Last week I took my eleven-year-old daughter Alice to Warners HQ in London for a screening of the new Batman: Hush DTV animation, based (and I use that word loosely) on the Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee run on the Batman comic from 2003. It is an interesting adaptation, in that it tries to bring things closer to current continuity by seemingly last-minute throwing Damian Wayne into the mix as Bruce Wayne's son (but only seen on video calls – making the separation of father and son possibly more of a thing than intended) oh and changing the motivation and identity distraction of Hush. That was what most offended my daughter, who is a big fan of the original comic and at eleven years old is quite the purist. For me, I was more intrigued that the art style seemed intent on mirroring the work of the late Michael Turner rather than the comic's artist – and now Publisher of DC Comics, Jim Lee.
The PR person told me that the cartoon was rated '12' which means no one is allowed to see, rent or buy the film who is under 12, even if accompanied by an adult. But I knew the US rating was PG-13, I knew that Alice was a fan of the comic, and I attended without a second thought. The second thoughts arose when, on entering the building and passing through the glass display cases of DC Comics characters, Harry Potter folk and a timeline of the history of the company that could really do with an Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill-style update, that I was told that oh, I did know the film was rated '15' in the UK, not '12' as previously said. And I didn't.
Well, I looked at Alice, we had travelled an hour-and-a-half-in and I had noted that on all sorts of things, she had seemed quite okay with a variety of disturbing elements that her elder sister would flinch at. So I decided not to tell her mother and just go for it. I told her if there was anything too disturbing, we could leave.
I needn't have worried, as I said, Alice was far more offended to the major changes in plot to the movie. And I was flummoxed as to the rating. Could it have been the choice of weapons, the batarangs interpreted as throwing stars, the kind of thing that saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon heavily cut for the UK?
The 15 rating, which means no one can see this film in a cinema under the age of 15, or buy it or rent it, has been given for 'strong violence, bloody images'.
The BBFC has always been allergic to martial arts weapons, even if used in such a fantasy fashion. Could it have been the strangulation of the Joker at the hands of Batman that went on a little too long? Possibly, but again not only was it a cartoon but it was cartoony, with brief bulging eyes, closer to Bugs Bunny than Heath Ledger. You got a couple of S-bombs, but that's not even mentioned in the rating. As for strong bloody images – I really couldn't see it. Did the BBFC watch a different film? Deadpool was a 15. Hush really shouldn't have been.
I am not some kind of BBFC hater, and indeed there are some films and cartoons I have seen with a 12 or a 12A rating that I have thought were very under-rated indeed. But Batman Hush? I'd like to know more about that decision, and if it's based on eighties panic rather than current entertainment and social values.
As to Batman Hush? Well, you lose a lot of the red herrings, and cul de sac's of the original, as well as the issues regarding Batman and dead Robins. But by choosing such a villain-heavy story, we do get to run through the Batman rogue gallery in a very satisfying way without it all being treated as a joke, as in LEGO Batman. So… yeah, go on.
Batman: Hush is available today on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming. Bring the kiddies.