Another dark reboot of the Batman franchise, filmgoers in the UK were surprised by the decision to give the film a 15 age certificate, despite the more expected PG-13 rating it received in the United States. Breaking away from the fold, however, Belfast City Council announced that The Batman would receive a 15A in the city of Belfast alone.
The BBC reported that a local cinema chain (possibly Movie House or Omniplex) campaigned for the 15A rating back in February, where it was narrowly defeated in the Licensing Committee. Sinn Fein councilor Arder Carson, however, re-ignited the proposal at a full council meeting shortly before the film’s release. The motion was successful, overruling the British Board of Film Certification’s (BBFC) guidelines for the film.
The 15A rating, which is commonly used in the Republic of Ireland, does not actively exist within the United Kingdom. Much like the 12A rating, the 15A would allow persons under the age of 15 to view a film of the certificate if they are accompanied by a legal adult.
While The Batman’s rating is exclusive to Belfast, let alone the rest of Northern Ireland, it could slowly change the trajectory of film classification in the UK as a whole, if a notably increased revenue margin can be evidenced. Over the last decade, there have been plenty of films that fall under the “soft 15” banner, with the likes of 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2018’s Venom just barely breaching the border between a 12A and a 15. The 15A rating could help reinvigorate cinemas, which have been struggling since the pandemic, by expanding the audience market for many of their films.
Concern has been brought upon the responsibility of parents and legal guardians to make suitable judgements on what is and is not suitable for their children. The BBFC is not unaccustomed to moral outrage, with 2008’s The Dark Knight coming under fire for its level of intensity in a 12A film, as well as last year’s The Suicide Squad’s level of gore and violence in a rated 15 film.
The Belfast City Council have nevertheless set the wheels in motion for debate and discussion on expanding film certification in the UK over the next few years.