American Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films – Page 2

1990s to 2010s American science fiction and fantasy movies that have been censored for more commercially friendly classifications.


Total Recall

Directed by Paul Verhoeven / 1990 / USA / IMDb

On 4 June 1990, TOTAL RECALL received an R (Very frequent violence). It was said to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

At 104-minutes, it was around nine minutes shorter than an uncut running time. A PAL VHS was a likely source as the OFLC reported it under ‘Classifications assigned to films for sale/hire’. In addition, it may have been an unfinished print.

A censored 109-minute 35mm print dropped it to M (Frequent violence, Coarse language) on 18 June. The violence and language were:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Failed review

Despite the lower rating, ‘contractual agreements’ forced Hoyts Fox Columbia Tristar Films to go back and appeal the uncut R-rating.

June 28, 1990
Decision Reviewed
Classify ‘R’ by the Film Censorship Board

Decision

TOTAL RECALL, a futuristic science-fiction adventure starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, was classified ‘R’ by the Film Censorship Board because of its violence. A modified version was submitted by the film’s Australian distributors and classified M’. It was subsequently discovered that contractual agreements between the director and the producers of the film prevented any version being screened with cuts or modifications. The modified version was therefore withdrawn and an appeal lodged against the original ‘R’ classification. This appeal was considered by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

The distributors contended in a submission to the Board that the film’s violence was “tongue-in-cheek” and not to be taken seriously; that the film was pure fantasy in keeping with the comic-strip characters usually portrayed by Schwarzenegger; and that the violence was no more likely to seem real than that of many cartoons.

 TOTAL RECALL is an expensive film. The special effects are elaborate. The production values are impressive. It is true that the story has a comic-strip flavour, but its tone is by no means light-hearted. The film depicts a fashionably pessimistic view of the future – a world of greater greed and violence unmitigated by greater technological prowess. The action is menacing rather than escapist, and there is a message of sorts at the end. To say that the film is in no way to be regarded as a serious work seemed to us disingenuous; the director presumably took the film seriously enough to forbid any cuts. But even if TOTAL RECALL were a manifestly frivolous film its violence would still have formidable impact. It is frequent, intense, and calculated.

Members of the Board of Review were in no doubt that it exceeded the limits of an ‘M’ classification. All of it was explicit; much of it was highly detailed, and some of it at least was relished. Both individually and cumulatively the violent sequences contributed to a prevailing tone of ruthlessness and savagery. Some of us felt though such judgements, of course, are ones for the director – that the film would have been no less successful if the violence had been less pronounced. Others of us who enjoyed TOTAL RECALL for its spectacle and technical accomplishment, and might have been tempted to treat such a commercially ambitious and potentially popular film with greater indulgence, were nevertheless mindful of the film’s power to disturb and its possible effects on young audiences.

All of us agreed that TOTAL RECALL, in its uncut version, had been properly classified ‘R’ by the Film Censorship Board, and accordingly we affirmed the ‘R’ classification.

– Films Board of Review report

Censored cinema

In October 1990, a 112-minute 35mm TOTAL RECALL passed as M (Frequent violence, Coarse language).

Total Recall (1990) - Australian daybill movie poster 1
Daybill via moviemem

Paul Verhoeven’s ‘contractual agreement’ against a modified version appears to have changed as it finally opened theatrically in December 1990.

VHS options

In June 1991, Columbia Tristar Hoyts Home Video issued both M and R versions on tape.

Total Recall (1990) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – RCA/Columbia/Hoyts

The spine of the R listed it as ‘Total Recall (Uncut R Version)’ while a star on the cover advised ‘M rated version also available’.

Total Recall (1990) - VHS videotape 2
VHS – RCA/Columbia/Hoyts – Spine

Sell-through releases on CEL Home Video followed in July 1992.

May 29, 1992
Cinema version (M-rated) and the special-release R-rated version.
Both versions of TOTAL RECALL are available in this release. The original cinema release, the M-rated version, is available at 104 minutes, while the R-rated version runs at 109 minutes and contains spectacular, previously edited scenes.

– CEL Home Video

The remainder of the 1990s saw several other sell-through editions.

What’s cut? M vs. R

According to Cutting Edge, the M-rating ‘…removed some footage outright, but in the main utilized alternate footage and camera angles of contentious shots that had been filmed for American television screenings’.

Uncut MA15+

In December 2005 and July 2010, Universal Pictures received MA15+ (Strong Violence) ratings for ‘Special Edition’ DVDs.

An ‘Ultimate Rekall Editionl’ Blu-ray received the same in September 2012.

The classification matrix described,
Strong impact: violence
Moderate impact: language, nudity, sex
None: themes, drug use

Total Recall (1990) - Blu-ray cover 1
Blu-ray – Universal Sony

The consumer advice changed to MA15+ (Strong violence and sex scenes) for a ‘Classics Remastered’ Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD in October 2020.

The classification matrix increased to,
Strong impact: violence, sex
Moderate impact: themes, language, nudity
Mild impact: drug use

Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment submitted both.

MPAA X-rated footage

In the US, the MPAA initially awarded TOTAL RECALL an X, leading it to be cut. The IMDb has details of the modifications.

The footage remains unrestored, possibly lost, so the MPAA R-rated print remains the worldwide default ‘uncut’ version.


Predator 2

Directed by Stephen Hopkins / 1990 / USA / IMDb

In December 1990, an uncut 35mm print of PREDATOR 2 received an R (Some graphic violence, Drug abuse, Assaultive coarse language).

Violence and language
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Other: Drug abuse

Later that month, a censored version dropped to M (Frequent violence, Assaultive coarse language).

Violence and language
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Sex
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Predator 2 (1990) - Australian daybill movie poster 1
Daybill via moviemem

Hoyts Fox Columbia Tristar Films released the censored version theatrically.

R vs. M – The cuts

It is unknown why the R-rated ran 107-minutes and the M-rated 103. The press sheet lists the longer running time.

GnC Films noted in their YouTube video the removal of only 00:45 to reduce drug use, language and violence.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (au) – Blu-ray – 108:00
06:15 – A member of the Colombian Scorpions snorts cocaine before going into battle.

07:30 – El Scorpio (Henry Kingi) snorts cocaine.

17:45 – Mike (Danny Glover) says, ‘This means your cutting of my dick and shoving it up my ass’.

24:15 – Gold Tooth (Michael Mark Edmondson) sacrifices Cory (Ramon Vega) by stabbing him in the stomach.

25:00 – One of the Jamaican Voodoo Posse is repeatedly shot against a wall. A second is stabbed from behind by the Predator and lifted by its claws.

27:15 – Jerry (Bill Paxton) is startled by a skinned hanging body and says, ‘fuck, Oh God’.

Censored VHS

In March, a 105-minute ‘Edited Version’ VHS of PREDATOR 2 again received an M (Frequent violence, Assaultive coarse language). Violence, language and sex were at the same levels as the initial classification.

CBS/Fox Video, the applicant, released the tape in May.

Predator 2 (1990) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – CBS Fox

In 1993, Fox Video reissued it on sell-through with the same cover.

A 101-minute VHS received an M (Medium level violence, Horror theme) in June 1995. The running time and rating indicate a censored version. A tape may not exist as Australis Media, the applicant, was a pay-tv provider.

Uncut VHS

A 1997 VHS double-bill, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, paired the sequel with PREDATOR (1987). The cover labelled it M-rated. Despite this, PREDATOR 2 was uncut for the first time in Australia.

The ‘Bonus Material’ promised on the cover consists of the original theatrical trailers and a ‘behind the scenes’ featurette for the sequel.

Predator 2 (1990) - VHS videotape 2
VHS – 20th Century Fox

Peter F. reports
’10th Anniversary Double Pack Collector’ Edition’ VHS vs. Uncut DVD.
103:28 approx. (PAL) – Fox logo and Credits included – VHS.
103:33 (PAL) – DVD (Special Edition).

Fox Home Entertainment issued a second uncut VHS in 2002. The cover art matched their 2001 DVD.

DVD & Blu-ray

Multiple uncut DVDs and Blu-ray have been issued by Fox, with varying degrees of classification confusion.

The first came in 2001 from Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD carried the 1991 R-rating but omitted any consumer advice. A double-feature DVD, with PREDATOR (1987), was similarly classified.

Predator 2 (1990) - DVD cover 1
DVD – 20th Century Fox

In March 2005, a ‘Special Edition’ DVD received an MA (High level violence, Drug use, Medium level sex scene, Medium level coarse language). Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment issued the disc.

Predator 2 (1990) - DVD cover 2
DVD – 20th Century Fox

Uncut DVDs released in 2007, 2008, and 2018 were incorrectly labelled as M-rated.

Peter F. reports
One Disc Edition DVD, 2008, M (Frequent violence, Assaultive coarse language).
103:35 (PAL) – 00:02 longer than the previous MA15+ ‘Special Edition’ DVD.

All Blu-ray and 4K UHD releases carry the correct MA15+.


Bumblebee

Directed by Travis Knight / 2018 / USA / IMDb

On 20 November 2018, a 114-minute DCP of BUMBLEBEE passed with an M (Action violence).

The classification matrix described,
Moderate impact: violence
Mild impact: themes, language
Very mild impact: drug use, sex
None: nudity

A second submission, also 114-minutes, received the same rating and classification matrix on 4 December. Modifications made by Paramount Pictures Australia targeted a PG.

The following day, the Classification Review Board announced they would meet on 11 December to reconsider the decision.

M to PG

The appeal saw the censored M-rated version drop to PG (Mild science fiction violence and mild themes. Some scenes may scare young children).

The violence in the classification matrix went from ‘moderate impact’ to ‘mild impact’, while the drug use and sex dropped from ‘very mild impact’ to ‘none’.

December 11, 2018
Members:
Ms Fiona Jolly [Convenor]
Ms Susan Knowles (Deputy Convenor)
Mr Peter Attard (Member)

Applicant:
Paramount Pictures Australia

Interested parties:
Australian Council on Children and the Media

Business:
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the film BUMBLEBEE M (Mature) with the consumer advice ‘Action violence’.

Decision and reasons for decision

1. Decision The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the film BUMBLEBEE PG (Parental Guidance) with the consumer advice ‘Mild science fiction violence, mild themes, some scenes may scare young children’.

2. Legislative provisions The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) (the Classification Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions.

The Review Board

Part 5 of the Classification Act outlines the provisions relevant to the Review Board and its procedures. Section 42 of the Classification Act sets out the persons who may apply for review of a decision:

a) the Minister

b) the applicant for classification of the film, or the likely classification of the film under section 33

c) the publisher of the film, or

d) a person aggrieved by the decision.

Section 43 sets out the conditions regarding the manner and form of applications for review, including time limits. Under section 44, the Review Board must deal with an application for review in the same way that the Classification Board deals with an application for classification of a film.

Classification of films under the Classification Act

Section 9, subject to section 9A, provides that films are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines. Section 9A states that a film that advocates the doing of a terrorist act must be classified RC.

Section 11 of the Classification Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a film include the:

a) standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;

b) literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the film;

c) general character of the film, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

d) persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

The National Classification Code

Relevantly, the Films Table of the National Classification Code (the Code) provides that: [Films (except RC films, X 18+ films, R 18+ films, MA 15+ films and M films) that cannot be recommended for viewing by persons who are under 15 without the guidance of their parents or guardians are to be classified PG.

The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible:

a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want

b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them

c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive

d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

(i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence and,

(ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

The Guidelines Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines for the Classification of Films 2012 (the Guidelines), determined under section 12 of the Classification Act, the:

– importance of context

– assessment of impact, and

– six classifiable elements—themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

3. Procedure

Three members of the Review Board met on 11 December 2018 in response to the receipt of an application from Paramount Pictures Australia on 4 December 2018 to conduct the review of the film BUMBLEBEE, which had previously been classified M (Mature) by the Classification Board. The Review Board determined that the application was a valid application.

The Review Board was provided a written submission from the Applicant and heard an oral submission from the Applicant.

The Review Board viewed the film.

The Review Board was provided a written submission from the Australian Council on Children and the Media.

The Review Board then considered the matter.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

In reaching its decision, the Review Board had regard to the following:

(i) Paramount Pictures Australia’s application for review

(ii) Paramount Pictures Australia’s written and oral submissions

(iii) a written submission received from the Australian Council on Children and the Media

(iv) the film, BUMBLEBEE

(v) the relevant provisions in the Classification Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and

(vi) the Classification Board’s report.

5. Synopsis

The film is a science fiction action film set in the late 1980s which relates the tale of the Autobot Bumblebee who has sought refuge in a Californian town. Bumblebee, having assumed the appearance of a yellow VW beetle, is found by Charlie, an 18-year-old girl coming to terms with her father’s death. The film depicts the Decepticons coming to earth to find Bumblebee and their trail of deception as they find and are inevitably disposed of by Bumblebee, his friend Charlie and several other characters.

6. Findings on material questions of fact

The Review Board found that the film contains aspects or scenes of importance under various classifiable elements:

(a) Themes—The film includes the theme of a teenager coming to terms with the death of her father, and two depictions of bullying behaviour toward Charlie by other young people.

The impact of this element is no higher than mild and can be accommodated at the PG level.

(b) Violence—The film contains several instances of battles scenes between Autobots, specifically the Decepticons and various transformers. The battle scenes are animated and only the opening and final scenes are prolonged, with a mild sense of menace and although the Transformers lose limbs, this is depicted as machinery being damaged and there is no detail of injury. The impact of the battle scenes is mild in impact, particularly as these are separated by prolonged and primarily light-hearted scenes of the growing friendships between Charlie and Bumblebee and Charlie and her neighbour.

Scenes of violence against humans are minimal and when they occur there is only very mild detail of injury and no depiction of more than passing pain. For example, there are two instances in the film where humans are ‘liquidated’ by the Decepticons. In each scene the person disappears into a splash of slime like substance—there is no blood detail and the people disappear immediately. Similarly, when Bumblebee arrives on earth he lands upon a group of soldiers. There is reference to soldiers being injured and needing assistance, but there is no detail of any soldiers or depiction of injury. At 11 minutes, Agent Burns is depicted stuck underneath a burning vehicle. He appears concerned but is lying still. There is minimal blood on his face and he does not appear in pain.

The impact of these scenes is mild. The impact of this element is no higher than mild and can be accommodated at the PG level.

(c) Sex—There is no sex in the film.

(d) Language—The film contains the use of ‘shit’, ‘freakin’ and ‘screwed’ on one occasion each. The impact of this element is no higher than mild and can be accommodated at the PG level.

(e) Drug Use—There is no drug use in the film.

(f) Nudity—There is no nudity in the film.

7. Reasons for the decision

In making this decision the Classification Review Board has applied the Classification Act, the Guidelines.

In the Review Board’s opinion, the film warrants a PG classification as it is suitable for viewing by children under the age of 15 with parental guidance.

In the Review Board’s opinion, the film is set in a science fiction environment and is primarily concerned with a friendship between Charlie and the Autobot Bumblebee. Although the film concerns the Decepticons search for Bumblebee, the violence in the film is primarily between the Autobots and lacks detail of injury other than mechanical injury. In the Review Board’s opinion, the violence between Autobots is no more than mild in impact and can be accommodated at the PG level.

The Review Board also considered that there are few scenes which depict violence towards people and on the occasions where there is either fighting between Transformers and humans or ‘liquefaction’ of humans, there is no detail other than mild injury, little blood detail, and no suffering other than fleeting glimpses of humans in pain. In the Review Board’s opinion the impact of these scenes is no more than mild and can be accommodated at the PG level.

The Review Board considered that the scenes of violence in the film are interspersed between the prolonged storyline of the growing friendship between Charlie and Bumblebee and Charlie and her neighbour, and the relationship between Charlie and her family. In the Review Board’s opinion, the overall impact of the violent elements in the film is no more than mild and can be accommodated at the PG level.

The Review Board also noted that the film contained two scenes of bullying behaviour toward Charlie from other children at her school. The Review Board considered that the impact of these scenes is no more than mild.

8. Summary

The Classification Review Board has applied the Classification Act, the Classification Code and the Guidelines in considering the appropriate classification of the film BUMBLEBEE. In the Review Board’s opinion, the film warrants a PG classification as it is suitable for viewing by children under the age of 15 with parental guidance. The Review Board considers that the film should be accompanied by consumer advice indicating that the film contains ‘Mild science fiction violence and mild themes, some scenes may scare young children’.

– Classification Review Board report

Ratings explained

The Board issued a rare media release explaining the situation.

December 14, 2018
The Classification Board has considered and classified two versions of the film, BUMBLEBEE, for Paramount Pictures Australia Pty Ltd.

The original version (114 minutes in duration) was classified on 20 November 2018 as M, Action violence; and a modified version of the film (of the same duration) was classified on 4 December 2018, also as M, Action violence.

On 11 December 2018, upon application by Paramount Pictures, the Classification Review Board, which is separate and independent from the Classification Board, reviewed the modified version of the film and classified it PG, Mild science fiction violence and mild themes. Some scenes may scare young children.

Accordingly, there are two versions of the film which have valid classifications: the modified now classified on review as PG, and the original classified M.

The National Classification Database is currently being updated to reflect the two decisions.

It is open to Paramount Pictures to screen theatrically or to release to home entertainment, either version of the classified film.

– There are two versions of the theatrical release film, Bumblebee
– Margaret Anderson, Director, Classification Board

What was cut?

Censored by six seconds, BUMBLEBEE opened in Australia with a PG-rating on 20 December.

Bumblebee (2018) - Australian movie poster 1
Poster – Paramount

The bloody face of Agent Burns (John Cena) underneath a Humvee was the longest trim. The Classification Review Board described him in the cut version as having ‘minimal blood on his face’ and ‘not appear[ing] in pain’.

Movie-Censorship has a comparison between the uncut and the BBFC PG-rated. Missing footage reportedly matches Australian PG.

Censored DVD & Blu-ray

On 11 February 2019, a 194-minute Blu-ray of BUMBLEBEE passed with an M (Action violence and coarse language) rating.

The classification matrix described,
Moderate impact: violence, language
Mild impact: themes
None: drug use, nudity, sex

This was the modified PG-rated version with the rating increase due to extras.

A second Blu-ray, this time running 202-minutes, received an M (Action violence) on 22 February. The language in the classification matrix dropped from ‘moderate impact’ to ‘mild impact’.

Again, this was the PG-rated version with a consumer advice change due to the removal of an extra.

A 140-minute DVD received a PG-rating on 4 March. The consumer advice and classification matrix matched the censored theatrical version.

Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the applicant, released the censored discs on 3 April.

Bumblebee (2018) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Universal Sony

The DVD and one-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray were PG-rated.

Bumblebee (2018) - Blu-ray cover 1
Blu-ray – Universal Sony

Although the Blu-ray and two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray were M-rated, the rear cover noted, ‘Feature film is rated PG, special feature contains M-rated material’.

What was the missing extra?

The Blu-ray and two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray drops the 01:24 outtake, BURNS MEETS BEE.

On meeting Bumblebee, Agent Burns says, ‘I think I’m gonna forget that, just cuz you look really [bleep] cool’. The word ‘fucking’ is entirely removed by a bleep.

Burns Meets Bee (2018) - Agent Burns (John Cena) says, 'I think I'm gonna forget that, just cuz you look really fucking cool'.
Deleted outtake

The deletion of the outtake meant the ‘coarse language’ warning disappeared from the consumer advice.

Still too violent for some

September 2, 2019
Two complaints were about BUMBLEBEE, with both complainants expressing concern that the violence in the film was too impactful for a PG classification.

– Classification Review Board, Annual Report, 2018-2019

Uncut on Netflix screening

With physical media failing, it was down to Netflix to present Australian audiences a complete version. It streamed in December 2020 with the correct M (Action violence).