were considered Awards worthy -- even though they were.

Midgard Dragon said...

you just ruined your whole argument by first saying other performances weren't award worthy, and then they were?

Danny King said...

This is what I said: In my opinion, all the performances were very good, and deserved a little bit more recognition. BUT, in reality, only one of the performances got any Awards consideration, so your comment that the acting was exaggerated doesn't make much sense.

You compared it to Pulp Fiction, in which Travolta, Jackson, and Thurman all received Oscar nominations. That was not the case with The Dark Knight.

LuckyCricket said...

Very interesting article. While I think the tone would have remained the same, the film could have been more graphically intense like Watchmen---although that may have altered the film's thematic focus.

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