Watching movies on planes can be weird. Aside from the tiny screen and the range of choice that’s just large enough to cause conflict, different airlines seem to choose between either highly sanitized, family-friendly versions or having you watch extreme content while worrying a kid is looking over your shoulder.

On balance, it’s probably fair enough when movies are watered-down and softened for flights. But is it okay to do that for regular releases?

Friendly Tiger Well-Mannered Dragon

Sony has decided to release highly cut versions of several movies – versions which were originally cut for flights but which they believe might be appealing to families at home. This move, however, has faced a backlash from filmmakers.

Among the 24 movies released are Ghostbusters II and Talladega Nights.

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Here’s the list of Sony’s 24 sanitized movies in full:
50 First Dates, Battle Of The Year, Big Daddy, Captain Phillips
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Easy A, Elysium, Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters II, Goosebumps, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2
Hancock, Inferno, Moneyball, Pixels, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, White House Down

Sony has made 24 movies "clean"
Several Spider-Man movies were in the clean versions.

Removed parts are sometimes in the hundreds

The BBC gave some examples of some of the changes that have been made, including:

The Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers, which did originally have an R rating for “crude and sexual content”, but had 23 instances of violence taken out, 152 of bad language and 91 of sexual content.

50 First Dates starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler had an original PG13 for “crude sexual humor and drug references”. The watered-down version has 10 violent instances taken out, along with 34 uses of bad language and the same number of sexual content moments.

An original R rating for “bloody violence” was given to Matt Damon’s sci-fi movie Elysium, but 18 violent depictions were removed, along with 63 uses of bad language.

Even the Horror comedy Goosebumps, which had an original PG rating – had five uses of bad language and five depictions of nudity removed, along with some supposedly violent moments.

Goosebumps had a family friendly rating to begin with.

Sony backtracks in the face of criticism

Among the industry people to speak out against the changes are Seth Rogan, star of Knocked Up, who said on Twitter he worried that the relevant movies “would be put together so well that in several years you wouldn’t know these weren’t original films.”

Naturally, people who put a lot of time and effort into making sure movies carry a certain tone, and who carefully select and edit scenes, don’t want their work to be hacked up unnecessarily. This includes Judd Apatow, who produced one of the newly ‘clean’ moves – Step Brothers.

Apatow tweeted: “So now we are being asked if we are okay with our movies being released in a sanitized form. Let me be clear – it is not okay.”

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has said the “hard-fought-for rights that protect a director’s work and vision” are “at the very heart of our craft and a thriving film industry”.

It added: “The DGA has notified Sony that it expects the immediate removal of all ‘clean’ versions of the affected films from availability until Sony secures permission from each and every director, and provides them with an opportunity to edit a version for release in new media.”

Sony seems to have backtracked following the complaints.

The president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Man Jit Singh, said their directors were of “paramount importance to us” and they wanted to “respect those relationships to the utmost”.

“We believed we had obtained approvals from the film-makers involved, for use of their previously supervised television versions as a value-added extra on sales of the full version,” Singh said.

“But if any of them are unhappy or have reconsidered, we will discontinue it for their films.”

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