July 22, 2008 -- LOS ANGELES — Ann Folger may be one of the few people who managed to get tickets to "The Dark Knight" on Friday — and regretted it.
Folger, 44, of Tulsa, thought she was taking her family to a superhero film in the vein of "Hancock", a breezy action film that, like "Knight", is rated PG-13.
Instead, she found herself squirming during several scenes.
"This is not a regular comic-book movie," says Folger, who took her husband and two children, ages 11 and 14. "I know it's a good movie, but it should have been rated R."
While most moviegoers were prepared for director Christopher Nolan's bleak adaptation of the comic book — and the chilling performance by the late Heath Ledger as a psychotic Joker — some parents were taken aback by several scenes, including a man being impaled with a pencil and a videotaped torture session.
"This is definitely a comic-book movie for adults," says Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com. "That's part of what makes it so powerful. But it could also limit the kind of repeat business it can do."
According to Warner Bros., 51% of the audience was 25 or older, but the studio had no numbers on children attending. "It's a PG-13 film, and parents should heed that," says Warner Bros.' Dan Fellman.
But some say the latitude in ratings makes it tough to gauge what's kid-friendly. The MPAA's reasons for "Knight's" PG-13: "intense sequences of violence and some menace."
"There has to be a way to tell parents that someone is going to get a pencil in the skull," says Christopher Chin of Sacramento, who brought his 12-year-old son. "I'm not sure I would have brought him."
But others say parents are the problem, not ratings. "You have to do your homework," says Larry Olmstead, 38, of Dallas, who saw the movie with his wife but left their 10-year-old with a sitter. "Did anyone not know this was a violent movie about a homicidal maniac in makeup?"