I probably could count on one hand the number of times my father took me to the theater to see a film. Nothing against my dad. Movies just weren’t his thing.
Because trips were so few and far between, though, I vividly remember the films I somehow convinced him to pay to see. Our first movies together actually were a double feature of Superman II and Clash of the Titans. He took me to see The Karate Kid because a friend told him told it was “like Rocky with teenagers.” (In 1984, neither of us knew who John G. Avildsen was, so that analogy makes me smile.) And, randomly, I talked him into taking me to Renny Harlin’s R-rated Cliffhanger. That was the day I learned my father was petrified of heights, because he watched half of the movie while standing up in the back of the theater.
I’ll never forget those moments.
I plan on recreating a moment like that with my oldest son, P.J., now that The Avengers
is in theaters. And I have a feeling a number of parents will join me in creating special memories with their own children this summer as the adolescent-friendly brain candy of the blockbuster season kicks off with Joss Whedon’s anticipated thriller. Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Thor together in the same movie? Something tells me moms and dads who grew up on Marvel’s “Golden Age” might actually be convincing their kids to come to a screening, instead of the other way around.
So, let’s open a portal to outer space, provoke Dr. Banner, assemble the team and figure out when you can watch The Avengers with your kids.
Green Lights: “We have a Hulk.”
And let’s do so by dancing around as many spoilers as possible. Because while Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures have saturated the marketplace with Avengers teasers as we’ve gradually inched toward its release date, there are still a few tricks hiding up Whedon’s effects-laden sleeve.
I’ll share this much – at one point in the middle of the film, as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) goes toe-to-toe with an enraged Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), I turned to a colleague and whispered, “This is really happening.”
Those feelings of wonder and, yes, marvel cropped up multiple times.
Why am I so surprised? Marvel has been laying the groundwork for years. As we discussed in last week’s column
, there are five origin stories you can share with your kids to help them better understand who Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow and the rest of the team are before diving in to The Avengers
. We’ve been skipping through the highlights of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man
movies and Kenneth Branagh’s Thor
in preparation for an eventual Avengers
screening. A few Red Flags have popped up on those, which carry over to Whedon’s film, but more on that in a minute.
Most important, Avengers might be the first film in your young kid’s movie-going history that feels epic. There’s a weight to this thing you won’t find in a Pixar film or a Power Rangers episode. If they’ve enjoyed the Marvel movies, then seeing these larger-than-life heroes join forces on screen will be magical. Seeing a world – even a fictional, on-screen world – where Captain America fights alongside Hawkeye or the Hulk can smash his way through Stark headquarters is thrilling to kids of any age. The Avengers gives you a reason to see a movie on the big screen, because Whedon’s vision for this anticipated blockbuster is enormous.
So is the budget, though Marvel – perhaps sensing that they had one good shot at pulling this off – sank their dollars into the best special effects money can buy. We had to see it in 3D. I’ll take P.J. to the 2D screening, and I’d advise you to do the same. Not that Whedon’s 3D is bad. It just remains unnecessary, as is the case in virtually every 3D film not named Avatar.
Whedon’s emphasis, instead, lands on character through much of The Avengers … as it should. The director is a whiz with ensembles, as anyone who has watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly can attest. He understands the conflicting personalities that drive the Avengers better than any of the directors who helmed the origin stories, and the Avengers works as well as an ensemble dra-medy as it does as a splashy summer spectacle.
My sons are a little too young for this, but I think it will be interesting to see which Marvel hero they eventually gravitate toward. Do I have fastidious rule-followers like Cap, or rebellious showoffs like Tony Stark? Knowing me, I’ve probably got two wise-ass Peter Parkers (though that would suit me just fine).
Red Flags: “We're not a team. We're a time bomb.”
You know the one thing that stinks about Marvel’s superhero universe so far? The unnecessary use of foul language.
For the most part, it’s mild. Rhodey drops a “son of a bitch” in the original Iron Man. Tony Stark has to drop his fair share of borderline offensive words in The Avengers. It’s not like Loki’s tossing F-bombs as he decimates downtown Manhattan. But my 8-year-old is going to gasp when he hears words like “pissed off,” “damn,” “buck-ass nude” and “Hell” on screen. And the worst part is that none of them are necessary.
I know, it’s ridiculous to complain about language in a movie where large chunks of a major metropolis are destroyed as the heroes try to stop a mega-villain. But as in the origin movies, the violence on screen in The Avengers isn’t bloody or sadistic. It’s comic-book violence, brimming with destruction but short on gratuitous bloodshed. Buildings are reduced to rubble, but civilians (from what you can see on screen) are spared.
But The Avengers doesn’t wait for non-fans, and that might be a Red Flag if your kid hasn’t picked up a comic book or sampled some of the previous origin movies and wants to see The Avengers because his or her friends are talking about it.
This movie hits the ground running, referencing the bright blue cube dubbed the Tesseract and slinging characters around like bad puns at a White House Correspondent’s Dinner. The best comedic beats hit because of references to things we know about each hero from the past. Those jokes won’t connect with newbies who are patiently awaiting the action.
But when it arrives, the action in the final hour of the film is relentless, exhilarating, devastating, unprecedented … it’s amazingly cool. The Avengers made me believe in heroes again. It made me believe in blockbusters again.
This is really happening.
And I want it to happen for your kids. We’ve talked extensively about the Marvel universe the past two weeks. I think you know by now if your kids are ready for the type of storytelling that has powered these films to date.
Last week, I said Thor – the most accessible of the Marvel movies – was good for kids ages 8 and up. I warned parents about The Incredible Hulk, but Whedon’s use of the jolly green giant in Avengers isn’t scary at all. It’s cool. Your kids will love it.
Here’s the deal: I’m bringing my 8-year-old son to see The Avengers. Aside from the few bad words, I think he can handle just about everything that will come at him on screen. I paid very close attention to the details during my screening, looking out for things I need to shield him from. They are few and far between. Next time I go, I’ll be able to sit back, as a fan, and enjoy the ride with him by my side. Or, like my father, I’ll watch from the back of the theater. Either way, it’s going to be special.
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That With My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Hugo, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Elf, to name just a few.