How important is movie violence?

This week, we are pleased to introduce a new, weekly column by YSN member and movie aficionado Rama Tampubolon. He runs the movie, music and book review website, Rama’s Screen, and was featured in “United 300,” which won for “Best Spoof” at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. He’ll discuss the latest hot topics and movie reviews every Thursday on Waste Time Wisely.

Johnny Depp’s got a new movie coming soon this fall. It’s called SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. It’s a collaboration between him and director Tim Burton for the millionth time. It’s based on a 19th century legend of a murderous barber who killed everyone who’s ever done him wrong. Now here’s the word on the web, apparently the studio has seen early footages from the movie and thought that the violence was too graphic. They loved the movie but… they wanted Tim to take the level down a bit so it can be presented not in R-rated but PG-13. The idea is to get it watched by wider audience, which means more money would be coming in.Tim who is an artistic filmmaker was definitely not happy with the studio’s request for so many cuts. How can you not show graphic violence in a story like this one? SWEENEY TODD by the way will slit theaters’ throats December 21st.

Which brings me to the question: How important is movie violence?

1). There are movies out there that show violence without any purpose or relation to the storyline at all. It shows grotesque graphics and images just so the filmmaker could prove to the audience that they’ve crossed the boundaries. At the same time it is necessary for certain films to have such high level of violence in order to serve the audiences that love that sort of thing. It’s their niche and it’s all about satisfying that target market. George Romero will keep on making zombie movies ’til the day he dies… and becomes a zombie.

2). Let’s briefly talk about art. Now this is a subject that most people won’t find fascinating. The second they hear the word ‘art’, immediately they’ll think of boring museums filled with large paintings to stare at for hours and hours. But where I’m going with this is that movies like Kill Bill, Sin City and 300 have been the champions in presenting violence in a very artful manner. It would take away the beauty of it all if the violence level was toned down.

3). Another way a movie violence can be important is that if it’s a part of the character so much so that we just can’t see that character becomes somebody who is without violence. That’s one thing I was concerned about the movie LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD that now is PG-13 unlike its R-rated predecessors. The character John McLane has been so closely associated with curse words and violence that I couldn’t see John McLane any other way. But luckily the movie Live Free or Die Hard was very well made in my opinion and it was very action-packed that it didn’t take away the heroic image of the iconic man who’s always at the wrong place at the wrong time.

One interesting fact, if you’ve seen the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance and remember the bad guy Simon, played by the great Jeremy Irons, well.. before Jeremy,.. Sean Connery was actually offered the role but he turned it down on the account that the character is too violent and evil.

4). Movie Violence is important in history-based movies. Saving Private Ryan is a great movie, especially the beginning scene at the bloody beach, because it stays true to the real-life situation of D-Day. By showing violence, the movie gives homage to those who actually lived the event.

On the other hand we have another great movie called Hotel Rwanda. You’d think that because it’s a movie about genocide that the filmmaker would go the distance to show some disturbing scenes. But that’s not the case. This movie is very excellent because it give graphic bloodshed through their dialogues, through their faces. You can see and feel the brutality just by watching their eyes which hold fear, anger, and disbelief. Hotel Rwanda is filled with talented actors and a gifted writer who can display violence without having to display violence.

Join the discussion and visit your most reliable movie buff: Rama’s SCREEN