In early June, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad was officially classified R18+ in Australia. This rating was designed to restrict the film’s audience after the Australian Classification Review Board determined it contained high impact violence unsuitable for a younger audience. At the time, Universal Pictures International signalled its intent to appeal the film’s rating, and that appeal has now been successful. Going forward, The Suicide Squad will be rated MA15+ in Australia.
What does an MA15+ rating actually mean?
The major difference between R18+ and MA15+ is in the audience which is able to view the film. While MA15+ allows anyone to see a film as long as they over 15 or have adult supervision, R18+ restricts films to only adult audiences.
As you might expect, this has a major impact on the box office and marketing appeal of a film. If The Suicide Squad was kept at its original R18+ rating, a major demographic would have been cut off from seeing the film in cinemas. Given Australia is a country notorious for online piracy (although this has decreased since the rise of streaming services), it could also have spelled a major loss for Warner Bros.
Were any changes made to The Suicide Squad?
Thankfully, Universal Pictures did not have to make any cuts to the film for it to be reclassified following its appeal. Instead, the three-member Classification Review Board panel reassessed The Suicide Squad through the lens of a humorous fantasy film.
The humour is an important classifier here, because it reportedly reduced the overall ‘impact’ of the film’s violence.
“The Review Board … determined that the comedic tone and fantasy setting of the film mitigated the impact of the classifiable elements,” the report on the appeal states.
It means the panel felt the film was funny enough to negate the ‘realness’ of the violence. For a clearer example: a character like King Shark ripping a person in half doesn’t have as much impact as a human man doing the same because the fantasy of the situation divorces it from reality.
While the exact reason for the original R18+ rating was not revealed in the updated rating, it’s likely a similar scenario caused the original flag as ‘high impact violence’ was the primary reason for the classification.
Interestingly, the re-classification actually reduced a lot of the impact of the film, with nudity, sex, themes and drug use all being knocked down a peg on the impact scale. It means the consideration for fantasy and humour significantly changed how the Australian Classification Board viewed the film, and how they thought it would affect audiences.
The Suicide Squad is currently planned for release in Australia theatres on August 5.